Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Uncertain Infallibility


Not only can Catholics not provide a list of infallible teachings, they appear to not always be sure if a particular teaching is infallible or not. One such example is the debate a few years back over JPII's apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis:

Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (Latin for On Ordination to the Priesthood) is a Roman Catholic document discussing the Roman Catholic Church's position requiring "the reservation of priestly ordination to men alone." This Apostolic Letter was issued from the Vatican by Pope John Paul II on 22 May 1994....Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was not issued under the extraordinary papal magisterium as an ex cathedra statement, and so is not considered infallible in itself. There is, however, a case for its contents to be infallible under the ordinary magisterium, as this doctrine has been held consistently by the Church. In a responsum ad dubium dated October 1995, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that the teaching of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was to be held definitively, as belonging to the deposit of faith. In 1998, this was clarified slightly (in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's Doctrinal Commentary on Ad Tuendam Fidem) to state that the teaching of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was not taught as being divinely revealed, although it might someday be so taught in the future... Wikipedia

Since the issuance of the apostolic letter, however, reactions from some quarters have served to cast doubt on the definitive character of the papal teaching. The nature of this dubium concerned the question whether or not the teaching set forth in the letter belonged to the deposit of faith (depositum fidei). Conceivably, some warrant for the doubt may be found in the Pope's letter itself. Catholic.net


So if a Roman Catholic cannot identify all of the infallible teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, and at times is not sure whether a given doctrine is infallible or not, where is the certainty that an infallible authority is suppose to provide?

17 comments:

Timothy said...

Greetings! Saw your post in Google Blogseach and your fragment peaked my interest.

You seem to misunderstand the charisma of infallibility. Infallibility is a protection from error.

You can find an easy to read backgrounder on infallibility here:

http://catholic.com/library/Papal_Infallibility.asp

And no, there's no list. Catholics don't need one. If its Catholic doctrine, its infallible (free from error). We have no fallible (possibility of error) doctrines.

The closest thing to a list is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is a compendium of all the doctrines found in the Bible organized and cross-referenced:

http://www.usccb.org/catechism/text/

BTW, our certainty comes from Christ, our Lord. (John 14:16-18)

God bless...

Carrie said...

If its Catholic doctrine, its infallible (free from error). We have no fallible (possibility of error) doctrines.

Not all doctrines are infallible. If they were, why do you think there was so much discussion over whether or not Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was infallible?

Catholic Encyclopedia:
"infallibility is not attributed to every doctrinal act of the pope, but only to his ex cathedra teaching; and the conditions required for ex cathedra teaching are mentioned in the Vatican decree:

The pontiff must teach in his public and official capacity as pastor and doctor of all Christians, not merely in his private capacity as a theologian, preacher or allocutionist, nor in his capacity as a temporal prince or as a mere ordinary of the Diocese of Rome. It must be clear that he speaks as spiritual head of the Church universal.
Then it is only when, in this capacity, he teaches some doctrine of faith or morals that he is infallible (see below, IV).
Further it must be sufficiently evident that he intends to teach with all the fullness and finality of his supreme Apostolic authority, in other words that he wishes to determine some point of doctrine in an absolutely final and irrevocable way, or to define it in the technical sense (see DEFINITION). These are well-recognized formulas by means of which the defining intention may be manifested.
Finally for an ex cathedra decision it must be clear that the pope intends to bind the whole Church. To demand internal assent from all the faithful to his teaching under pain of incurring spiritual shipwreck (naufragium fidei) according to the expression used by Pius IX in defining the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin. Theoretically, this intention might be made sufficiently clear in a papal decision which is addressed only to a particular Church; but in present day conditions, when it is so easy to communicate with the most distant parts of the earth and to secure a literally universal promulgation of papal acts, the presumption is that unless the pope formally addresses the whole Church in the recognized official way, he does not intend his doctrinal teaching to be held by all the faithful as ex cathedra and infallible."

kmerian said...

You are right Carrie, there is no "list" but Timothy is also right in that Catholics do not need one.

Also, I have been asking for years for a list of "essentials" from Protestants. (Those things that every Christian must believe). Because every time I would point out a difference in Protestant interpretations or beliefs, I would be told "Well, that's not an 'essential' belief"

I have never been provided with that list either. So do not criticize us for something you cannot provide either.

Reginald de Piperno said...

Carrie:

It appears that you have mistakenly omitted some rather important context from the Wikipedia article you cite.

"A similar process can be observed in the more recent teaching regarding the doctrine that priestly ordination is reserved only to men. The Supreme Pontiff, while not wishing to proceed to a dogmatic definition, intended to reaffirm that this doctrine is to be held definitively, since, founded on the written Word of God, constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium" (emphasis added). This quotation in Wikipedia is taken from here.

The reason why there is debate over Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is because some people are unwilling to submit to it. In point of fact there is no debate about this subject among faithful, orthodox Catholics.

A similar "debate" (so-called) occurred when Humanae Vitae was promulgated by Pope Paul VI: dissidents in the Church refused to submit to what it said about contraception and abortion.

Far and away more important than any "list" that you seek - which is an understandable sentiment coming from you, since as a Protestant you place high value on such things - is the fact that the Catholic Church is the living Voice of Christ in the world, faithfully proclaiming the fullness of divine revelation that it received from the Apostles.

Carrie said...

It appears that you have mistakenly omitted some rather important context from the Wikipedia article you cite.

No, I found multiple articles from Catholic sites stating confusion over whether the decree was infallible or not. That is why the CDF had to come out later and clarify for everyone in the quote you provided - because it was UNCLEAR to the "faithful".

Far and away more important than any "list" that you seek - which is an understandable sentiment coming from you, since as a Protestant you place high value on such things

No, Prots don't care about lists, we care about integrity in the arguments of Roman Catholics. You guys say you have certainty and unity that Prots don't, but then you cannot even a produce a list of these infallible truths you are required to believe nor can you at times know when something is infallible or not. Throw in the fact that in the end you are left with your own private interpretation, and all of your arguments for the certainty of the Catholic faith disappear.

Reginald de Piperno said...

You asked a question. If you do not like the answer...bummer for you.

kmerian said...

Carrie, I would point you to http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/audiences/alpha/data/aud19930317en.html

In this General Audience, the Pope explained infallibility. He stated that for a document to be infallible it must be decreed in such a way as to remove all doubt about that doctrine. The fact that there is debate over the infallibility of this particular document, proves in and of itself that it is NOT infallible.

It is actually a very simple concept.

kmerian said...

Sorry, it cut off my link:
http://tinyurl.com/yo2h9c

Reginald de Piperno said...

Regrettably I must contradict my brother kmerian.

As the CDF document I quoted above shows, the question of women's ordination has been settled infallibly by the ordinary Magisterium.

Not everything that we must assent to must be declared by an ex cathedra proclamation, and infallible declarations are not limited to ex cathedra proclamations, either (again, as the CDF document demonstrates).

And this whole thing demonstrates the necessity for us to recognize that the Church is (as I keep saying) the Living Voice of Christ. Rather than trying to find wiggle room for ourselves (NOTE: I am not saying that you are doing this, kmerian; I am merely stating a general observation) to disagree with the Magisterium, we would be much better off believing what the Church says, just because She says it.

kmerian said...

My brother Reginald, please understand. While I feel that the document itself is not infallible. WHAT the document is teaching (regarding the ordination of women) is. A document can affirm an infallible truth, but that does not automatically make the document itself infallible. That was the point I was trying to make (albeit not very well, sorry)

Reginald de Piperno said...

Fair enough sir :-) Thank you for the clarification, and I apologize for the misunderstanding.

Carrie said...

Thanks guys for proving my point that all this infalliblity stuff isn't always clear :)

Rhology said...

I don't get it.

kmerian said...

I think it is very clear, while there is debate over the infallibility of the document the teaching is universally accepted as infallible. JPII affirmed that he does not have the authority to ordain women even if he wanted to. It is just not possible. That is an infallible truth. It does not matter if the document is or not.

Peace by Jesus said...

Evangelicals require belief in certain basic truths, being most universally unified in the core beliefs we both assent to (as in the Nicene Creed) with denial being heresy, while typically allowing a limited amount of disagreement in limited areas of the Bible.

As for Rome, the dogmas of Rome's infallible Sacred Magisterium (infallible teaching of Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, Sacred Magisterium by the Pope, solemn definitions of Ecumenical Councils, or the ordinary universal Magisterium) require an assent of faith (or “theological assent”), with the opposite being heresy, while the “ordinary assent” (or religious submission of will and intellect), which is required for non-infallible teachings of the Ordinary Magisterium, may allow for a limited amount of dissent, as such teachings may contain error and are subject to revision or even revocation, while those of the General Magisterium may include the possibility of significant error.
Source: http://www.catholicplanet.com/TSM/general-magisterium.htm

And as very little is infallibly defined, so
“the Catholic Bible interpreter has the liberty to adopt any interpretation of a passage that is not excluded with certainty by other passages of Scripture, by the judgment of the magisterium, by the Church Fathers, or by the analogy of faith. That is a great deal of liberty, as only a few interpretations will be excluded with certainty by any of the four factors circumscribing the interpreter’s liberty” (Jimmy Akin, Catholic apologist)

And while RCs boast of Rome's unity, in realty it is a paper one, as there is more variance among Catholics, both clergy and laity, as regards many core truths and moral views then among evangelicals. http://peacebyjesus.witnesstoday.org/RevealingStatistics.html#Sec4

In addition, what unity Rome has is based upon implicit trust in man, and is inferior in quality, if not quantity, to that which is due to Berean-type souls esteeming and searching the Scriptures.

It was by "manifestation of the truth" that the apostles persuaded men by appealing to their fallible human consciences, (2Cor. 4:2) and not by declaring the church was infallible whenever they spoke in a prescribed manner on faith and morals. And when it did, it was manifestly Scripturally substantiated, and is included ion the Scriptures. (Acts 15)

And which record is the only objective source which we are assured is 100% inspired of God. (2Tim. 3:16) In contrast, Rome's formulaic assuredly infallible magisterium is effectively based upon her own declaration that she is so.

Upon which premise she effectively adds to the canon of Scripture - which, like men of God, is established by its enduring qualities - teachings which fail of Scriptural warrant and are contrary to it. But the authority of those who added new teachings to Scripture, like Moses and the Lord, was established by holiness and doctrine which conformed to that which had already been established as from God, and which included accompanying mighty supernatural attestation. Rome fail of such, and the faith she requires in herself is unwarranted as are certain teachings we must reject.

Peace by Jesus said...

Evangelicals require belief in certain basic truths, being most universally unified in the core beliefs we both assent to (as in the Nicene Creed) with denial being heresy, while typically allowing a limited amount of disagreement in limited areas of the Bible.

As for Rome, the dogmas of Rome's infallible Sacred Magisterium (infallible teaching of Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, Sacred Magisterium by the Pope, solemn definitions of Ecumenical Councils, or the ordinary universal Magisterium) require an assent of faith (or “theological assent”), with the opposite being heresy, while the “ordinary assent” (or religious submission of will and intellect), which is required for non-infallible teachings of the Ordinary Magisterium, may allow for a limited amount of dissent, as such teachings may contain error and are subject to revision or even revocation, while those of the General Magisterium may include the possibility of significant error.
Source: http://www.catholicplanet.com/TSM/general-magisterium.htm

And as very little is infallibly defined, so
“the Catholic Bible interpreter has the liberty to adopt any interpretation of a passage that is not excluded with certainty by other passages of Scripture, by the judgment of the magisterium, by the Church Fathers, or by the analogy of faith. That is a great deal of liberty, as only a few interpretations will be excluded with certainty by any of the four factors circumscribing the interpreter’s liberty” (Jimmy Akin, Catholic apologist)

Peace by Jesus said...

Part 2:

Moreover, while RCs boast of Rome's unity, in realty it is a paper one, as there is more variance among Catholics, both clergy and laity, as regards many core truths and moral views then among evangelicals. http://peacebyjesus.witnesstoday.org/RevealingStatistics.html#Sec4

In addition, what unity Rome has is based upon implicit trust in man, and is inferior in quality, if not quantity, to that which is due to Berean-type souls esteeming and searching the Scriptures.

It was by "manifestation of the truth" that the apostles persuaded men by appealing to their fallible human consciences, (2Cor. 4:2) and not by declaring the church was infallible whenever they spoke in a prescribed manner on faith and morals. And when it did, it was manifestly Scripturally substantiated, and is included ion the Scriptures. (Acts 15)

And which record is the only objective source which we are assured is 100% inspired of God. (2Tim. 3:16) In contrast, Rome's formulaic assuredly infallible magisterium is effectively based upon her own declaration that she is so.

Upon which premise she effectively adds to the canon of Scripture - which, like men of God, is established by its enduring qualities - teachings which fail of Scriptural warrant and are contrary to it. But the authority of those who added new teachings to Scripture, like Moses and the Lord, was established by holiness and doctrine which conformed to that which had already been established as from God, and which included accompanying mighty supernatural attestation. Rome fail of such, and the faith she requires in herself is unwarranted as are certain teachings we must reject.