Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fact-Checking “Francis”, the Fallible Pope

“Who said ‘popes are infallible’?”
Francis likes his talk freewheeling, with all the risks that go with it. Here is a review of his latest blunders, a dozen in four months. The most sensational with Sandro Magister:

So Many Errors, Your Holiness. And Some Marked With Red.

Of course, popes are “infallible” “under certain conditions”, and in fact, no one has ever defined what those “certain conditions” are, nor what “ex cathedra” truly means. According to Brian Tierney:

Since Vatican Council I Catholic theologians have felt obliged to defend some form of papal infallibility. Real infallibility has regrettable implications. In the years since 1870, therefore, theologians have devoted much ingenuity to devising a sort of pseudo-infallibility for the pope, a kind of Pickwickian infallibility.

Their usual technique has been to raise endless, teasing, really unanswerable questions about the meaning of the term ex cathedra as used in the decree of Vatican Council I and about the phrases “ordinary magisterium” and “extraordinary magisterium” that came to be associated with it in discussions on papal infallibility.

Already in 1874, Gladstone could write, “… There is no established or accepted definition of the phrase ex cathedra and (the Catholic) has no power to obtain one, and no guide to direct him in his choice among some twelve theories on the subject, which, it is said, are bandied to and fro among Roman theologians, except the despised and discarded agencies of his private judgment.

Things have not improved since. To be sure, modern apologists often insist that the conditions needed to guarantee the infallibility of a papal pronouncement were set out, once and for all, simply and clearly, in the decree of Vatican Council I. But then they find it impossible to agree as to which particular papal pronouncements actually satisfy these supposedly simple and clear requirements (Brian Tierney, “Origins of Papal Infallibility, 1150-1350”, A Study on the Concepts of Infallibility, Sovereignty and Tradition in the Middle Ages”, Netherlands, E.J. Brill [Originally published in 1972, with new postscript (1988)], pg. 3)

For further reading:

Hans Küng to “Pope Francis”: “Re-open discussion on ‘Infallibility’”.

“Papal Infallibility” dogma to be up for open discussion.

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