Choose a topic from Vol 4:

Religion - Yes or No

Necessity of Religion
Reality of Religious Experience
Religion and life
Religious statistics
Nature of religion
Necessity of worship
Neglect of religion
Religion and history
Conversion of mankind

The Christian Church

Nature of the Church
Necessity of the Church
Visible organisation
Hierarchical constitution
Papal supremacy
Perpetuity of the Church

"This Shall Be the Sign"

Notes of identification
Unity of the Church
Holiness of the Church
Catholicity of the Church
Apostolic succession
"Roman" but not "Roman Catholic"

Dogmatic Authority of the Church

Authority in religion
Catholic Church infallible
The Pope infallible
Papal definitions
Dogmatic spirit of the Catholic Church
"Religion of the spirit"
Individual freedom
Re-stating Christianity
Athanasian Creed
Meaning of faith
Faith and reason
Faith and science
Religion and education
Religion and morals
Catholic countries backward
Universities and religion
Natural Moral Law
Christian principles of morality
Catholicism versus the world

The Power-Complex Illusion

Legislative power of the Catholic Church
Coercive power of the Catholic Church
Catholic Church and political ambitions
Divided allegiance of Catholics
Rome and totalitarianism
Aim of the Catholic Church in America
Catholic Action
Political freedom of Catholics
Catholic infiltration of civic life
Catholicism anti-democatic
Rival totalitarianisms, Rome and Moscow
Catholic attitude to Protestants
Spanish Inquisition
Church and State
Federal Union or "One World State"

Life-Or-Death Social Problems

Social reform necessary
Trade unions
Protestant Churches and Communism
Social apathy of Churches
Catholic social teaching
Family life
Primary purpose of marriage
Religion and marriage
Form of marriage
Mixed marriages
Birth control
"Catholic birth control"
Divorce and re-marriage
Catholics and civil divorce
Nullity decrees
Therapeutic abortion
Euthansia or mercy-killing

Those Exclusive Claims

Divided Christendom
Do divisions matter?
The "Only True Church" claims
Cause of sectarian bigotry
Reunion Movement
Catholic non-cooperation

Religious Liberty

Religious freedom
Catholic intolerance
Protestants and the principles of religious liberty
Rome and the "Four Freedoms"
Heresy and heretics
Religious rights of Protestants
Religious persecution
"Rome's historical record"
Protestant missionaries in Spain
In Italy
In South America
Conditions in Colombia

Are Only Catholics Saved

"Outside the Catholic Church no salvation"
Beliefs of Catholics
Salvation of Pagans
Salvation of Protestants
Why become a Catholic?
Duty of inquiry
Salvation of apostate Catholics
Test at the Last Judgment
Obstacles to conversion
Truth of Catholicism

The Pope infallible

288. You have said that the Pope as head of the Catholic Church, even though not as a private theologian, is infallible today. On what grounds?

There are three classical passages in Scripture showing that infallibility belonged in a very special way to St. Peter, and to the Pope as his successor. In Matt., XVI, 18-19, we find Christ saying to St. Peter: "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 to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, it shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven." In St. Luke, XXII, 31-32, we read: "And the Lord said: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not; and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren." In St. John, XXI, 15-17, we find our Lord commissioning St. Peter to feed His lambs and to feed His sheep; i.e., to provide for His whole flock, preserving all in the true religion. The office granted to St. Peter, with its prerogatives, has continued in the Church all days since then, even as Christ promised to be with His Church all days till the end of the world. And the Pope, as successor of St. Peter, succeeds to the supremacy and infallibility conferred upon that Apostle. From the viewpoint of reason, the infallibility of the Church demands that the final court of appeal in the Church must itself be infallible; and the final court of appeal is the See of St. Peter, occupied by the Pope. If the Pope, as final court of appeal, were not infallible, then the Church itself could go astray in its duty of teaching the truth; and if that happened, then the gates of hell would have prevailed against the Church despite Christ's assurance that such a thing will never happen. It all comes back to faith in Christ. Those who really believe in Christ know that He could and has done what He said He would do. He has rendered His Church, and therefore the Pope as official head of the Church and successor of St. Peter, unable to teach error in His name.

289. Will you tell us exactly in what sense you claim infallibility for -the Pope?

We claim that the Pope is infallible only in his official capacity when declaring a truth essentially connected with divinely revealed religion, and intending his decision to be binding upon all members of the Church throughout the world. He is not infallible in his private capacity. So infallibility does not mean that he cannot be mistaken when not acting officially as supreme teacher in the Church. It does not mean that the Pope could not commit sin in his personal life, as though he were impeccable. It does not mean that he can teach what he likes, or that he cannot go wrong on matters of science, or history, or economics or politics. It means only that God will not permit him to define officially for the whole Church any religious doctrine opposed to the teaching of Christ. For the Christian religion must be preserved intact in this world.

290. We all know, of course, that the Pope was not declared infallible until 1870.

It was not defined as a dogma of the Catholic Faith until then. But the doctrine had been declared and taught in the Church over and over again throughout the preceding centuries. Thus St. Thomas Aquinas, who died in 1274, 600 years earlier, wrote that "greater and more difficult questions of the Church" must be referred "to the authority of the Supreme Pontiff" to whose authority it pertains to "determine finally those things which are of faith, so that the faith may be retained without corruption by everyone." (Summa Theologica, Ha. Ilae. Q. I, Art. X). Even though not yet defined technically as a dogma or article of faith, the doctrine was declared at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D., when the assembled Bishops accepted unanimously the doctrinal decision of Pope Leo the Great, exclaiming with one voice: "That is the faith of the Fathers, the faith of the Apostles . . . Peter has spoken through Leo."

291. Why was not the doctrine defined as a dogma until such a long time after the Catholic Church was established?

It was not defined officially as a dogma in the precise terms decided upon by the Vatican Council before 1870 because the particular conditions prevailing in 1870 had not arisen before then. And 1870 was not really such a long time after the Catholic Church was established proportionately to the life of the Church. After all, the Catholic Church is still in its early days, and we are the "early Christians." Since the Church will last all days till the end of the world, people in 10,000 A.D. will look back to our 1954 A.D. much as we look back to 200 A.D. We tend to take altogether a too limited view of history, measuring all by our own small moment in time.

291. When Papal Infallibility was defined by the Vatican Council in 1870 at least one American Archbishop protested against the dogma.

Not when it was defined; before it was defined. At the Vatican Council in 1870 all the Bishops present were quite free to express their opinions in the discussions preceding the definition. The American Archbishop Kenrick, as he had a perfect right to do, expressed his opposition to the doctrine of Papal Infallibility being defined as a dogma of the Faith. But the majority of the Bishops present voted for the definition; and once it was defined all accepted it. Archbishop Kenrick publicly proclaimed the dogma in his cathedral as soon as he arrived back in his Archdiocese in America; and when asked afterwards whether he disowned all his previous arguments against the dogma declared that his public proclamation of it sufficiently indicated their lack of value. Certainly, as Archbishop Kenrick did not regard the definition as any reason for abandoning the Catholic Church, his attitude in the matter cannot afford any reason for not joining the Catholic Church, on whatever other grounds one might be reluctant to do so.

292. There never was such a preposterous dogma.

The word "preposterous" means "utterly absurd and foolish." You should at least realize that it cannot be that, in view of its acceptance in all seriousness by millions of Catholics - outnumbering all other professing Christians taken together - millions which include outstandingly intelligent people in all walks of life. At most you should limit yourself to saying that you personally do not think it a well-founded dogma, or that you cannot bring yourself to accept the proofs for it. You are certainly not justified in saying that, properly understood, it is absurd and does not make sense.

293. At the Vatican Council itself some of the Bishops objected to the proposed definition of it.

There would be reason to complain if, when the Bishops had assembled at the Vatican Council to discuss the matter, freedom had not been granted to them to voice their opinions both for and against the proposal. A minority of the Bishops present disagreed with those who advocated it, and protested against the proposal. All held that the doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope was a perfectly lawful opinion in the Church. But some of the minority thought that it was not the kind of doctrine that could be defined in accordance with sound principles; whilst others held that, although it could be defined, it would be more prudent to leave it undefined. In the event, the majority of the Bishops decided that it could and should be defined. And that was that. No point of any value is made against the truth of the dogma by pointing to the fact that before it was defined and while they were quite free to do so, a minority of the Bishops expressed views unfavorable to the definition being made.

295. How do you get over the full report of the address delivered at the Vatican Council in 1870 by Bishop Strossmeyer?

The full report you have in mind is a forgery. It was written by an apostate priest who was bitterly hostile to the Church he had abandoned, and who did not stop at deliberate lies in his campaign of hatred. The speech he composed and attributed to Bishop Strossmeyer was translated into many languages and published by Protestant papers throughout the world, besides being circulated in pamphlet form. It is still being dishonestly printed and distributed today. Indignantly and repeatedly, during almost twenty years, Bishop Strossmeyer repudiated and denounced that forgery. And the publication of the official Acts of the Vatican Council has made it clear that no such speech was made at the Vatican Council by any Bishop.

296. Was there a Bishop Strossmeyer at the Council?

There was. And he was strongly opposed, not to the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, but to the advisability of defining it at that particular time. He was a Croatian who had great hopes of winning back to Catholic unity the schismatic Orthodox Churches in the Balkans, and he felt that the definition of Papal Infallibility might prejudice his efforts. He therefore spoke against the proposal; but he said nothing resembling the forged speech unscrupulous enemies of the Church have branded with his name.

297. It is said that he opposed the dogma even after it was defined.

That, is not true. He at once declared his acceptance of it, and made it quite clear that he would not consider for a moment the thought of abandoning the Catholic Church. It took him some time, however, to get over his disappointment that the definition had not been deferred, and to surmount his fears that its publication would be a setback to his efforts to win the Orthodox Slavs to Catholic unity. He delayed the promulgation of the Decree in his own Archdiocese for almost two years, finally promulgating it in 1872. And from that moment he surpassed all the other Bishops in his enthusiastic insistence on the dogma.

298. By what means could the Vatican Council make the Pope infallible?

The Vatican Council did not make the Pope infallible. It merely defined that he is infallible according to the will of God. The means by which the Pope is infallible is not by any natural or human agency, but by the assistance of the Holy Ghost. As the Apostles at Jerusalem justified their decision by declaring that so "it has seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us," Acts, XV, 28, so the Vatican Council defined that that same assistance of the Holy Ghost safeguards the Pope against error in his official decisions on matters of faith and morals.

299. I believe absolutely in the Bible, but I do not believe that the Pope who is only human can possibly be infallible.

No human being, even the Pope, could be infallible by any of his own merely natural and human powers. But God Himself, by His divine power, can if He thinks fit to do so render a human being infallible for any given purposes of His own. If, as you say, you believe absolutely in the Bible then you must admit that the writers of the various books in the Bible were preserved from the possibility of error; and that means that they received from God the gift of infallibility at least for that purpose. Yet they were "only human." One may reasonably ask for proof of the Catholic doctrine of Papal Infallibility; but no argument against it can be drawn from the fact that the Pope is "only human," any more than one who believes in the Bible can argue that the writers of its various books could not have been infallible because they, too, were "only human."

300. It practically means that, by electing a man Pope, the Cardinals make him a quasi-divine being.

Not at all. The Cardinals merely elect him as Pope. The office to which he is elected carries with it divine protection against error in the Pope's official definitions of doctrine in matters of faith and morals. It is the protection of the Pope on such occasions, not the person of the Pope, that is divine. The infallibility of the writers of Holy Scripture, in recording the Word of God for us, did not make them quasi-divine. You yourself would admit that it was the infallibility conferred on them by God for the work entrusted to them which is to be regarded as divine, not the writers themselves.

301. No mere theories can stand against the facts of history, and history shows that the Popes have been anything but infallible.

No facts can be produced from history which show that the Popes have not been infallible in the true sense of the definition as given by the Vatican Council. In every case so far produced either the facts are not as they have been alleged to be, or the doctrine of infallibility as defined by the Church has not been involved at all.

302. Was not Pope Marcellinus guilty of sacrificing to idols?

If he had been, that would in no way be opposed to the doctrine of Papal Infallibility. At least he did not define officially that everybody else | ought to fall into idolatry! But in any case, the charge against him is a false one. Marcellinus was Pope from 296 A.D. till 304 A.D. That was during the severe persecution of Christians under the pagan Roman Emperor Diocletian. The most that can be said against Marcellinus is that he was too lenient in his treatment of lapsed Christians who, under the stress of persecution, had renounced their faith, gone over to paganism, and then sought reconciliation with the Church. Marcellinus himself died a martyr for the faith and is a canonized Saint of the Catholic Church. The Donatist heretics in Africa later put round the story that he himself had lapsed into idolatry, and said that he had confessed his guilt at the "Synod of Sinuessa." But historical research has shown that that Synod never took place.

303. Did not Sylverius and Vigilius obtain the Popedom by simony, buying their election with money?

No. Even if they did - which would be highly irregular - that would not affect the infallibility of their office once they had been validly elected. Sylverius, who is honored by the Catholic Church as a Saint and a Martyr, was Pope from 536 A.D. till 537 A.D. It is true that his election was due to political pressure, to prevent the Empress Theodora from intruding an Eastern Bishop into the Roman See. But there was no question of simony on the part of Sylverius. The Empress Theodora revenged herself by having Sylverius arrested and put to death. Vigilius then became Pope, and held office from 537 A.D. till 555 A.D. His election was due to the influence of Belisarius, the General of Theodora's army. But there was no simony on the part of Vigilius. Belisarius thought Vigilius would be ready to comply with all Theodora's wishes; but both Belisarius and Theodora were very disappointed in that. However, Vigilius, though not unworthy of his office in his personal life, was not a strong Pope, and was altogether too weak in dealing with heresies. But nothing in any of his transactions was in any way opposed to Papal Infallibility as defined by the Church.

304. How does Pope Alexander VI, in his debaucheries, measure up to infallibility?

Without granting any notions you may have about his debauchery after his election as Pope, to which period alone infallibility could apply, I must simply point out that no debauchery on his part could affect the question. Infallibility and impeccability are not the same thing. We claim that the Pope is infallible in his official teaching capacity. We do not claim that he is impeccable in his personal conduct. Bad personal conduct on the part of a Pope is indeed reprehensible. But it cannot be urged as an argument against infallibility as that doctrine is taught by the Catholic Church. From the viewpoint of infallibility in its true sense no official utterance of Pope Alexander VI affords the least difficulty.

305. There is one matter I must challenge you to explain.

State it freely.

306. Is it a fact that a book called "Keenan's Catechism" was published in 1846 with the imprimatur of the Scotch Catholic Bishops?


307. Is it a fact that it was recommended by the Irish Catholic Bishops?


308. Was it, in 1860, in its 17th thousand?


309. Was it, in 1870, in its 21st thousand?


310. Is it a fact that the following passage was then removed? "Question: Must not Catholics believe the Pope himself to be infallible? Answer: This is a Protestant invention. It is no article of the Catholic Faith. No decision of his can oblige under pain of heresy, unless it be enforced and received by the teaching body, that is, by the Bishops of the Church".

That passage, as you suggest, was then removed.

311. Note the words: "This is a Protestant invention. It is no article of the Catholic Faith."

They afford no difficulty. Before 1870, as "Keenan's Catechism" then said, the infallibility of the Pope was not an article of Faith defined as a dogma and to be believed "under pain of heresy." Protestants at the time were inventing something for themselves in declaring it to be so. After the definition in 1870 the book omitted the passage to make allowance for the fact that henceforth the doctrine was to be accepted by Catholics as an Article of Faith. Personally I think it would have been better for the book not to omit all reference to the matter, but to alter its wording, saying: "Since its definition in 1870, the doctrine is an Article of Faith binding under pain of heresy, that the Pope is infallible; but the assertion that that was the case before 1870 was a Protestant invention. The Pope was then infallible, of course, but belief in his infallibility was not then a defined Article of Faith binding upon all Catholics under pain of heresy." There is no more difficulty here than in the case of the minority of the Bishops at the Vatican Council who were opposed to the defining of the doctrine but who accepted it as soon as it was defined and returned to their dioceses to declare that what had not hitherto been a dogma of the Faith was henceforth to be accepted as such.

312. Of what use is the doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope when he speaks officially "ex cathedraif no one can tell us what are "ex cathedra" Papal utterances?

It is not true that such utterances cannot be known. Normally, of course, the doctrines of the Catholic Church are made sufficiently clear in the Creeds, in the Liturgy, and in the ordinary teachings of the Church. It is only rarely that individual Popes have made use of their own special and personal infallibility to define particular doctrines which they have thought it necessary to stress.



A Radio Analysis"
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