Infallibly Infallible — Or What?
891. "'The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful - who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.... The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,' above all in an Ecumenical Council.[LG 25; cf. Vatican Council I: DS 3074.] When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine 'for belief as being divinely revealed,'[DV 10 # 2.] and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions 'must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.'[LG 25 # 2.] This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.[Cf. LG 25.]" ([I]Catechism of the Catholic Church[/I], Doubleday:New York, © 1994 United States Catholic Conference, Inc. – Libreria Editrice Vaticana, p. 568)
In my reading, I ran across a little something that piqued my interest. It appears to be yet another case of Roman Catholic infallible doctrine conflicting with Roman Catholic infallible doctrine. What I read prompted the question: When infallible doctrines are in opposition, was either one infallible?
First some background:
My Catholic dictionary defines infallibility as:
The inability to err in teaching the truth. In theology, it refers to: 1) the Church, in that she preserves and teaches the deposit of truth as revealed by Christ; 2) the Roman Pontiff, when he teaches 'ex cathedra' in matters of faith or morals, and indicates that the doctrine is to be believed by all the faithfull; and 3) the college of bishops, when speaking in unnion with the Pope in matters of faith and morals, agreeing that a doctrine must be held by the universal Church, and the doctrine is promulgated by the Pontiff.--Peter M.J.Stravinskay, Ed., Catholic Dictionary, (c) 1997 Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.
In 1546, the Fourth Session of the Council of Trent established an "infallible" rule to be applied when interpreting Scriptures in matters of faith and morals.
Furthermore, to check unbridled spirits, it decrees that no one relying on his own judgment shall, in matters of faith and morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, distorting the Holy Scriptures in accordance with his own conceptions, presume to interpret them contrary to that sense which holy mother Church, to whom it belongs to judge of their true sense and interpretation, has held and holds, OR EVEN CONTRARY TO THE UNANIMOUS TEACHING OF THE FATHERS, even though such interpretations should never at any time be published. Those who act contrary to this shall be made known by the ordinaries and punished in accordance with the penalties prescribed by the law. (My emphasis)
This rule has not been rescinded – nor is it likely ever to be rescinded, for doing so would suggest that the Extraordinary Magisterium had made an error. In fact, it was re-iterated in the "Profession of Faith" and in the "Dogmatic constitution on the Catholic faith, infallible documents produced by the infallible First Vatican Council:
1. I, Pius, bishop of the catholic church, with firm faith believe and profess each and every article contained in the profession of faith which the holy Roman church uses, namely…
2. Apostolic and ecclesiastical traditions and all other observances and constitutions of that same church I most firmly accept and embrace.
3. Likewise I accept sacred scripture according to that sense which holy mother church held and holds, since it is her right to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy scriptures; nor will I ever receive and interpret them except according to THE UNANIMOUS CONSENT OF THE FATHERS.--First Vatican Council, 2nd Session, Profession of Faith, 6 January 1870 - [My emphasis)
8. Now since the decree on the interpretation of holy scripture, profitably made by the council of Trent, with the intention of constraining rash speculation, has been wrongly interpreted by some, we renew that decree and declare its meaning to be as follows: that in matters of faith and morals, belonging as they do to the establishing of christian doctrine, that meaning of holy scripture must be held to be the true one, which holy mother church held and holds, since it is her right to judge of the true meaning and interpretation of holy scripture.--First Vatican Council, 3rd Session, Dogmatic constitution on the Catholic faith, 24 April 1870 )
9. In consequence, it is not permissible for anyone to interpret holy scripture in a sense contrary to this, or indeed against the UNANIMOUS CONSENT OF THE FATHERS--Ibid. [My emphasis)"
So, here we have an infallible doctrine, infallibly defined by two infallible church councils (Trent and Vatican I), and infallibly promulgated by infallible popes as matters of faith or morals to be believed by all the RCC. The doctrine: no one, not even the Roman Catholic church itself, is to hold an interpretation of Scripture contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.
With all these infallible declarations, one wonders that the Roman Catholic church, which preserves and teaches the "deposit of faith as revealed by Christ," should violate one of the rules she infallibly established to determine infallibility.
You see, it is a fact that the church fathers did not unanimously consent to the doctrine of infallibility as currently held and taught by the Roman church:
God alone swears securely, because HE ALONE IS INFALLIBLE.--Augustine of Hippo, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series: Volume VIII, St. Augustin on the Psalms, Psalm LXXXIX, Sec. 4 (My emphasis)
Therefore, one must wonder whether the doctrine of infallibility, which does not meet it's own test of authenticity, is infallibly taught.
I do not doubt that Roman apologists will have ready defenses to explain this apparent conflict. However, the clear wording of the Councils leaves no room for equivocation: The dogma of Mary's assumption fails Rome's own test of the unanimous consent of the fathers.
When these present their charges and unsupported opinions, bear in mind the words of another church father much beloved of Rome:
Concerning the Hearers: that those hearers who are instructed in the Scriptures should examine what is said by the teachers, receiving what is in conformity with the Scriptures and rejecting what is opposed to them; and that those who persist in teaching such doctrines should be strictly avoided.--Basil of Caesarea, Fathers of the Church, Vol. 9, Ascetical Works, The Morals, Rule 72, p. 185-186.
Or, as the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write:
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.--Colossians 2:8
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