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Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Pope is Infallible; What does that Mean?

See Mattei's brief bio at the end of the article excerpts below: 
The constitution, Pastor Aeternus, establishes with clarity the conditions of pontifical infallibility. These conditions were amply illustrated in the intervention of the 11th of July 1870 by Monsignor Vicenzo Gasser, Bishop of Bressanone and official speaker of the Deputation of the Faith. In the first place, Monsignor Gasser specified that the Pope is not infallible as a private person, but as a “public person”. Furthermore, as a “public person” it must be intended that the Pope is fulfilling his office, speaking ex-cathedra as Doctor and Universal Pastor; in the second place, the Pontiff, must express himself in matters of faith or morals, res fidei vel morum. Finally he must pronounce a definitive judgment on the objective matter of his intervention. The nature of the act, which involves the infallibility of the Pope must be expressed by the word “define” which has as a correlative the formula ex-cathedra.....
The infallibility of the Pope does not mean in any way that he enjoys unlimited and arbitrary power in matters of government and teaching. The dogma of infallibility, while it defines a supreme privilege, is fixed in precise boundaries, allowing for infidelity, error and betrayal. Otherwise in the prayers for the Supreme Pontiff there would be no need to pray “ut non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius”. If it were impossible for the Pope to cross to the enemy camp it wouldn’t be necessary to pray for it not to happen. However, the betrayal of Peter is the example of possible infidelity which has loomed over all of the Popes through the course of history, and will be so until the end of time. The Pope, even if he is the supreme authority on earth, is suspended between the summits of heroic fidelity to his mandate and the abyss of apostasy which is always present.

These are the problems that the First Vatican Council would have had to deal with if it hadn’t been suspended on the 20th of October 1870, a month after the Italian army had entered Rome. These are the problems that Catholics bound to Tradition must study in-depth today. Without in any way denying the infallibility of the Pope and his supreme authority in government, is it possible (and in what way) to resist him, if he fails in his mission, which is to guarantee the unaltered transmission of the deposit of the faith and morals consigned by Jesus Christ to the Church?....
Today the power of the Church seems to have been transferred to “the people of God” which includes dioceses, base communities, parishes, movements and associations of the faithful. Infallibility and supreme jurisdiction, subtracted from the pontifical authority, are being conferred to the Catholic base....The Synod of Bishops in October highlighted the catastrophic results of this new ecclesiology, which claims to base itself on a” general will” voiced through surveys and questionnaires of every kind. But, what is the Pope’s will today, whose duty, through divine mandate, is the mission of guarding the natural and divine law?

What is certain is that in ages of crisis, such the one we are experiencing, all of the baptized have the right to defend their faith, even by opposing non-compliant Pastors. Authentically orthodox pastors and theologians for their part, have the duty to study the extent and limits of this right to resistance.
Roberto de Mattei teaches Church History at the European University of Rome, where he is the head of the Faculty of Historical Sciences. He collaborates with the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, and the Holy See awarded him the insignia of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great in recognition of his service to the Church. He is president of the Lepanto Foundation, and edits the magazine Radici Cristiane.

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