The Origins of the Authority of the Pope (Part 3) Papal Infallibility

Papal infallibility. What is it? Does it mean the pope cannot sin? Does it mean he is perfect? Since when is the pope infallible?

Papal infallibility is used by the pope during formal teaching, or the Formal magisterium, mentioned previously at the start of this article series on the pope. This form of the teaching Magisterium is that which is used by popes to formally define articles of the faith infallibly. When the pope teaches this way, it is referred to as ex cathedra.

The notion of Papal infallibility dates back to the teachings of Christ to the Apostles. st_-peters-basilicaChrist told His Apostles that the Holy Spirit would guide them in all truth (John 16:13), as they had been given the job of teaching everyone the things Christ had commanded (Matthew 28:19-20). Speaking through His Apostle Paul, Christ taught the deacon Timothy that the Church is the pillar and ground of truth (1 Timothy 3:15). Christ’s Church is the ground of truth. It cannot err in its doctrinal teachings. If it would, it would not be the pillar of truth.

How is this applied to the teachings of the Church today? Yes, the Church is the pillar of truth, but who exactly defines the teachings? One cannot just say “the Church”. The Church is much more than just a vague expression.

The pope, the successor of Peter, enjoys the protection of infallibility when formally pronouncing Catholic doctrine. When doing this, speaking ex cathedra, the pope does not invent doctrinal beliefs; he defines them. Any beliefs formally defined by the pope were not news to Christians — they  were long held beliefs. The protection from error does not equate to invention of doctrine.

Neither does infallibility mean that a pope cannot sin. Popes sin. Many have been horrible sinners. But sin doesn’t effect infallibly protected teaching. Peter was a sinner,cropped-st_peters_basilica_rome.jpg and yet he made an infallible teaching at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:6-30).

Infallibility has nothing to do with the private lifestyle of the pope. Infallibility prevents a pope from solemnly and formally teaching error as a truth. It has nothing to do with the state of his soul, or how many sins he commits. It merely prevents him from solemnly and formally teaching error.

— Patrick Devens


 

Its Great to be Catholic: Response to excatholic4christ

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Tom, aka excatholic4christ, wrote an article a few months ago titled: 10 Really “Uncool” Things About Being Catholic (link at bottom of page). Tom, in his spirit of anti-Catholic bias and ignorance of true Christianity, labeled several of these 10 things unbiblical and all of them “uncool”. I want to take a look at each accusation.

1. Confession.

Tom  says: “Going into a dark box and confessing sins to a priest is unscriptural. No man can forgive sins. The Catholic confessional box was often used by predatory priests to initially lure their victims. Priests were required to probe older children and young adults with embarrassing questions about sexuality to ensure they gave a full, ‘good’ confession.”

First, all priests were required to ask embarrassing questions? Required? I think not. Prove it. Yes, there have been repulsive, perverted men that have entered the priesthood of Jesus Christ who have been sexually immoral. But this is a small percentage that cannot be perceived as the whole.

The sacrament of Confession is an ancient practice dating back to the Apostles. The Early Church testifies for the practice of Confession. See here:

https://www.catholic.com/tract/confession

Furthermore, just as God used His priests to forgive sin in the Old Testament, He does the same in the New Testament.

“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” (John 20:21-23)

Having been raised from the dead, our Lord was here commissioning his apostles to carry on with his work just before he was to ascend to heaven. “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” What did the Father send Jesus to do? All Christians agree he sent Christ to be the one true mediator between God and men. As such, Christ was to MISERERE-CONFESSIONinfallibly proclaim the Gospel (cf. Luke 4:16-21), reign supreme as King of kings and Lord of lords (cf. Rev. 19:16); and especially, he was to redeem the world through the forgiveness of sins (cf. I Peter 2:21-25, Mark 2:5-10).

One instance of God using a man to forgive sin is in 2 Corinthians 2:10. Paul speaks:

“And to whom you have pardoned anything, I also.  For, what I have pardoned, if I have pardoned anything, for your sakes have I done it in the person of Christ.”

St. Paul made use of his power to forgive sins in Christ’s name, despite being a sinner himself. Just because a man is a sinner does not negate the fact that he has God given power. St. Peter was a sinful man, and yet he was able to preach and baptize people in Christ’s name. How is the power to forgive sin any different?

It should also be noted that the Apostles were given spiritual authority by Christ in Matthew 18:18:

“Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

This authority was passed down by the Apostles to their successors, from bishop to bishop, from bishop to priest. It is the Catholic Church who can trace her lineage all the way back to the Apostles, as the power to forgive sins are passed down to the Church’s priests. This is why Catholics confess their sins to their priest; their priest received the same power over sins as the Apostles.

As the Apostles were men who were given power to forgive sin, how would they have known what sins to forgive? The only way for them to know would be that the penitent tell them their sins. That is why Catholic confess their sins to a priest. Priests are (often) not mind readers. How else would they know what to “bind and loose”?

It seems very clear that Confession is very biblical.

2. The Rosary 

Tom says: “God’s Word forbids prayer to any entity other than to Him. It also forbids multiple rote prayers.”

The verb “to pray” means “to ask”. It originally held this meaning in old English, and was used in phrases such as “I pray thee, do tell…”. It is originally just another word phrase for “ask”. The usage began to change meaning during the Protestant Revolt. The head of the Church of England did not warm up to the practice of prayer to the saints, and the term became solely associated with prayer to God. As the English monarchy took over many churches and universities of England, this Protestant word usage became the norm among non-Catholics. Catholics however, did not take to the new meaning, and from then till now “prayer to the saints” has strictly meant asking for saintly intercession.

This explanation shows that not all prayer is worship, as it depends on the manner of such, and the definitional term used.

Secondly, the bible exhorts Christians to constantly pray for one another, and it does not restrict the Christians of Heaven to do so.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the charity of the Holy Ghost, that you help me in your prayers for me to God” (Romans 15:30)

By all prayer and supplication praying at all times in the spirit; and in the same watching with all instance and supplication for all the saints: And for me, that speech may be given me, that I may open my mouth with confidence, to make known the mystery of the gospel.” (Ephesians 6:18-19)

You helping withal in prayer for us: that for this gift obtained for us, by the means of many persons, thanks may be given by many in our behalf.” (2 Corinthians 1:11)

And perhaps the most explicit passage on intercession for one another:

“I desire therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men: For kings, and for all that are in high station: that we may lead a quiet and a peaceable life in all piety and chastity. For this is good and acceptable in therr sight of God our Saviour, Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Asking the saints in Heaven to pray and intercede for us to God is the same exact concept as asking other Christians on earth to pray for us.

As for repetitive prayer, the Bible nowhere condemns such. In Matthew 6:7, Jesus said “do not heap up ‘empty phrases’ (Gr. – battalagesete,  which means to stammer, babble, prate, or to repeat the same things over and over mindlessly) as the Gentiles do…” We have to remember that the main idea of prayer and sacrifice among the pagans was to appease the gods so that you could go on with your own life. You had to be careful to “take care of” all of the gods by mentioning them, and saying all the right words, lest you bring a curse upon yourself.

Later in Matthew 6, Jesus gave us a prayer to recite! The Our Father! Notice the emphasis on living the words of the prayer! This is a prayer to be recited, but they are neither “empty phrases” nor “vain repetitions.”

Mark 14:32-39:

“And they went to a place which was called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here, while I pray.’ And the took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch.’ And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible to you; remove this chalice from me; yet not what I will, but what you will.’ And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptiation; the spirit indeed is weilling, but the flesh is weak.’ And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again, he came and found them sleeping… And he came a third time, and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping…?’”

Our Lord was here praying for hours and saying “the same words.” Is this “vain repetition?” No. Tom, you do not recognize the difference between repetition and vain repetition.

3. Popes

Tom claims that there are no popes in the Bible. I’m sorry that you are to ignorant to realize that St. Peter was the first pope. Christ appointed him the head of the Church on earth when He gave Him the keys to the kingdom, and reaffirmed this by telling Peter to feed Christ’s sheep. If you cannot see that Christ left His Church in Peter’s hands, then you need to study the concept further.

4. Saints

Tom says: “The New Testament refers to saints as all those who have accepted Christ as Savior, not a super-holy class of people as Rome invented.”

Catholics believe that all who are in the state of sanctifying grace are saints. Catholic merely refer to the saints in Heaven as “saints”, and call the Church Militant on earth “Christians”.

Also, to enter Heaven, one must be holy.  St. Paul even says that without holiness, “no man shall see God.” (Hebrews 12:14) Not sure why you say “super-holy” class of people Rome invented. Rome didn’t “invent” holiness as needed for salvation, and Rome did not invent any people. The saints are as real as you and I.

5. Relics

Tom says: “Nowhere in the New Testament are believers instructed to venerate physical objects.”

No Tom, the Scriptures do not explicitly say: Venerate relics. But then again, the Bible is not the sole rule of faith.

“One of the most moving accounts of the veneration of relics is that of the very body of Christ itself. Rather than leaving his body on the cross, to be taken down and disposed of by the Romans (as was the customary practice), Joseph of Arimathea courageously interceded with Pilate for Christ’s body (Mark 15:43, John 19:38). He donated his own, newly hewn tomb as Christ’s resting place (Matt. 27:60). Nicodemus came and donated over a hundred pounds of spices to wrap inside Jesus’ grave clothes (John 19:39), that amount of spices being used only for the most honored dead. And after he was buried, the women went to reverently visit the tomb (Matt. 28:1) and to further anoint Christ’s body with spices even though it had already been sealed inside the tomb (Mark 16:1, Luke 24:1). These acts of reverence were more than just the usual courtesy shown to the remains of the dead; they were special respect shown to the body of a most holy man—in this case, the holiest man who has ever lived, for he was God Incarnate. 

“Keep in mind what the Church says about relics. It doesn’t say there is some magical power in them. There is nothing in the relic itself, whether a bone of the apostle Peter or water from Lourdes, that has any curative ability. The Church just says that relics may be the occasion of God’s miracles, and in this the Church follows Scripture.

“The use of the bones of Elisha brought a dead man to life: “So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. And as a man was being buried, lo, a marauding band was seen and the man was cast into the grave of Elisha; and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood on his feet” (2 Kgs. 13:20-21). This is an unequivocal biblical example of a miracle being performed by God through contact with the relics of a saint!

“Similar are the cases of the woman cured of a hemorrhage by touching the hem of Christ’s cloak (Matt. 9:20-22) and the sick who were healed when Peter’s shadow passed over them (Acts 5:14-16). “And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them” (Acts 19:11-12).

“If these aren’t examples of the use of relics, what are? In the case of Elisha, a Lazarus-like return from the dead was brought about through the prophet’s bones. In the New Testament cases, physical things (the cloak, the shadow, handkerchiefs and aprons) were used to effect cures. There is a perfect congruity between present-day Catholic practice and ancient practice. If you reject all Catholic relics today as frauds, you should also reject these biblical accounts as frauds.” (1)

6. Processions

Tom writes: “As priests parade a large bread wafer alleged to be the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus in a sunburst container called a monstrance, the Catholic faithful bow down and worship it. This is unmitigated idolatry.”

Hmmm…last I checked, Christ told us that we are to eat His flesh to have eternal life. He gave us His flesh to eat under the appearance of bread.

“I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” (John 6:51-52)

“And whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke: and gave to monstrancehis disciples, and said: Take ye, and eat. This is my body. And taking the chalice, he gave thanks, and gave to them, saying: Drink ye all of this. For this is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28)

The chalice of benediction, which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread, which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord? For we, being many, are one bread, one body, all that partake of one bread.” (1 Corinthians 10:16)

7. Blessings

Tom says: “Priests and bishops are alleged to have been ordained with the ability to endow people and objects with powerful blessings.”

…is this strange to you at all? Just like the prophets of the Old Testament giving their blessing to others? This charge against blessings seems to be the dumbest yet.

8. Music

Tom says: “Gaudy liturgical ritual with its accompanying music defined “religion” for most older generation Catholics.”

This one seems to be more of an opinion than an actual accusation. Not sure what get’s Tom’s goat about music.

9. Guilt

Tom says: “Yup, God’s Word says we are all sinners, but Catholics can never find spiritual peace in Christ because they’re on a religious treadmill and no matter how much they do or how good they try to be, it will never be enough.”

We are all sinners, and we do not know at the present if we will die in the state of grace. What if I am in the state of grace at one time, and then commit murder? Should I have nothing to worry about? Your argument is nonsense.

10. A Sense of Humor 

Tom says: “I went through twelve years of Catholic education and I can attest to the fact that MANY priests, nuns, and brothers did NOT have a sense of humor. Often those troubled souls were cold and hurtful.”

Some people are kind and cheerful, others are not. It is not like all Catholics are hapless zombies. I have been Catholic all 15 years of my life, and the majority of  Catholics I have met are fun, happy people. Most of my friends are Catholic. They take their Christianity seriously. You just view everything through an anti-Catholic lens. How about taking those anti-Catholic shades off now and take a long look at Truth?

— Patrick E. Devens

 


(1) https://www.catholic.com/tract/relics

via 10 Really “Uncool” Things About Being Catholic — excatholic4christ

The Courage of Pius XII: A Rebellion Against Nazism

pius xii

Venerable Pope Pius XII

It has been said that Pope Pius XII, during World War II, did not do much to help the Jewish people, who were victims of Hitler’s Nazi terrorism. Pius is portrayed to have seemingly turned a blind eye while the Jews suffered terrible persecutions under Adolf Hitler. This charge, like many other allegations against the Church, is simply not true.

Pope Pius, in reality did quite a lot to protest the Nazi cause, and also made extreme efforts to save the lives of the Jews. Fr. Leo Chamberlain, in his article, The end of the ‘Hitler’s Pope’ myth, writes:

“This is a good moment to mark the Church’s witness against Nazism. Eighty years ago, on March 14, 1937, Pope Pius XI issued Mit Brennender Sorge (“With Burning Anxiety”), an encyclical, pointedly written in German, condemning Nazism. “Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the state, and divinises them to an idolatrous level, perverts an order of the world created by God,” the pope wrote.

“Pius XI’s secretary of state was Cardinal Pacelli, the future Pius XII. He distributed the text, which he had helped to draft, secretly within Germany. Four years earlier, in 1933, he had negotiated a concordat between the Holy See and Germany, not to appease Nazism but to have some means of holding the Nazis to account through an international treaty. The regime referred to him as “Jew loving”: he had made more than 50 protests against Nazi policy, the earliest coming just days after the passing of the Enabling Act, which granted Hitler the power to enact laws without Reichstag approval. Pacelli was regarded as so anti-Nazi that the Third Reich attempted to prevent his election as pope in 1939.” (1)

In his encyclical Summi Pontificatus, Pope Pius XII asked that all Catholics “will be mindful in imitation of the Divine Samaritan, of all these who, as victims of the war, have a right to compassion and help.” (2)

Pius is writing of all the victims of the war, especially the Jews, that they may receive aid.

Mgr. Jean Bernard, a former inmate of Dachau, accounts of the reaction to any Vatican protests against Nazism:

“The detained priests trembled every time news reached us of some protest by a religious authority, but particularly by the Vatican. We all had the impression that ouris warders made us atone heavily for the fury these protests evoked … whenever the way we were treated became more brutal, the Protestant pastors among the prisoners used to vent their indignation on the Catholic priests: ‘Again your big naive Pope and those simpletons, your bishops, are shooting their mouths off .. why don’t they get the idea once and for all, and shut up. They play the heroes and we have to pay the bill.'” (3)

From reading this far, one gets the idea that Pope Pius XII adequately spoke out against the Nazis and their treatment of the Jews. But the pope did much more than merely condemn Nazi behavior.

Robert A. Graham S.J., writes:

“In 1943 the German ambassador to the Holy See, Von Weizsaecker, sent a telegram to Berlin. The telegram has been cited as damning ‘evidence’ against Pius XII.

” ‘Although under pressure from all sides, the Pope has not let himself be drawn into any demonstrative censure of the deportation of Jews from Rome … As there is probably no reason to expect other German actions against the Jews of Rome we can consider that a question so disturbing to German-Vatican relations has been liquidated.’

“Von Weizsaecker’s telegram was in fact a warning not to proceed with the proposed Nazi popedeportation of the Roman Jews: ‘there is probably no reason to expect other German actions against the Jews of Rome’. Von Weizsaecker’s action was backed by a warning to Hitler from Pius XII: if the pursuit and arrest of Roman Jews was not halted, the Holy Father would have to make a public protest. together the joint action of Von Weizsaecker and Pius XII ended the Nazi manhunt against the Jews of Rome. 7,000 lives were saved.” (4)

In addition to this accomplishment, a near 80,000 baptismal certificates were issued by Church authorities, under the pope’s direction, to Hungarian Jews. The baptismal certificates made it appear that the Jews were actually Catholics, thus saving them from the Nazis. (5)

Venerable Pope Pius XII did quite a lot of good for the Jews, protecting many of them from the Nazis, despite what many may want one to believe today. There should be no question about his character and courage, especially when confronted by the power of Nazi Germany.

Albert Einstein, who had escaped Nazi Germany, said in 1940:

Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing the truth … I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly.” (6)

Pius should be viewed not as Pontus Pilate, who allowed Christ to be crucified, but as a hero, who took extreme efforts to save the Jews.

— Patrick E. Devens

 


 

O Venerable Pope Pius XII, who had on earth great courage to preach the word of God, vigor to repel the enemies of the Church, and zeal for the Holy Name, pray for us poor sinners. May we, O Pius, have a double portion of thy righteous qualities in defense of our holy Church. May we never abandon our duty to defend the faith, with fortitude, wherever we are and in whatever state God hath put us. Venerable Pius, may we, like thee, show the radiant glory of our Holy Lord in everything we do and say. And this, through the graciousness of the Divine Majesty, to Whom we humbly ask thee to pray for our benefit and protection.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 


 

(1) https://catholicismpure.wordpress.com/2017/03/12/the-end-of-the-hitlers-pope-myth/

(2) Article 109 https://web.archive.org/web/20130703015921/http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_20101939_summi-pontificatus_en.html

(3) http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/860-000-lives-saved-the-truth-about-pius-xii-and-the-jews

(4) Ibid.

(5) Ibid.

(6) http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/issues/march-10th-2017/the-end-of-the-hitlers-pope-myth/