Wednesday, May 30, 2007

More on the Fallible Pope Honorius

My thanks to Fr Richard John Neuhaus for this reference which is surely helpful in our assessment of Pope Honorius--who had the misfortune to go down in history as having his (possibly) monothelitist opinion condemned by the Sixth Ecumenical Council. It comes from a letter by Pope Pelagius II (d. 590 -- before Honorius, so it establishes something a point of view against which Honorius' theological slip up may be evaluated) in which he is explaining to the Bishops in the West why he changed his opinion on a certain matter:
Dear Brethren, do you think that to Peter, who was reversing his position, one should have replied: We refuse to hear what you are saying since you previously taught the opposite? If in [this] matter one position was held while truth was being sought and a different position was adopted after truth had been found, why should a change of position be imputed a crime to this See which is humbly venerated by all in the person of its founder?
The application is that Honorius made his comment about Christ having only one will in a letter to Sergius BEFORE the Church had made a definitive pronouncement on the matter. While the theology which is reflected in his opinion was later found to have been heretical, he could not at the time have been (and was not later) considered to be a heretic. And of course, as Pope Pelagius points out, even Peter himself was corrected by Paul with regard to the role of the Jewish law in the Christian faith. The point at issue is that, when corrected, Peter (or his successor as in later history) changed his opinion and adopted and continued to defend the truth which "had been found".

13 Comments:

At Wednesday, May 30, 2007 9:04:00 pm , Blogger Paul T. McCain said...

David, where would one find a comprehensive list of all infallible pronouncements by the Popes? And, would this list of infallible statements by Pope have to be, itself, infallible?

 
At Wednesday, May 30, 2007 11:10:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Ah, chuckle, chuckle, Pastor McCain. What a wag you are.

I can give you a list of those papal pronouncements which are recognised by all Catholics to undeniably meet the requirements for an infallible definition of doctrine.

It is a disappointingly short list, Paul. And to be precise, they are "declarations" of the "definition" of dogma rather than "pronouncments".

The first was in the Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December, 1854, when Pius IX pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."

The second case was when Pope Pius XII dogmatically and infallibly defined the teaching of the Assumption of Mary on 1 November 1950 in his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus.

This list can be considered "infallible" because each case on the list "infallibly" meets the requirements set out by the decree of the First Vatican which defined the conditions under which such definitions must be considered infallible. Identifying such cases is not difficult given the clear requirements, and so there is unanimous consensus upon it. Even non-Catholic (in fact, atheistic) historians agree on this list. It is what you call an historical "fact".

Note that the 1854 definition was made before the 1870 definition of the dogma of Papal Infallibility by the First Vatican Council, which proves that the dogma is meant to define (ie. make definite and clear) already existing teaching in the revealed deposit of faith, not make up new stuff.

Note too that the Pope himself did not define the doctrine of Infallibility, but an ecumenical council.

In the teaching of the Catholic Church, Ecumenical Councils of Bishops, when conducted in communion with the Bishop of Rome, share the same ordinary infallibility as does the pope. A list of infallible "pronouncements" of ecumenical councils would be much, much longer than a papal list.

Then there are many other levels of magisterial authority requiring different levels of assent by the faithful, including the ordinary teaching of the local bishop. Bishops exercise this authority whenever they preach, teach or basically open their mouths. So I won't try to give you a full list of such pronouncments here.

Happy?

 
At Thursday, May 31, 2007 12:06:00 am , Blogger 318@NICE said...

David,
Love the pipe in your picture. I'm an avid pipe smoker myself. I have an old wooden pipe rack with my many pipes in there and usually spend late hours at my desk in my study reading theology/Scriptures, and smoking fine North Carolina tobacco with my favorite German brew. Helps me think better for some reason.
Great post.
But brings up a point. Why if someone speaks out or corrects the Popes or the Vatican since 1964 one is considered wrong, I mean today it seems like the Vatican does no wrong and is above correction.

Dave

 
At Thursday, May 31, 2007 5:32:00 am , Blogger Paul T. McCain said...

I'm not trying to be a smark alek when I ask this, but...given your response to my request for a list of infallible declarations, is it true then that the Popes did not speak infallibly before Vatican I. I'm sincerely confused about this point.

 
At Thursday, May 31, 2007 10:36:00 am , Blogger Past Elder said...

There is an excellent discussion of papal infallibility under that term in Wikipedia.

A few points, but no substitute for the article:

1. There is no list of all infallible statements, anywhere.

2. There is substantial confusion of infallibility of the Church and of the Pope.

3. Papal infallibility is not Papal impeccability (ie an inability to sin)

4. Since the formal definition of the doctrine in 1870 at Vatican I, it has been used only once, in the proclamation of the Assumption of Mary into heaven as a binding doctrine by Pius XII in 1950.

5. Infallible statements, by either Popes or Councils, generally bear two marks. One is an unmistakeable statement that the statement is definitive. The other is an anathema putting an intentional dissenter outside the Church. The absence of anathemas in the Documents of Vatican II play no small part in the rejection of them by "traditional" Catholics.

One may also find authentic Catholic teaching on the matter at sspx.org.

 
At Thursday, May 31, 2007 10:37:00 am , Blogger Past Elder said...

There is an excellent discussion of papal infallibility under that term in Wikipedia.

A few points, but no substitute for the article:

1. There is no list of all infallible statements, anywhere.

2. There is substantial confusion of infallibility of the Church and of the Pope.

3. Papal infallibility is not Papal impeccability (ie an inability to sin)

4. Since the formal definition of the doctrine in 1870 at Vatican I, it has been used only once, in the proclamation of the Assumption of Mary into heaven as a binding doctrine by Pius XII in 1950.

5. Infallible statements, by either Popes or Councils, generally bear two marks. One is an unmistakeable statement that the statement is definitive. The other is an anathema putting an intentional dissenter outside the Church. The absence of anathemas in the Documents of Vatican II play no small part in the rejection of them by "traditional" Catholics.

One may also find authentic Catholic teaching on the matter at sspx.org.

 
At Thursday, May 31, 2007 11:57:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

Dear Pastor McCain,

Vatican I defined the exact circumstances when the faithful were required to regard a papal statement as "infallible". It was a very narrow and precise definition. From the list I gave you, it is clear that exactly HALF of the undisputed cases of infallible papal definitions occured BEFORE Vatican I, so you see, the Vatican Council did not "create" papal infallibility, but rather recognised that under certain circumstances such was the case.

Between the Ancient and the Modern eras, sad to say, we really didn't have a great run of "Teaching Popes". Just look at the list of papal Saints and you will see that they peeter out at about the beginning of the Middle Ages and only really come to life again after the abolition of the Papal States. There is a thesis there somewhere. The Ancient Popes tended to exercise their infallibility in their general teaching magisterium (a different kind of exercise from the role of defining doctrine outlined by Vatican I) and in their approval of the definitions of the Ecumenical Councils. The modern situation is quite unique in the history of the Church in terms of the number of disputed issues the Church is facing at once. Short of having an Ecumenical Council in continual sitting, there has to be some guidance of the Church from day to day. The papal magisterium provides this.

I was thinking overnight about cases in which popes and councils have erred--not in their actual teaching, but rather in their judgement. For instance, and this answers Dave's (318@Nice) question, I believe that the 2nd Vatican Council made a dreadful error of judgment in their overly optomistic estimation of Western Society. Put it down to the fact that they were teachers of the faith and not sociology! In the same way, I would say that Pope Paul VI made a dreadful error of judgement in the 1969 Humanae Vitae. Not that his doctrine was wrong--he was just defending what had been the teaching of the Church for 1900+ years afterall--but his judgement was wrong in that he thought he could just make a pronouncement and the post-'68 Church would take it without any further explanation. We had to wait for JPII and his "Theology of the Body" for a proper exposition of the reasons behind Humanae Vitae--reasons that are only just beginning to sink in now 40 years later.

 
At Thursday, May 31, 2007 12:16:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Regarding Past Elders post on the Wiki article, it is generally helpful. However it is important to note that there isn't an automatic "cut-off" point between ASBSOLUTELY-DEAD-CERTAIN-INFALLIBLE and NOT-IN-THE-SLIGHTEST-AUTHORITATIVE. There's a clear gradation, and the various terms employed by the Holy See for papal documents (eg. Encyclical, Definition, Motu Proprio, Declaration, Constitution, Homily, Interview etc.) all carry different levels of magisterial authority.

And example of the use of such magisterial authority is in John Paul II's 1994 document "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis". This document is interesting, because its final paragraph says:

"Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful."

In saying that, it doesn't say much more than the Lutheran Church of Australia said in its Theses of Agreement back in 1966:

"Though women prophets were used by the Spirit of God in the Old as well as in the New Testament, 1 Cor 14:34,365 and 1 Tim 2:11-14 prohibit a woman from being called into the office of the public ministry for the proclamation of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments. This apostolic ruling is binding on all Christendom; hereby her rights as a member of the spiritual priesthood are in no wise impaired. (Theses of Agreement VI – Thesis on the Office of the Ministry VII, paragraph 11)

Later Synods of the LCA however decided not to count that statement as infallible, ie. it was not binding upon them to observe this apostolic ruling and it was allowable to vote on the issue (even though on both occasions the vote was narrowly defeated).

To come back to Pope John Paul II's declaration, he clearly said that the position he outlined was a "declaration" which was "to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful". Although it is an "Apostolic Letter" the use of the terms "declare" and "definitive" are important. Moreover (and this is the really good bit), this definitive declaration (which by its nature includes a corresponding rejection or anathematising, Dave) is not declaring the Pope's AUTHORITY to do something, but rather his LACK OF AUTHORITY to do something. In other words, what could look to some as hubris (in the act of declaring and defining) what he is really doing is humbly serving the very same "apostolic ruling" that the founding fathers of the Lutheran Church of Australia sought to uphold.

And in that sense we see the teaching authority of the Pope at its very best: not in "making up new doctrines" (which was never and is never the intention of a papal definition) but in "confirming the brethren" in the faith of the Apostles.

I hope that makes things clearer for all.

 
At Thursday, May 31, 2007 12:28:00 pm , Blogger Paul T. McCain said...

Thanks Dave. Even though I, obviously, can not concur with the claims for Papal infallibility, I do very much appreciate understanding how Roman Catholics understand it. Hope that makes sense. Would you say your view represents the magisterium's teaching on this?

 
At Thursday, May 31, 2007 2:36:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

FWIW, apparently not much, I'd say your view represents the magisterium's teaching, not by way of answering Pastor McCain's question for you, but by way of doing what may be a first on this blog -- agreeing with you about what is Catholic.

But I'll quibble with you about an anathema. It's not just something included in a definitive declaration by its nature. There was a time when an anathema was an anathema and it was hardly an implicit inference. But there was a time when people knew where the Church stood and where they stood in reference to it. Before your time, but not mine.

 
At Thursday, May 31, 2007 3:10:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

PS may I suggest:
http://sspx.org/Catholic_FAQs/catholic_faqs__theological.htm#boundtopapalteachings

 
At Thursday, May 31, 2007 8:06:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Dear Paul, my cherished brother in Christ,

It has never been my intention to try to draw anyone away from their own faith to the Catholic Church. But I do desire that all who voice objections to the Catholic Faith have as clear as possible an understanding of what the Church actually teaches, so that their objection is based on fact rather than fiction. It may be that they are as much in disagreement with the fact as the fiction, but it is my guess that we will have moved a little closer to mutual understanding and away from mutual ridicule.

Yes, I believe the position as I have outlined it is faithful to the magisterium. As my blog title says, it is my desire to "think with the Church" and therefore to represent as best as I possibly can what is actually the magisterial teaching of the Church rather than my personal opinion.

 
At Thursday, May 31, 2007 10:54:00 pm , Blogger Paul T. McCain said...

Fair enough Dave. Thanks.

 

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