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Creeping Infallibility

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I do not dispute that the Church has the right to excommunicate someone for heterodoxy regarding non-Infallible teaching. For example, I don't think that the bodily resurrection of Christ has yet been defined but I'd have no sympathy for someone excommunicated for disbelieving this doctrine (though I accept that it might yet, in principal, turn out to be false.)  I know that this sounds rather odd, and in fact it is odd, and deserves reflection.

On the one hand, in the beginning there was no defined doctrine, yet the Deposit of Faith still existed and the Apostolic Church had a good idea of what was orthodox and what not. Arguing "you can't excommunicate me for that, 'cause it's not been defined" wouldn't have cut much water with St Paul, and rightly so! On the other hand, one argument for the infallibility of the Church is that the True Church must be infallible, because it would be contrary to Natural Justice for the Church to impose on anyone the necessity of believing something that was false as a precondition for membership.

Somehow, I think there must be an essential difference between the process of condemning (a small group of) individuals for (supposed) heterodoxy, and the process of establishing trustworthy norms of belief for the Universal Church; but I can't put my finger on what this distinction might be. I believe that the Church certainly had the right in principal to condemn Galileo for his teaching, even though She was wrong in fact to do so. Equally, the Church had the right to condemn as most gravely sinful the lending of money at interest, even though She was again quite mistaken. I also think that the Church had the right - and was wise - to condemn at least one group of heretics (the Jansenists) "whatever they believed" (they just got so slippery and adept at ambiguity etc. etc. that it became impossible to pin them down to any particular position).

Somehow, my "Catholic Instinct" tells me (though it worries me that I can't yet put my finger on a simple explanation) that this is very different from what the Vatican is now doing in the matter of "Women Priests" and various other doctrinal and ethical teachings (e.g. Contraception, Euthanasia, Suicide, In Vitro Fertilization, Homosexuality.......). A profound unwillingness on the part of pope John-Paul II to define any of the above doctrines (and one must ask what was at the root of this unwillingness) was combined with an insistence that they must be believed as matters of  Faith to make an altogether unwholesome brew.

English Text of Motu Proprio "Ad Tuandem Fidem"

IN ORDER TO SAFEGUARD THE FAITH of the Catholic Church against errors springing up among certain of Christ's faithful, especially among those who apply themselves as scholars to the study of sacred theology, it has seemed most necessary to Us, whose chief duty is to confirm Our brothers in the faith (cf. Lk 22.32), that certain norms should be added to the texts of the Code of Canon Law and of the Code of Canons of the Easter Churches currently in force, by means of which the duty of upholding the truths definitively proposed by the Church's Magisterium may be expressly imposed, and canonical sanctions related to this duty also noted.

1. From the first centuries down to the present day, the Church has professed truths concerning the faith of Christ and the mystery of His redemption, truths which were later collected into the various creeds. In our own day, indeed, the Apostle's Creed and the Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople are known and proclaimed in common by Christ's faithful in the solemn and festive celebration of the Mass.

This Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople is itself contained in the Profession of Faith which has been more fully drawn up by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, [1] and which specified members of Christ's faithful are bound to recite upon undertaking certain offices which are directly or indirectly related to a deeper investigation of the truths of faith and morals, or which are joined to some particular power in the government of the Church [2].

2. This Profession of Faith, duly prefaced with the Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople, also includes three propositions or clauses whose purpose is to set forth the truths of the Catholic faith which in later times have been or will be more deeply investigated by the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit who will "will teach" her "all truth" (Jn 16.13)  [3].

The first of these clauses states: "With firm faith I also believe everything contained in the word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by a solemn judgement or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed." [4] This affirmation corresponds to the prescription of the Church's universal law found in can. 750 of the Code of Canon Law [5] and in can. 598 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. [6]

The third clause states: "Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act." [7] This clause finds its place in can. 752 of the Code of Canon Law [8] and in can. 599 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches [9].

3. The second clause, however, asserts: "I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals." [10] This has no corresponding canon in the Codes of the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, this clause of the Profession of Faith is of great importance, dealing as it does with truths necessarily connected with divine revelation. These truths, indeed, which in the investigation of Catholic doctrine express the particular inspiration of the divine Spirit in the Church's deeper understanding of some truth of faith or morals, are connected with divine revelation on historical grounds or as a logical consequence.

4. Hence, compelled by the above mentioned necessity, we have, in good time, decided to fill in this gap in the universal law as follows:

A) Can. 750 of the Code of Canon Law will henceforth have two paragraphs, the first of which will correspond with the text of the canon now in force, while the second will include the following new text, so that can. 750 will read exactly thus:

Can. 750 § 1. All that is contained in the written word of God or in tradition, that is, in the one deposit of faith entrusted to the Church and also proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn Magisterium of the Church or by its ordinary and universal Magisterium, must be believed with divine and catholic faith; it is manifested by the common adherence of the Christian faithful under the leadership of the sacred Magisterium; therefore, all are bound to avoid any doctrines whatever which are contrary to these truths.

In other words, according to the Code (even before it was amended) for the Magisterium to be known to have "definitively taught" something, it is necessary for the laity to "adhere to" this teaching!  This is extremely refreshing.  It is pleasing to see the central role of the laity in professing, preserving, and proclaiming doctrine featured in explicit Papal teaching. The Gallican doctrine of "receptionism" has been anathematized, nevertheless, if some putative definitive act of the Magisterium was not followed by a response of "common adherence of the Christian faithful" it would be reasonable to dismiss it as spurious. In this case, the objective validity of any remarks of Cardinal Ratzinger (or Pope John-Paul II) that some doctrine has been "definitively taught" by the ordinary Magisterium are clearly contingent on the "fact" (or otherwise) of the "common adherence of  the Christian faithful" to that doctrine. On what basis it is to be decided that it has been "manifested" is a moot point.

Note that, quoting the positive teaching of the Oecumenical Vatican Council, two independent and distinguishable conditions must be satisfied, if some proposition of the Magisterium "must be believed with divine and catholic faith". These are that it must be:

  1. "contained in the written word of God or in tradition, that is, in the one deposit of faith entrusted to the Church."
  2. "proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn Magisterium of the Church or by its ordinary and universal Magisterium."
Hence, according to this teaching, something that was mistakenly "proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn Magisterium of the Church or by its ordinary and universal Magisterium." but in fact was not "contained in the written word of God or in tradition, that is, in the one deposit of faith entrusted to the Church" would not command assent.

Now, crucially, regarding the extraordinary Magisterium, it is guaranteed that when a Council or Pope makes a definition it automatically satisfies the first condition. Arguably, this is the very point of the extraordinary Magisterium! This doctrine has always been believed regarding the anathemas of Oecumenical Councils, though it may never have been defined. It was the very purpose of the definition of papal infallibility to establish that it was equally true of ex-cathedra definitions.

I am not aware of the existence of any similar guarantee regarding the workings of the ordinary Magisterium either having ever been defined or in some other way being known to be Apostolic.

§ 2. Moreover, each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals must also be accepted and held: namely, whatever is required for the holy defence and faithful explanation of the deposit of faith. Therefore, whoever rejects these propositions which must be definitely held is opposed to the teaching of the Catholic Church.
This amendment is minor, technical and overdue.

It should be noted again that a condition is attached: that the proposition must objectively be "required for the holy defence and faithful explanation of the deposit of faith" if this condition is not in fact satisfied, then the teaching cannot bind. Once again, acts of the extraordinary Magisterium are guaranteed to satisfy this condition, acts of the ordinary Magisterium have no such guarantee.

Can. 1371, n. 1 of the Code of Canon Law will also be expanded, so as to correspond to can. 750 § 2, so that henceforth, can. 1371 will read exactly thus:

Can. 1371 - The following are to be punished with a just penalty:

1) besides the situation mentioned in can. 1364, §1, a person who teaches a doctrine condemned by the Roman Pontiff or by an ecumenical council or who pertinaciously rejects the doctrine mentioned in can. 750 § 2 or in 752 and who does not make a retraction after having been admonished by the Apostolic See or by the ordinary;

2) a person who wrongly does not otherwise comply with the legitimate precepts or prohibitions of the Apostolic See, the ordinary or the superior and who persists in disobedience, after a warning.

B) Can. 598 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches will henceforth have two paragraphs, the first of which will correspond with the text of the canon now in force, while the second will include the following new text, so that can. 598 will read exactly thus:

Can. 598 § 1. All that is contained in the written word of God or in tradition, that is, in the one deposit of faith entrusted to the Church and also proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn Magisterium of the Church or by its ordinary and universal Magisterium, must be believed with divine and catholic faith; it is manifested by the common adherence of the Christian faithful under the leadership of the sacred Magisterium; therefore, all Christ's faithful are bound to avoid any doctrines whatever which are contrary to these truths.

§ 2. Moreover, each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals must also be accepted and held: namely, whatever is required for the holy defence and faithful explanation of the deposit of faith. Therefore, whoever rejects these propositions which must be definitely held is opposed to the teaching of the Catholic Church.

In can. 1436 § 2 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches the following words will be added, which refer to can. 598 § 2, so that henceforth, can. 1371 will read exactly thus:

Can. 1436 § 1. Whoever denies or places in doubt any truth that must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or repudiates the Christian faith as a whole, and does not come to his senses after having been legitimately warned, is to be punished as a heretic or or as an apostate by major excommunication; a member of the clergy, furthermore, can be punished by other penalties, not excluding deposition.

§ 2. Aside from such cases, whoever rejects a doctrine proposed, as definitively to be held, by the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops exercising their authentic Magisterium, or else accepts a doctrine condemned by them as erroneous, and does not come to his senses after having been legitimately warned, is to be punished by an appropriate penalty.

5. We order that everything decreed by Us in this Apostolic Letter motu proprio be firm and valid, and we command that it be inserted into the universal law of the Catholic Church that is, into the Code of Canon Law and into the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, respectively exactly as set forth above, anything to the contrary notwithstanding.

Given at Rome, St. Peter's, 18 May 1998, in the twentieth year of Our Pontificate.

NOTES

1 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Profession of Faith and Oath of fidelity upon receiving an office to be exercised in the name of the Church, 9 January 1989, in AAS 81 (1989), 105.

2 Cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 833.

3 Cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 747 § 1; Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, can. 595 § 1.

4 Cf. II Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, On the Church, n. 25, 21 November 1964, in AAS 57 (1965), 29-31; Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, On Divine Revelation, 18 November 1965, n. 5, in AAS 58 (1966), 819; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum veritatis, On the Theologian's Vocation in the Church, 24 May 1990, n. 15, in AAS 82 (1990), 1556.

5 Code of Canon Law, can. 750 - All that is contained in the written word of God or in tradition, that is, in the one deposit of faith entrusted to the Church and also proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn Magisterium of the Church or by its ordinary and universal Magisterium, must be believed with divine and catholic faith; it is manifested by the common adherence of the Christian faithful under the leadership of the sacred Magisterium; therefore, all are bound to avoid any doctrines whatever which are contrary to these truths.

6 Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches, can. 598 - All that is contained in the written word of God or in tradition, that is, in the one deposit of faith entrusted to the Church and also proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn Magisterium of the Church or by its ordinary and universal Magisterium, must be believed with divine and catholic faith; it is manifested by the common adherence of the Christian faithful under the leadership of the sacred Magisterium; therefore, all Christ's faithful are bound to avoid any doctrines whatever which are contrary to these truths.

7 Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum veritatis, On the Theologian's Vocation in the Church, 24 May 1990, n. 17, in AAS 82 (1990), 1557.

8 Codex Iuris Canonici, can. 752 - A religious respect of intellect and will, even if not the assent of faith, is to be paid to the teaching which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops enunciate on faith or morals when they exercise the authentic Magisterium even if they do not intend to proclaim it with a definitive act; therefore the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid whatever is not in harmony with that teaching.

9 Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, can. 599 - A religious respect of intellect and will, even if not the assent of faith, is to be paid to the teaching which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops enunciate on faith or morals when they exercise the authentic Magisterium even if they do not intend to proclaim it with a definitive act; therefore the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid whatever is not in harmony with that teaching.

10 Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum veritatis, On the Theologian's Vocation in the Church, 24 May 1990, n. 16, in AAS 82 (1990), 1557.

DOCTRINAL COMMENTARY

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

1. From her very beginning, the Church has professed faith in the Lord, crucified and risen, and has gathered the fundamental contents of her belief into certain formulas. The central event of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, expressed first in simple formulas and subsequently in formulas that were more developed, [1] made it possible to give life to that uninterrupted proclamation of faith, in which the Church has handed on both what had been received from the lips of Christ and from his works, as well as what had been learned "at the prompting of the Holy Spirit." [2]

The same New Testament is the singular witness of the first profession proclaimed by the disciples immediately after the events of Easter: "For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve." [3]

2. In the course of the centuries, from this unchangeable nucleus testifying to Jesus as Son of God and as Lord, symbols witnessing to the unity of the faith and to the communion of the churches came to be developed. In these, the fundamental truths which every believer is required to know and to profess were gathered together. Thus, before receiving Baptism, the catechumen must make his profession of faith. The Fathers too, coming together in Councils to respond to historical challenges that required a more complete presentation of the truths of the faith or a defense of the orthodoxy of those truths, formulated new creeds which occupy "a special place in the Church's life" [4] up to the present day. The diversity of these symbols expresses the richness of the one faith; none of them is superseded or nullified by subsequent professions of faith formulated in response to later historical circumstances.

3. Christ's promise to bestow the Holy Spirit, who "will guide you into all truth," constantly sustains the Church on her way. [5] Thus, in the course of her history, certain truths have been defined as having been acquired though the Holy Spirit's assistance and are therefore perceptible stages in the realization of the original promise. Other truths, however, have to be understood still more deeply before full possession can be attained of what God, in his mystery of love, wished to reveal to men for their salvation. [6]

In recent times too, in her pastoral care for souls, the Church has thought it opportune to express in a more explicit way the faith of all time. In addition, the obligation has been established for some members of the Christian faithful, called to assume particular offices in the community in the name of the Church, to publicly make a profession of faith according to the formula approved by the Apostolic See. [7]

4. This new formula of the Professio fidei restates the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed and concludes with the addition of three propositions or paragraphs intended to better distinguish the order of the truths to which the believer adheres. The correct explanation of these paragraphs deserves a clear presentation, so that their authentic meaning, as given by the Church's Magisterium, will be well understood, received and integrally preserved.

In contemporary usage, the term 'Church' has come to include a variety of meanings, which, while true and consistent, require greater precision when one refers to the specific and proper functions of persons who act within the Church. In this area, it is clear that, on questions of faith and morals, the only subject qualified to fulfil the office of teaching with binding authority for the faithful is the Supreme Pontiff and the College of Bishops in communion with him. [8] The Bishops are the "authentic teachers" of the faith, "endowed with the authority of Christ," [9] because by divine institution they are the successors of the Apostles "in teaching and in pastoral governance": together with the Roman Pontiff they exercise supreme and full power over all the Church, although this power cannot be exercised without the consent of the Roman Pontiff. [10]

5. The first paragraph states: "With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in the Word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by a solemn judgement or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed." The object taught in this paragraph is constituted by all those doctrines of divine and catholic faith which the Church proposes as divinely and formally revealed and, as such, as irreformable. [11]

These doctrines are contained in the Word of God, written or handed down, and defined with a solemn judgement as divinely revealed truths either by the Roman Pontiff when he speaks 'ex cathedra,' or by the College of Bishops gathered in council, or infallibly proposed for belief by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.

These doctrines require the assent of theological faith by all members of the faithful. Thus, whoever obstinately places them in doubt or denies them falls under the censure of heresy, as indicated by the respective canons of the Codes of Canon Law. [12]

It is difficult, however, to decide:
  1. whether the ordinary Magisterium has attempted such a thing; and
  2. whether the doctrine is "contained in the Word of God, written or handed down".
The Code states that truth in these matters is manifested by "the common adherence of the Christian faithful under the leadership of the sacred Magisterium".
6. The second proposition of the Professio fidei states: "I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals." The object taught by this formula includes all those teachings belonging to the dogmatic or moral area, [13] which are necessary for faithfully keeping and expounding the deposit of faith, even if they have not been proposed by the Magisterium of the Church as formally revealed.

Such doctrines can be defined solemnly by the Roman Pontiff when he speaks 'ex cathedra' or by the College of Bishops gathered in council, or they can be taught infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Church as a "sententia definitive tenenda". [14] Every believer, therefore, is required to give firm and definitive assent to these truths, based on faith in the Holy Spirit's assistance to the Church's Magisterium, and on the Catholic doctrine of the infallibility of the Magisterium in these matters. [15] Whoever denies these truths would be in a position of rejecting a truth of Catholic doctrine [16] and would therefore no longer be in full communion with the Catholic Church.

Again, it is difficult, however, to decide:
  1. whether the ordinary Magisterium has attempted such a thing; and
  2. whether the doctrine is "necessary for faithfully keeping and expounding the deposit of faith".
One can only presume that once more, truth in this matter is manifested by "the common adherence of the Christian faithful under the leadership of the sacred Magisterium".
7. The truths belonging to this second paragraph can be of various natures, thus giving different qualities to their relationship with revelation. There are truths which are necessarily connected with revelation by virtue of an historical relationship; while other truths evince a logical connection that expresses a stage in the maturation of understanding of revelation which the Church is called to undertake. The fact that these doctrines may not be proposed as formally revealed, insofar as they add to the data of faith elements that are not revealed or which are not yet expressly recognized as such, in no way diminishes their definitive character, which is required at least by their intrinsic connection with revealed truth. Moreover, it cannot be excluded that at a certain point in dogmatic development, the understanding of the realities and the words of the deposit of faith can progress in the life of the Church, and the Magisterium may proclaim some of these doctrines as also dogmas of divine and catholic faith.

8. With regard to the nature of the assent owed to the truths set forth by the Church as divinely revealed (those of the first paragraph) or to be held definitively (those of the second paragraph), it is important to emphasize that there is no difference with respect to the full and irrevocable character of the assent which is owed to these teachings. The difference concerns the supernatural virtue of faith: in the case of truths of the first paragraph, the assent is based directly on faith in the authority of the Word of God (doctrines de fide credenda); in the case of the truths of the second paragraph, the assent is based on faith in the Holy Spirit's assistance to the Magisterium and on the Catholic doctrine of the infallibility of the Magisterium (doctrines de fide tenenda).

9. The Magisterium of the Church, however, teaches a doctrine to be believed as divinely revealed (first paragraph) or to be held definitively (second paragraph) with an act which is either defining or non-defining. In the case of a defining act, a truth is solemnly defined by an "ex cathedra" pronouncement by the Roman Pontiff or by the action of an ecumenical council. In the case of a non-defining act, a doctrine is taught infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Bishops dispersed throughout the world who are in communion with the Successor of Peter. Such a doctrine can be confirmed or reaffirmed by the Roman Pontiff, even without recourse to a solemn definition, by declaring explicitly that it belongs to the teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium as a truth that is divinely revealed (first paragraph) or as a truth of Catholic doctrine (second paragraph). Consequently, when there has not been a judgement on a doctrine in the solemn form of a definition, but this doctrine, belonging to the inheritance of the depositum fidei, is taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, which necessarily includes the Pope, such a doctrine is to be understood as having been set forth infallibly. [17]
    Of course, as worded, this paragraph is innocuous. The key qualification is "belonging to the inheritance of the depositum fidei". If something is objectively part of the deposit of faith then it doesn't really matter whether it has been defined or not! The only problem is knowing whether it is part of the deposit of faith in the first place, and for this to be clear requires a definition: an act of the extraordinary Magisterium.

    Taking the apparent or superficial meaning of the text (i.e. ignoring this crucial qualification) too seriously would be a very serious mistake. To do so would have, in the past, forced one to accept such doctrines as:
     

  • Slavery is morally acceptable.
    • Retracted by Vatican II in Gaudium et Spes.  Condemned by Pope JP-II in Veritatis Splendor.
  • Anti-Semitism is justified.
    • Apologized for by Pope JP-II.
  • Usury is most gravely sinful.
    • Still not formally retracted.
  • Those in Error have no Rights.
    • Changed by Vatican II in "Dignitatis Humanae".
  • The Earth is at the "physical centre" of the Universe.
    • Apologized for by Pope JP-II.
  • It is wrong to pray with heretics, jews and pagans, and to do so constitutes Apostasy
    • Pope JP-II has done both, e.g. Canterbury & Assisi - twice & Syria.
  • Inter-communion is wrong.
    • We now, rightly or wrongly, allow inter-communion in certain cases.
  • The form of the Eucharist is the Words of Institution.
    • Taught clearly by the Council of Florence. [Ott 4.3.2 VI 2.14.2]
    • The Vatican has recently approved the use of an ancient Eucharistic prayer which does not contain them.
  • The matter of ordination is the passing on of the relevant instrument(s) of office (eg the chalice).
    • Taught clearly by the Council of Florence.
    • Repudiated by Pius XII in "Sacramentum Ordinis" [Ott 4.3.2 VI 3b]
  • Cremation is wrong.
    • We now, rightly or wrongly, allow cremation.
  • Circumcision is mortally sinful.
  • All non-Catholics go to Hell.
  • Various decrees of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

  • ".... there are magisterial decisions which cannot be the final word on a given matter as such but, despite the permanent value of their principles, are chiefly also a signal for pastoral prudence, a sort of provisional policy.  Their kernel remains valid, but the particulars determined by circumstances can stand in need of correction.  In this connection, one will probably call to mind both the pontifical statements of the last century regarding freedom of religion and the anti-Modernist decisions of the then Biblical Commission  ....  with respect to [almost all] particular aspects of their content, they were superseded ...."
    [Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: "The Nature and Mission of Theology" (1993) p. 106]

The declaration of confirmation or reaffirmation by the Roman Pontiff in this case is not a new dogmatic definition, but a formal attestation of a truth already possessed and infallibly transmitted by the Church.
However, if the Pope mistakenly believes that a "doctrine, belonging to the inheritance of the depositum fidei, is taught" definitively "by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, which necessarily includes the Pope" and declares that such is the case, his action signifies nothing. See extensive comments on [17]. The devil is in the detail.
10. The third proposition of the Professio fidei states: "Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act." To this paragraph belong all those teachings ­ on faith and morals - presented as true or at least as sure, even if they have not been defined with a solemn judgement or proposed as definitive by the ordinary and universal Magisterium. Such teachings are, however, an authentic expression of the ordinary Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff or of the College of Bishops and therefore require religious submission of will and intellect. [18] They are set forth in order to arrive at a deeper understanding of revelation, or to recall the conformity of a teaching with the truths of faith, or lastly to warn against ideas incompatible with these truths or against dangerous opinions that can lead to error. [19]
The only problem with this is, of course, how it is to be decided whether some proposition has been legitimately
"set forth in order to arrive at a deeper understanding of revelation, or to recall the conformity of a teaching with the truths of faith, or lastly to warn against ideas incompatible with these truths or against dangerous opinions that
can lead to error". Ratzinger's presumption is that the ordinary Magisterium will always get this right. One presumes that, once more  "the common adherence of the Christian faithful under the leadership of the sacred Magisterium" is required as an indicator of truth.
A proposition contrary to these doctrines can be qualified as erroneous or, in the case of teachings of the prudential order, as rash or dangerous and therefore "tuto doceri non potest". [20]

11. Examples. Without any intention of completeness or exhaustiveness, some examples of doctrines relative to the three paragraphs described above can be recalled.

To the truths of the first paragraph belong the articles of faith of the Creed, the various Christological dogmas [21] and Marian dogmas; [22] the doctrine of the institution of the sacraments by Christ and their efficacy with regard to grace; [23] the doctrine of the real and substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist [24] and the sacrificial nature of the eucharistic celebration; [25] the foundation of the Church by the will of Christ; [26] the doctrine on the primacy and infallibility of the Roman Pontiff; [27] the doctrine on the existence of original sin; [28] the doctrine on the immortality of the spiritual soul and on the immediate recompense after death; [29] the absence of error in the inspired sacred texts; [30] the doctrine on the grave immorality of direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being. [31]

This is incredible, Refs [30] and [31] at least are not definitions!  See my notes at [17].
With respect to the truths of the second paragraph, with reference to those connected with revelation by a logical necessity, one can consider, for example, the development in the understanding of the doctrine connected with the definition of papal infallibility, prior to the dogmatic definition of the First Vatican Council. The primacy of the Successor of Peter was always believed as a revealed fact, although until Vatican I the discussion remained open as to whether the conceptual elaboration of what is understood by the terms 'jurisdiction' and 'infallibility' was to be considered an intrinsic part of revelation or only a logical consequence.
What is the difference?  If a proposition is an inescapable consequence of another, then it is intrinsic to that other proposition; or, better, a legitimate development of it.
On the other hand, although its character as a divinely revealed truth was defined in the First Vatican Council, the doctrine on the infallibility and primacy of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff was already recognized as definitive in the period before the council.
I'm sure that those Catholics who dissented and became Old Catholics would have a different story to tell!
History clearly shows, therefore, that what was accepted into the consciousness of the Church was considered a true doctrine from the beginning, and was subsequently held to be definitive; however, only in the final stage - the definition of Vatican I - was it also accepted as a divinely revealed truth.
This is always the case. No doctrines that are defined are ever "new"!
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, [32] 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. [33]
In the Pope's opinion, only.
As the prior example illustrates, this does not foreclose the possibility that, in the future, the consciousness of the Church might progress to the point where this teaching could be defined as a doctrine to be believed as divinely revealed.

The doctrine on the illicitness of euthanasia, taught in the Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, can also be recalled. Confirming that euthanasia is "a grave violation of the law of God," the Pope declares that "this doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church's Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium". [34]

In the Pope's opinion, only.
It could seem that there is only a logical element in the doctrine on euthanasia, since Scripture does not seem to be aware of the concept. In this case, however, the interrelationship between the orders of faith and reason becomes apparent: Scripture, in fact, clearly excludes every form of the kind of self-determination of human existence that is presupposed in the theory and practice of euthanasia.
In Ratzinger's opinion, only.
Other examples of moral doctrines which are taught as definitive by the universal and ordinary Magisterium of the Church are: the teaching on the illicitness of prostitution [35] and of fornication. [36]
Now Ratzinger is quoting the Catechism as a source of definitive statements!  See my notes at [17].
With regard to those truths connected to revelation by historical necessity and which are to be held definitively, but are not able to be declared as divinely revealed, the following examples can be given: the legitimacy of the election of the Supreme Pontiff or of the celebration of an ecumenical council, the canonizations of saints (dogmatic facts), the declaration of Pope Leo XIII in the Apostolic Letter Apostolicae Curae on the invalidity of Anglican ordinations ...[37]
This is simply mad.
As examples of doctrines belonging to the third paragraph, one can point in general to teachings set forth by the authentic ordinary Magisterium in a non-definitive way, which require degrees of adherence differentiated according to the mind and the will manifested; this is shown especially by the nature of the documents, by the frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or by the tenor of the verbal expression. [38]

12. With the different symbols of faith, the believer recognizes and attests that he professes the faith of the entire Church. It is for this reason that, above all in the earliest symbols of faith, this consciousness is expressed in the formula 'We believe.' As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: "'I believe' (Apostles' Creed) is the faith of the Church professed personally by each believer, principally during Baptism. 'We believe' (Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed) is the faith of the Church confessed by the Bishops assembled in council or more generally by the liturgical assembly of believers. 'I believe' is also the Church, our mother, responding to God by faith as she teaches us to say both 'I believe' and 'We believe'". [39]

In every profession of faith, the Church verifies different stages she has reached on her path toward the definitive meeting with the Lord. No content is abrogated with the passage of time; instead, all of it becomes an irreplaceable inheritance through which the faith of all time, of all believers, and lived out in every place, contemplates the constant action of the Spirit of the risen Christ, the Spirit who accompanies and gives life to his Church and leads her into the fullness of the truth.

Rome, from the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, June 29, 1998, the Solemnity of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.

+ Joseph Card. Ratzinger
Prefect

+ Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B.
Archbishop Emeritus of Vercelli
Secretary
 

1 The simple formulas normally profess the messianic fulfilment in Jesus of Nazareth; cf. for example, Mk 8:29; Mt 16:16; Lk 9:20; Jn 20:31; Acts 9:22. The complex formulas, in addition to the resurrection, confess the principal events of the life of Jesus and their salvific meaning; cf. for example, Mk 12:35-36; Acts 2:23-24; 1 Cor 15:3-5; 1 Cor 16:22; Phil 2:7, 10-11; Col 1:15-20; 1 Pt 3:19-22; Rev 22:20. Besides the formulas of confession of faith relating to salvation history and to the historical event of Jesus of Nazareth, which culminates with Easter, there are professions of faith in the New Testament which concern the very being of Jesus: cf. 1 Cor 12:3: "Jesus is Lord." In Rom 10:9, the two forms of confession are found together.

2 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, 7.

3 1 Cor 15:3-5.

4 Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 193.

5 Jn 16:13.

6 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, 11.

7 Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity: AAS 81 (1989), 104-106; CIC, can. 833.

8 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 25.

9 Ibid., 25.

10 Cf. ibid., 22.

11 Cf. DS 3074.

12 Cf. CIC, cann. 750 and 751; 1364 § 1; CCEO, cann. 598; 1436 § 1.

13 Cf. Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae, 4: AAS 60 (1968), 483; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor,    36-37: AAS 85 (1993), 1162-1163.

14 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 25.

15 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, 8 and 10; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Mysterium Ecclesiae, 3: AAS 65 (1973), 400-401.

16 Cf. John Paul II, Motu proprio Ad tuendam fidem (May 18, 1998).

17 It should be noted that the infallible teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium is not only set forth with an explicit declaration of a doctrine to be believed or held definitively, but is also expressed by a doctrine implicitly contained in a practice of the Church's faith, derived from revelation or, in any case, necessary for eternal salvation, and attested to by the uninterrupted Tradition: such an infallible teaching is thus objectively set forth by the whole episcopal body, understood in a diachronic and not necessarily merely synchronic sense. Furthermore, the intention of the ordinary and universal Magisterium to set forth a doctrine as definitive is not generally linked to technical formulations of particular solemnity; it is enough that this be clear from the tenor of the words used and from their context.
The Chief Inquisitor seems to argue that the Pope can simply point out when a doctrine is "attested to by the uninterrupted Tradition" and when the Whole Body of the Episcopate has in fact "set forth" the same doctrine throughout time (diachronically, not just at some specific moment, synchronically), and in doing so taught this doctrine infallibly. Hence, it would seem that the Pope could non-infallibly declare that the teaching of Humanae Vitae (for example) is infallible by just affirming that "The Whole Episcopal Body" had in fact "set forth" this doctrine. The flaws in this teaching, proposed by Ratzinger (with obvious Papal approval) are manifest:
  1. How can anyone ever know as a fact when "The Whole Episcopal Body" believed and taught something, unless all the Bishops somehow clubbed together to say so. However they chose to do this, it would be an Oecumenical Council, in substance even if not in convention: an exercise of the extraordinary Magisterium, in accordance with Holy Tradition!
  2. For the pope to assert that in fact "The Whole Episcopal Body" believed and taught something, would be a significant event; but it would not be a definitive event. In the last analysis, this is nothing more than his opinion.
  3. What does one mean by "The Entire Episcopate"? Should the Bishops of the Orthodox Churches be included? After all they are always invited to Oecumenical Councils. Would one dissenting voice invalidate this? Perhaps a small inconvenient minority could be conveniently discounted as not proper Catholics. Perhaps all that one needs is a simple majority (as at an Oecumenical Council) of "ostensible Catholic Bishops". Perhaps "The Entire Episcopal Body" could in the end be reduced to those Bishops that happen to agree with the Pope on the matter, on the grounds that if they disagree they are by that very fact heretics! I jest.
  4. One simple explanation for "everyone saying the same thing" is that that thing is "common sense" rather than Gospel Teaching. The best example of this is the "Family Values" paradigm, which has almost no scriptural basis, and in fact is contrary to much of Jesus' explicit teaching and the whole of the eremitic pro-celibacy tradition in/of the Church. It is fairly obvious that the modern official teaching on homosexuality is nothing more than secular prejudice imported into the Church in the late Middle Ages and early Renascence, in much the way that militant anti-Semitism infected the Church.
  5. In common with properly defined doctrine, this supposed species of "definitive teaching" would be open to subsequent interpretation.  Defined doctrine is generally framed clearly and succinctly in order to restrict its applicability and to make subsequent interpretation as straight-forward as possible, and one always has a specific text to study. On the other hand, the infallible teaching of the ordinary Magisterium can only be informal, from the very nature of the case, "it is not generally linked to technical formulations of particular solemnity". There can in principal be no text (the common formulation of such a text would be equivalent, in my view, to the exercise of the extra-ordinary Magisterium!)  Hence one can never know exactly what might have been "diachronically set forth"!
  6. It is strange, then, that Ratzinger speaks of judging the intention of the ordinary Magisterium "from the tenor of the words used and from their context". I suspect that he would like to view documents such as Papal Encyclicals and the Catechism as suitable texts, and indeed he does exactly this in his commentary. Of course, this is inadmissible. While an Encyclical and the Catechism are exercises of the ordinary Magisterium, they in no way manifest a "diachronic setting forth" of a doctrine by "the Entire Episcopal Body", as envisaged in the text.
  7. On those occasions that Popes have manifestly exercised the charism of Infallibility, they did so after such  exhaustive consultation with the Universal Episcopate that the procedure looked more like the exercise of  the infallible ordinary Magisterium (which it wasn't) than the exercise of the extraordinary Magisterium (which it was). Ironically, before Vatican-II, the traditional exercise of Papal Infallibility was impeccably democratic: though the Church is no democracy! After Vatican II, the contemporary exercise of Papal non-Infallibility is tending towards totalitarianism.

  8. It seems to me that while the Fathers of Vatican I may have thought that the doctrine that the ordinary Magisterium (that is, themselves when they went home) could teach infallibly would counterbalance the definition of Papal Infallibility, in fact it is leading inexorably to a totalitarian exercise of arbitrary power by the Vatican. In effect the Vatican is getting into the habit of  telling the College of Bishops "We know what you believe better than you do yourselves"!

18 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 25;
     Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum Veritatis, 23: AAS 82 (1990), 1559-1560.

19 Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum Veritatis, 23 and 24: AAS 82 (1990), 1559-1561.

20 Cf. CIC, cann. 752, 1371; CCEO, cann. 599, 1436 § 2.

21 Cf. DS 301-302.

22 Cf. DS 2803; 3903.

23 Cf. DS 1601; 1606.

24 Cf. DS 1636.

25 Cf. DS 1740; 1743.

26 Cf. DS 3050.

27 Cf. DS 3059-3075.

28 Cf. DS 1510-1515.

29 Cf. DS 1000-1002.

30 Cf. DS 3293; Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, 11.

31 Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, 57: AAS 87 (1995), 465.

32 Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, 4: AAS 86 (1994), 548.

33 Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Response to a Dubium concerning the teaching contained in the
    Apostolic Letter "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis": AAS 87 (1995), 1114.

34 John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, 65: AAS 87 (1995), 475.

35 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 193.

36 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2353.

37 Cf. DS 3315-3319.

38 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 25; Congregation for the
    Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum Veritatis, 17, 23 and 24: AAS 82 (1990), 1557-1558, 1559-1561.

39 Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 167.

Appendix I : First Press Report

Pope John Paul II has issued a new apostolic letter, in the form of a Motu Proprio, tightening the disciplinary provisions of Canon Law that deal with theological dissent.  The document, "Ad Tuendam Fidem", adds new paragraphs to the Code of Canon Law.  The purpose of the change is to defend the integrity of the faith against theological dissent.  Pope John Paul writes, "In order to defend the faith of the Catholic Church against errors on the part of some of the faithful -- but especially among those dedicated to the study of sacred theology -- it seemed absolutely necessary that .... some norms must be added" to the Church's law. The Holy Father further explained that the new paragraphs make clear the serious obligation of theologians to convey the faith accurately, and set forth the canonical sanctions that may be imposed on those who fail to uphold this duty. Although Church leaders and theologians are asked to make a Profession of Faith -- indicating their acceptance of all the truths taught definitively by the Church -- the Pope points out, there had been no provision in the Code of Canon Law which corresponded directly to that oath.

The first new addition to the Code, therefore, adds to the existing #750 a second paragraph, making it clear that anyone who refuses to accept a proposition definitively taught by the Church is thus "in opposition to the doctrine of the Catholic Church." Next, #1371 -- a canon dealing with ecclesiastical sanctions for those who reject Church authority -- is amended to stipulate that anyone who violates #750 is "to be punished with a just penalty." The final part of the new apostolic letter applies the same changes to the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches. In that text, the corresponding changes affect #598 and #1436, respectively.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has issued a clarification regarding the profession of faith sworn by Catholic leaders and theologians. The Profession of Faith requires theologians to accept doctrines which have been proclaimed "definitively" by the Church. In that category, Cardinal Ratzinger listed the primacy of Peter, the exclusively male priesthood, and the intrinsic immorality of euthanasia and fornication.

This is a strange list of doctrines.  One is defined, one has been imposed without being defined and the other two are either false or truisms! The acts referred to by the words "euthanasia" and "fornication" are wrong simply because these words are always used to refer to acts that one has already decided (by reference to their context) are wrong. Not all "killing" is murder, not all "fasting" is hunger striking, not all "assisted death" is euthanasia and not all "sexual intercourse" is fornication. Fornication originally (in New Testament times) meant "consorting with prostitutes".
He also observed that the legitimacy of a papal election, and decrees of the canonization of saints, are definitive statements.
But hardly infallible!
The cardinal explained that these and other definitive teachings which have been handed down by Scripture and Revelation are "by a solemn judgement, defined as divinely revealed truths" by the Pope speaking ex cathedra and/or by ecumenical councils of bishops in communion with the Roman Pontiff.
Ratzinger cannot possibly mean that canonization's and papal elections are "divinely revealed truths". There simply MUST be a problem with the report/translation. This text, as it stands, just doesn't make any sense at all!
Indeed, comparison with the authentic text reveals the error in this report.
A second category of truths, he continued, include those which are explicitly mentioned in the Credo. Such doctrines include the teachings that Jesus was born of a virgin, that He instituted the sacraments, and that He is present in the Eucharist.
While the Perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Virgin has never quite been defined, to rank this doctrine below the status of  the recent teaching on "the exclusively male character of the priesthood" is incredible!  That Jesus instituted the sacraments and is present in the Eucharist were both defined by the Council of Trent! How could Ratzinger have made such an elementary error?  He didn't!  It's the reporter, again.
Rejection of these truths is formal heresy. A third category of Church teachings includes those truths which have been set forth consistently, but never solemnly defined, by Church authority. While they are not definitively formulated, he notes, these teachings too demand "the religious submission of the will", and any direct contradiction of these teachings would be an error --
This is Ratzinger's personal and mistaken opinion.  The report is accurate, in this matter.
and potentially a grave danger to the good of the faithful.
Whereas THIS (because of the word "potentially") is entirely true! Any dissension from the Official Teaching of the Church is "potentially a grave danger to the good of the faithful".  However, it may be absolutely necessary to risk this danger as not to do so may be an even greater danger!

Appendix II :  Second Press Report

In his apostolic letter Ad Tuendam Fidem ("For the defence of the faith") issued in Rome on 30 June, Pope John Paul II has added to canon law to define the limits of dissent and stress the need for Catholics to accept all church teachings. The letter was accompanied by a commentary written by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, giving instances of teachings that required firm acceptance, in particular that the priesthood is open only to men. The Vatican press office distributed the Pope's letter, in Latin and Italian, in the early afternoon, after other Vatican offices had closed for the day, together with Cardinal Ratzinger's commentary in several languages.

The letter's introduction concerns the profession of faith recently drawn up by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which all Catholic office-holders have to take. The first paragraph of the profession states belief in all that is contained in the written word of God and divine revelation.  A second paragraph covers doctrines on faith or morals definitively put forward by the Church.

But which are not part of the Deposit of Faith, per se.
A third paragraph refers to other teachings of the pope or bishops when they exercise their powers as teachers, even if these are not intended to be definitive.

In the Code of Canon Law, penalties were set out applying to the first and third categories, but not to the second. The Pope's letter fills in that gap.

The commentary by Cardinal Ratzinger and the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, explains that "whoever denies these truths would be in a position of rejecting a truth of Catholic doctrine, and would, therefore, no longer be in full communion with the Catholic Church". The second category, it says, includes "all those teachings in the dogmatic or moral area which are necessary for faithfully keeping and expounding the deposit of faith, even if they have not been proposed by the Magisterium as formally revealed".

The only problem with this is, of course, how it is to be decided what is "necessary for faithfully keeping and expounding the deposit of faith". I suppose that this would be by definition, just as with something that was part of the Deposit of Faith. If it is necessary for faithfully keeping and expounding the Deposit of Faith, then to deny it is clearly heretical!  The phrase "formally revealed" means part of the Deposit of Faith not definitively taught or defined.
The Pope's letter of 1994 ruling out any possibility of ordaining women to the priesthood was, they say, an example of the teachings that require "firm and definitive assent" in the second category, even though they have not been proclaimed as infallible. Truths in this category have a logical or historical connection to those in the first, according to the commentary, and would include, for instance, the Church's teachings on euthanasia, the canonization of saints and the legitimacy of the papal election. Surprisingly, the commentary also instances Pope Leo XIII's Bull on the invalidity of Anglican orders, Apostolicae Curae, but there is no mention of contraception.
This is quite incredible! The validity or otherwise of Anglican Orders is a matter of historical fact, not faith or morals!  It is not necessary to believe anything one way or another about this in order to faithfully keep or expound the Deposit of Faith!
The commentary gives no examples of teachings that must or should be obeyed in the third category mentioned above - it limits itself to "teachings set forth by the authentic ordinary Magisterium in a non-definitive way".

In an interview with the Italian Catholic daily newspaper Avenire on 1 July, Archbishop Bertone said the Pope was filling a loophole in canon law. His letter, he said, was a reminder that being a Catholic included believing what the Church taught. "It does not only regard theologians", he said, "but all those who assume an office or task in the Church." He went on to say that "this intervention of the Pope reminds everyone that the authenticity of the truths of faith cannot be undermined". Canon law, as amended by the Pope's intervention, now judged those who dissented from the truths of the second category to be guilty of "erroneous opinion".

The commentary makes clear that truths on the second level such as the doctrine that only men can be ordained to the priesthood could be moved up to the first level.

The Pope's new provisions are now added to the Latin Code of Canon Law and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, which applies to Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite.

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