Saturday, August 04, 2018

Rome's clouded crystal ball


After the introduction, I'm going to provide extensive documentation for major reversals in Catholic theology. But I'll anticipate a few objections:

1. A Catholic might object that I'm burning a straw man. Sure, Catholic doctrine changes. No one disputes that. Some changes represent a development of doctrine. In other cases, the tradition wasn't infallible to begin with. 

2. I'm aware of those caveats. For starters, Unam Sanctam is as good a candidate for an infallible claimant as anything. The pope uses stock formulae for promulgating dogma. On top of that, his position was ratified by two ecumenical councils. So if that's not irreformable, there are no better candidates. 

3. Another problem with the caveat is that it renders the public teaching of the Catholic church untrustworthy. For centuries, Rome inculcated certain beliefs. Cultivated those beliefs in the minds of the faithful. If that can be set aside, then there's no reason for the faithful to have any confidence in the public teaching of the church. It's driving by means of the rearview mirror rather than the windshield. 

4. A Catholic might object that because there are sometimes multiple strands of Catholic tradition, a development may represent the development of a particular strand of transition. 

And it's true that because Catholic tradition is so pluriform you can probably be consistent with Catholic tradition by selectively developing one particular tradition. Take modification of the extra Ecclesiam nulla salus principle by appeal to the tradition of invincible ignorance. Those who lack Christian faith through no fault of their own.

Problem is, that nullifies Unam Sanctam and its conciliar counterparts. It requires submission to the pope. It specifies pagans and Jews among the hellbound. It ties that to lack of access to the sacraments. You can't widen that by development. You can only recant it. Yet it has a stronger claim to dogma than invincible ignorance. 

5. Some of these are issues of utmost consequence. Why should anyone trust a denomination that backpedals on such fundamental issues?

6. There are two ways Rome can annul a position. One is to formally revoke it. The other way is to let it lapse. Die of neglect. The latter strategy saves face, but the effect is the same. Invalidate the status quo ante in practice. 

7. When Rome adopted Newman's theory of development, it substituted a different paradigm of tradition in midcourse. Like winning a game retroactively after you lost the game. You simply change the rules, then apply them retroactively. There were the rules going in. You lost. But you win by changing the rules after the fact. 

The historic definition of tradition was a theological criterion. To change the criterion is cheating. A tacit admission that you didn't measure up by your own yardstick, so you replace it with a rubber ruler.   

Capital punishment

Execution of Criminals 
Another kind of lawful slaying belongs to the civil authorities, to whom is entrusted power of life and death, by the legal and judicious exercise of which they punish the guilty and protect the innocent. The just use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this Commandment which prohibits murder. The end of the Commandment is the preservation and security of human life. Now the punishments inflicted by the civil authority, which is the legitimate avenger of crime, naturally tend to this end, since they give security to life by repressing outrage and violence. Hence these words of David: “in the morning I put to death all the wicked of the land, that I might cut off all the workers of iniquity from the city of the Lord.” (Ps. 101.8)

Killing in a Just War 
In like manner, the soldier is guiltless who, actuated not by motives of ambition or cruelty, but by a pure desire of serving the interests of his country, takes away the life of an enemy in a just war. Furthermore, there are on record instances of carnage executed by the special command of God. The sons of Levi, who put to death so many thousands in one day, were guilty of no sin; when the slaughter had ceased, they were addressed by Moses in these words: “You have consecrated your hands this day to the Lord.” (Ex. 32.29)

Killing in Self-Defense 
If a man kill another in self-defense, having used every means consistent with his own safety to avoid the infliction of death, he evidently does not violate this Commandment.
The Catechism of the Council of Trent, pp426-28

2267 Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption,” the new section continues.

Consequently, the church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,’ and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide. The Catechism of the Catholic Church

The fate of suicides, 

Q. 1274. What sin is it to destroy one's own life, or commit suicide, as this act is called?

A. It is a mortal sin to destroy one's own life or commit suicide, as this act is called, and persons who willfully and knowingly commit such an act die in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of Christian burial. 

2282 Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.

A canonical sign of this pastoral approach is the universal understanding of 1983 CIC 1184 § 3 to allow ecclesiastical funerals to be accorded those committing suicide, a change from 1917 CIC 1240 § 1, n. 3, that expressly prohibited such funerals (although the older law was applied more leniently than it read). 

If anyone says that
it is possible that at some time, given the advancement of knowledge, a sense may be assigned to the dogmas propounded by the church which is different from that which the church has understood and understands:
let him be anathema.
(Vatican I)

In this connection I would like to relate a small episode that I think can cast much light on the situation. Before Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven was defined, all theological faculties in the world were consulted for their opinion. Our teachers’ answer was emphatically negative…”Tradition” was identified with what could be proved on the basis of texts. Altaner, the patrologist from Würzburg…had proven in a scientifically persuasive manner that the doctrine of Mary’s bodily Assumption into haven was unknown before the 5C; this doctrine, therefore, he argued, could not belong to the “apostolic tradition. And this was his conclusion, which my teachers at Munich shared. This argument is compelling if you understand “tradition” strictly as the handing down of fixed formulas and texts…But if you conceive of “tradition” as the living process whereby the Holy Spirit introduces us to the fullness of truth and teaches us how to understand what previously we could still not grasp (cf. Jn 16:12-13), then subsequent “remembering” (cf. Jn 16:4, for instance) can come to recognize what it has not caught sight of previously and was already handed down in the original Word,” J. Ratzinger, Milestones (Ignatius, n.d.), 58-59.


When the question of infants who die without baptism was first taken up in the history of Christian thought, it is possible that the doctrinal nature of the question or its implications were not fully understood. Only when seen in light of the historical development of theology over the course of time until Vatican II does this specific question find its proper context within Catholic doctrine.

This theory, elaborated by theologians beginning in the Middle Ages, never entered into the dogmatic definitions of the Magisterium, even if that same Magisterium did at times mention the theory in its ordinary teaching up until the Second Vatican Council. 

3. The idea of Limbo, which the Church has used for many centuries to designate the destiny of infants who die without Baptism, has no clear foundation in revelation, even though it has long been used in traditional theological teaching. Moreover, the notion that infants who die without Baptism are deprived of the beatific vision, which has for so long been regarded as the common doctrine of the Church, gives rise to numerous pastoral problems, so much so that many pastors of souls have asked for a deeper reflection on the ways of salvation.

19. The Council of Carthage of 418 rejected the teaching of Pelagius. It condemned the opinion that infants “do not contract from Adam any trace of original sin, which must be expiated by the bath of regeneration that leads to eternal life”. Positively, this council taught that “even children who of themselves cannot have yet committed any sin are truly baptised for the remission of sins, so that by regeneration they may be cleansed from what they contracted through generation”.[40] It was also added that there is no “intermediate or other happy dwelling place for children who have left this life without Baptism, without which they cannot enter the kingdom of heaven, that is, eternal life”

20. So great was Augustine's authority in the West, however, that the Latin Fathers (e.g., Jerome, Fulgentius, Avitus of Vienne, and Gregory the Great) did adopt his opinion. Gregory the Great asserts that God condemns even those with only original sin on their souls; even infants who have never sinned by their own will must go to “everlasting torments”. He cites Job 14:4-5 (LXX), John 3:5, and Ephesians 2:3 on our condition at birth as “children of wrath”.[42]

21. Augustine was the point of reference for Latin theologians throughout the Middle Ages on this matter. Anselm of Canterbury is a good example: he believes that little children who die without Baptism are damned on account of original sin and in keeping with God's justice.[43] The common doctrine was summarized by Hugh of St. Victor: infants who die unbaptised cannot be saved because (1) they have not received the sacrament, and (2) they cannot make a personal act of faith that would supply for the sacrament.[44] This doctrine implies that one needs to be justified during one's earthly life in order to enter eternal life after death. Death puts an end to the possibility of choosing to accept or reject grace, that is, to adhere to God or turn away from him; after death, a person's fundamental dispositions before God receive no further modification.

This present text was...submitted to its President, Cardinal William Levada who, upon receiving the approval of the Holy Father in an audience granted on January 19, 2007, approved the text for publication.


Purgatory basically means that God can put the pieces back together. That he can cleanse us in such a way that we are able to be with him and can stand there in the fullness of life.

As far as the Buddhists are concerned…even here, though in a quite different way of looking at things-is to be found something like a hope for an ultimate rightness of being. Joseph Ratzinger, God and the World (Ignatius 2002), 129-30.

Who's in hell

We declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff. Unam Sanctam

There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved. (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215.)

The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church. Council of Florence (1442).

17. Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ. — Encyclical “Quanto conficiamur,” Aug. 10, 1863, etc. Pius IX, The Syllabus of Errors. 

841 "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day." Catechism of Catholic Church.

3. The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. NOSTRA AETATE, Vatican II. 

But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things,(127) and as Saviour wills that all men be saved.(128) Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.(19*) Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.(20*) She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. Lumen Gentium 16. 

The admission of divorced Catholics to communion

Amoris Laetitia (305): For this reason, a pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in “irregular” situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives. This would bespeak the closed heart of one used to hiding behind the Church’s teachings, “sitting on the chair of Moses and judging at times with superiority and superficiality difficult cases and wounded families”. Along these same lines, the International Theological Commission has noted that “natural law could not be presented as an already established set of rules that impose themselves a priori on the moral subject; rather, it is a source of objective inspiration for the deeply personal process of making decisions”. Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin–which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such–a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end. 351* Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits. By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth, and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God. Let us remember that “a small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order, but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties”. The practical pastoral care of ministers and of communities must not fail to embrace this reality.

(Footnote 351): In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium [24 November 2013], 44: AAS 105 [2013], 1038). I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (ibid., 47: 1039).

The traditional authorship, inerrancy, historicity, and prescience of Scripture

Pope Pius X, Motu Proprio Praestantia Scripturae, 18 Nov. 1907 (ASS [1907] 724ff; EB nn. 278f; Dz 2113f): “We now declare and expressly enjoin that all Without exception are bound by an obligation of conscience to submit to the decisions of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, whether already issued or to be issued hereafter, exactly as to the decrees of the Sacred Congregations which are on matters of doctrine and approved by the Pope; nor can anyone who by word or writing attacks the said decrees avoid the note both of disobedience and of rashness or be therefore without grave fault.”

On the Mosaic Authorship of the Pentateuch

June 27, 1906 (ASS 39 [1906-07] 377f; EB 174ff; Dz 1997ff)

I: Are the arguments gathered by critics to impugn the Mosaic authorship of the sacred hooks designated by the name of the Pentateuch of such weight in spite of the cumulative evidence of many passages of both Testaments, the unbroken unanimity of the Jewish people, and furthermore of the constant tradition of the Church besides the internal indications furnished by the text itself, as to justify the statement that these books are not of Mosaic authorship but were put together from sources mostly of post-Mosaic date?
Answer: In the negative.

Concerning the Historical Character of the First Three Chapters of Genesis

June 30, 1909 (AAS 1 [1909] 567ff; EB 332ff; Dz 2121ff)

I: Do the various exegetical systems excogitated and defended under the guise of science to exclude the literal historical sense of the first three chapters of Genesis rest on a solid foundation?
Answer: In the negative.

II: Notwithstanding the historical character and form of Genesis, the special connection of the first three chapters with one another and with the following chapters, the manifold testimonies of the Scriptures both of the Old and of the New Testaments, the almost unanimous opinion of the holy Fathers and the traditional view which the people of Israel also has handed on and the Church has always held, may it be taught that: the aforesaid three chapters of Genesis Contain not accounts of actual events, accounts, that is, which correspond to objective reality and historical truth, but, either fables derived from the mythologies and cosmogonies of ancient peoples and accommodated by the sacred writer to monotheistic doctrine after the expurgation of any polytheistic error; or allegories and symbols without any foundation in objective reality proposed under the form of history to inculcate religious and philosophical truths; or finally legends in part historical and in part fictitious freely composed with a view to instruction and edification? 
Answer: In the negative to both parts.

III: In particular may the literal historical sense be called in doubt in the case of facts narrated in the same chapters which touch the foundations of the Christian religion: as are, among others, the creation of all things by God in the beginning of time; the special creation of man; the formation of the first woman from the first man; the unity of the human race; the original felicity of our first parents in the state of justice, integrity, and immortality; the command given by God to man to test his obedience; the transgression of the divine command at the instigation of the devil under the form of a serpent; the degradation of our first parents from that primeval state of innocence; and the promise of a future Redeemer? 
Answer: In the negative.

Concerning the Authors and Date of the Psalms

May 1, 1910 (AAS II [1910] 354f; EB 340ff; Dz 2129ff)

III: Can the aforesaid titles of the psalms, witnesses of Jewish tradition, be prudently called in doubt when there is no serious reason against their being genuine? 
Answer: In the negative.

V: In particular is it right to deny the Davidic origin of those psalms which are explicitly cited under David's name in the Old or New Testament, among which are to be mentioned more especially psalm 2 Quare fremuerunt gentes; psalm 15 Conserva me, Domine; psalm 17 Diligam te, Domine, fortitudo mea; psalm 31 Beati quorum remissae sunt iniquitates; psalm 68 Salvum me fac, Deus; psalm 509 Dixit Dominus Domino meo?
Answer: In the negative.

VII: Is it possible to maintain as probable the opinion of those more recent writers who, relying on purely internal indications or an incorrect interpretation of the sacred text, have attempted to show that not a few psalms were composed after the times of Esdras and Nehemias and even in the Maccabean age? 
Answer: In the negative.

VIII: On the authority of the manifold witness of the sacred books of the New Testament and the unanimous agreement of the Fathers in harmony with the acknowledgement of Jewish writers, is it necessary to admit a number of prophetic and Messianic psalms, which foretold the future Saviour's coming, kingdom, priesthood, passion, death, and resurrection; and consequently is it necessary to reject altogether the opinion of those who pervert the prophetic and Messianic character of the psalms and limit these oracles about Christ merely to the foretelling of the future lot of the chosen people? 
Answer: In the affirmative to both parts.

Concerning the Character and Author of the Book of Isaias

June 29, 1908 (ASS 41 [1908] 613f; EB 287ff; Dz 2115 ff)

I: May it be taught that the predictions read in the Book of Isaias-and throughout the Scriptures- are not predictions properly so called, but either narrations put together after the event, or, if anything has to be acknowledged as foretold before the event, that the prophet foretold it not in accordance with a supernatural revelation of God who foreknows future events, but by conjectures formed felicitously and shrewdly by natural sharpness of mind on the basis of previous experience? 
Answer : In the negative.

II: Can the opinion that Isaias and the other prophets did not put forth predictions except about events that were to happen in the immediate future or after no long space of time, be reconciled with the predictions, in particular Messianic and eschatological, certainly put forth by the same prophets concerning the distant future, and also with the common opinion of the holy Fathers who unanimously assert that the prophets also made prophecies that were to be fulfilled after many centuries? 
Answer: In the negative.

III: May it be admitted that the prophets, not only as correctors of human depravity and preachers of the divine word for the benefit of their hearers, but also as foretellers of future events, must consistently have addressed, not future, but present contemporary hearers in such a manner that they could be clearly understood by them; and that in consequence the second part of the Book of Isaias (chapters 40-66), in which the prophet addresses and consoles, not the Jewish contemporaries of Isaias, but as if living among them, the Jews mourning in the Babylonian exile, could not have Isaias, long since dead, for its author, but must be ascribed to some unknown prophet living among the exiles? 
Answer: In the negative.

IV: Should the philological argument drawn from language and style to impugn identity of authorship throughout the Book of Isaias be deemed of such force as to compel a man of sound judgement with competent knowledge of Hebrew and of the art of criticism to recognize several authors in the same book? 
Answer: In the negative.

V: Do there exist arguments which even when taken together avail to demonstrate that the Book of Isaias must be attributed not to Isaias himself alone, but to two or even several authors? 
Answer: In the negative.

Concerning the Author, the Date, and the Historical Truth of the Gospel according to Matthew

June 19, 1911 (AAS 3 [1911] 294ff; EB 401ff; Dz 2148 ff)

I: Having regard to the universal and unwavering agreement of the Church ever since the first centuries, an agreement clearly attested by the express witness of the Fathers, by the titles of the Gospel manuscripts, the most ancient versions of the sacred books and the lists handed on by the holy Fathers, by ecclesiastical writers, by Popes and Councils, and finally by the liturgical use of the Church in the East and in the West, may and should it be affirmed as certain that Matthew, the Apostle of Christ, was in fact the author of the Gospel current under his name? 
Answer: In the affirmative.

III: Can the composition of this original text be postponed till after the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, so that the prophecies it contains about that destruction were written after the event ; or should the oft-quoted text of Irenaeus (Ads. Haer. Lib. 3, cap. 1, n. 2), of uncertain and controverted interpretation, be considered to have such weight as to impose the rejection of the opinion more in harmony with tradition according to which the composition of the Gospel was completed even before the arrival of Paul in Rome? 
Answer: In the negative to both parts.

IV: Can even probable arguments be given in support of that opinion of certain recent writers according to which Matthew did not write a Gospel properly and strictly so-called, such as has been handed down to us, but merely a collection of the sayings or discourses of Christ which were drawn on by another anonymous author, whom they make the editor of the Gospel itself? 
Answer: In the negative.

VII: In particular ought it to be held that there is no solid foundation to the opinions of those who call in doubt the historical authenticity of the first two chapters, in which an account is given of the genealogy and infancy of Christ, as also of certain passages of great dogmatic importance, such as are those which concern the primacy of Peter (16:17-19), the form of baptism entrusted to the Apostles together with the mission of preaching everywhere (28:19f), the Apostles' profession of faith in the divinity of Christ (14:33), and other similar matters which are found in a special form in Matthew? 
Answer: In the affirmative.

Concerning the Authors, Dates, and Historical Truth of the Gospels according to Mark and Luke

June 26, 1912 (AAS 4 [1912] 463ff; EB 4O8ff; Dz 2155ff)

I: Does the clear verdict of tradition showing extraordinary unanimity from the beginnings of the Church and confirmed by manifold evidence, namely the explicit attestations of the holy Fathers and ecclesiastical writers, the quotations and allusions occurring in their writings, the use made by ancient heretics, the versions of the books of the New Testament, almost all the manuscripts including the most ancient, and also internal reasons drawn from the text of the sacred books impose the definite affirmation that Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, and Luke, the doctor, the assistant and companion of Paul, were really the authors of the Gospels that are attributed to them respectively? 
Answer: In the affirmative.

II: Are the reasons by which certain critics strive to prove that the last twelve verses of the Gospel of Mark (16:9-20) were not written by Mark himself but were added by another hand, of such a character as to justify the statement that they are not to be accepted as inspired and canonical? Or do they prove at least that Mark was not the author of the said verses? 
Answer: In the negative to both parts.

III: Similarly is it lawful to doubt the inspiration and canonicity of Luke's accounts of the infancy of Christ (chapters 1 and 2); or of the apparition of the Angel strengthening Jesus and the sweat of blood (22:43f)? Or can it at any rate be shown by solid reasons-a view preferred by ancient heretics and favoured also by certain modern critics-that the said accounts do not belong to the genuine Gospel of Luke? 
Answer: In the negative to both parts.

VI: Is it lawful to postpone the date of composition of the Gospels of Mark and Luke till after the destruction of the city of Jerusalem? Or, on the ground that our Lord's prophecy concerning the destruction of that city appears more detailed in Luke, can it be maintained that his Gospel at least was written after the siege had begun? 
Answer: In the negative to both parts.

Concerning the Author and Historical Truth of the Fourth Gospel

May 29, 1907 (ASS 40 [1907] 383f; EB 180ff; Dz 2110)

I: Does the constant, universal, and solemn tradition of the Church dating back to the second century and witnessed to principally : (a) by the holy Fathers, by ecclesiastical writers, and even by heretics, whose testimonies and allusions must have been derived from the disciples or first successors of the Apostles and so be linked with the very origin of the book; (b) by the name of the author of the fourth Gospel having been at all times and places in the canon and lists of the sacred books; (c) by the most ancient manuscripts of those books and the various versions; (d) by public liturgical use in the whole world from the very beginnings of the Church; prove that John the Apostle and no other is to be acknowledged as the author of the fourth Gospel, and that by an historical argument so firmly established (without reference to theological considerations) that the reasons adduced by critics to the contrary in no way weaken this tradition? 
Answer: In the affirmative.

II: Should, further, internal reasons derived from the text of the fourth Gospel considered by itself, from the witness of the writer and the manifest relationship of the Gospel itself to the first Epistle of John the Apostle, be judged to confirm the tradition that unhesitatingly attributes the fourth Gospel to the same Apostle? And can the difficulties which arise from a comparison of the same Gospel with the other three, in view of the differences of time, aim, and hearers, for whom or against whom the author wrote, be given reasonable solutions, as has been done by the holy Fathers and Catholic exegetes in various works? 
Answer: In the affirmative to both parts.

III: Notwithstanding the practice which has flourished consistently in the whole Church from the earliest times, of arguing from the fourth Gospel as from a strictly historical document, and in consideration no less of the special character of the same Gospel and the manifest intention of the author to illustrate and vindicate the divinity of Christ from the very acts and discourses of our Lord, may it be said that the facts narrated in the fourth Gospel were invented wholly or in part, as allegories or doctrinal symbols and that the discourses of our Lord are not properly and truly the discourses of our Lord himself but the theological compositions of the writer though placed in the mouth of our Lord?

Answer: In the negative.

Concerning the Author, the Date, and the Historical Truth of the Acts of the Apostles

June 12, 1913 (AAS 5 [1913] 291f; EB 419ff; Dz 2166ff)

I: In view especially of the tradition of the whole Church dating back to the earliest ecclesiastical writers, and in consideration of the internal characteristics of the book of Acts whether considered in itself or in its relation to the third Gospel, and especially of the mutual affinity and connection of both prologues (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1f), should it be held as certain that the volume with the title Actus Apostolorum or Praxeis Apostolon had the Evangelist Luke for its author? 
Answer : In the affirmative.

V: If consideration be given both to the frequent and easy intercourse that without doubt Luke had with the first and chief founders of the Church in Palestine and with Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, whom he helped in his preaching of the Gospel and accompanied on his journeys, and to his habitual industry and diligence in seeking witnesses and in personal observation of events, and finally to the frequently obvious and remarkable agreement of the Acts with Paul's own Epistles and with the more exact historical records, should it be held for certain that Luke had at his disposal entirely trustworthy sources and used them carefully, honestly, and faithfully, so that he rightly claims for himself full authority as an historian? 
Answer: In the affirmative.

VI: Are the difficulties commonly raised both from the supernatural facts narrated by Luke, and from the report of certain discourses, which on account of their brevity are thought to be invented and adapted to circumstances, and from certain passages in at least apparent disagreement with history, whether profane or biblical, and finally from certain narrations in apparent conflict either with the author of Acts himself or with other sacred authors, of such a nature as to throw doubt on or at least in some measure to diminish the historical authority of Acts? 
Answer: In the negative.

Concerning the Author, the Integrity, and the Date of the Pastoral Epistles of St Paul

June 12, 1913 (AAS 5 [1913] 292f; EB 425ff; Dz 2172ff)

I: In view of the tradition of the Church universally and firmly maintained from the beginning, as is witnessed in many ways by ancient ecclesiastical records, should it be held as certain that the Pastoral Epistles, the two, namely, to Timothy and another to Titus, notwithstanding the effrontery of certain heretics, who without giving any reason expunged them from the number of Pauline Epistles as being opposed to their tenets, were written by the Apostle Paul himself and were always listed among the genuine and canonical Epistles?
Answer: In the affirmative.

III: Do the difficulties commonly alleged on many grounds, either on account of the style and language of the author, or of the errors, especially of the Gnostics, described as already then current, or of the presupposition that the ecclesiastical hierarchy was in an already developed state, and other similar arguments to the contrary, in any way weaken the opinion that holds the genuineness of the Pastoral Epistles to be established and certain?
Answer: In the negative.

The Replies of the Pontifical Biblical Commission On questions of Sacred Scripture
Translated by E. F. Sutcliffe, S.J.

7. The prophecies and miracles set forth and recorded in the Sacred Scriptures are the fiction of poets, and the mysteries of the Christian faith the result of philosophical investigations. In the books of the Old and the New Testament there are contained mythical inventions, and Jesus Christ is Himself a myth. Pius IX, The Syllabus of Errors

Any memory of old theories of verbal inspiration was to be omitted, and hence any form of an impersonal, mechanistic interpretation of the origin of Scripture… But this little word veritas that intruded here proved to be a living cell that continued to grow. But what did it mean? Only, "religious" or even "secular7' truth, to use the language of the 1962 schema? This was the real problem that now had to be taken up with full force both inside and outside the conciliar discussion. This did not happen, and new suggestions
for the solution of the inerrancy question, as modem research posed it, could be made only hesitantly. Form F was worked out in the third session of the Council. The first change that strikes us is in the title of Article 11: "Statuitur factum inspirationis et veritatis S. Scripturae." Inerrantia is replaced by the positive term veritas, which is notably extended in the text. In the course of the discussion on the schema in the autumn of 1964, various fathers from the Eastern and the Western Churches made important speeches on the necessity of an interpretation of the inerrancy of Scripture that would be in harmony with the latest findings of exegesis. It was variously pointed out that the doctrine of inerrancy received its particular and narrower formulation in the 19th century, at a time when the means of secular historical research and criticism were used to investigate the secular historical accuracy of Scripture, and this was more or less denied - which had inevitable consequences for its theological validity. The teaching office of the Church sought to concentrate its defense at the point of immediate attack: i.e. to defend the inerrancy of Scripture even in the veritates profanae generally defending the claim of the Bible and of Christianity to be revelation. To defend scriptural inerrancy in this sphere of secular truths various theories were employed which sought to prove the absolute inerrancy of Scripture on the basis of these conditions and attitudes. Because of the apologetical viewpoint from which they started, they were in danger of producing a narrowness and a false accentuation7 in the doctrine of inerrancy. Also in the area of the interpretation of Scripture and the rules pertaining to this we can see a similar phenomenon, which the Council observed in different spheres of theology and endeavoured to nullify: namely, the tendency to an apologetical isolation and the claim to absolutism of a partial view. With this kind of motivation for the defense of the inerrancy of Scripture in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, there was a weakening of the awareness that Scripture as the inspired, written word of God is supposed above all to serve the preservation and expansion of the saving revelation and reality given through Christ in the world. Of course it was always realized that this was the real purpose of Scripture. In the question of inerrancy, however, the emphasis was placed on the one-sided and isolated accentuation of the veritates profanae. This tended to create uncertainty rather than a joyful confidence that God's truth and salvation remain present
in the world in an unfalsified and permanent form--namely through the inspired word. It was necessary to reawaken this awareness. The doctrine of inerrancy needed its own centre and the right accentuation.

In this respect the most important contribution was undoubtedly the speech by Cardinal Koenig on 2 October 1964. Several other fathers who took part in the discussion from 2 to 6 October either verbally or in writing came back to this point. The Cardinal first of all pointed out the new situation that exists in relation to the question of inerrancy. As a result of intensive Oriental studies our picture of the veritas historica and the fides historica of Scripture has been clarified. Many of the 19th century objections to the Old Testament in particular and its reliability as an account of historical fact are now irrelevant But Oriental studies have also produced another finding: “ . . . laudata scientia rerum orientalium insuper demonstrat in Bibliis Sacris notitias historicas et notitias scientiae naturalis a veritate quandoque deficere." Thus Cardinal Koenig admitted that not all the difficulties could be solved. On the contrary, in certain cases they have an urgency that is borne out by scientific research. His speech mentioned a few examples: according to Mk 2: 26 David had entered the house of God under the high priest Abiathar and eaten the bread of the Presence. In fact, however, according to 1 Sam 21: l ff. it was not under Abiathar, but under his father Abimelech. In Mt 27:9 we read that in the fate of Judas a prophecy of Jeremiah was fulfilled. In fact it is Zech 11: 12f. that is quoted. In Dan 1: 1
we read that King Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem in the third year of King Jehoiakim, i.e. 607 B.C., but from the authentic chronicle of King Nebuchadnezzar that has been discovered we know that the siege can only have taken place three years later. Other geographical and chronological points could be quoted in this connection.

The fact that this speech could be held in a plenary session without any protest being made is surely significant… Thus Cardinal Koenig implicitly gives up that premise that comes from the aprioristic and unhistorical thinking that has dominated teaching on inerrancy since the age of the Fathers: if one admits that a sacred writer has made a mistake, then one is necessarily admitting that God has made a mistake with the human author. The actual aim of inspiration allows us to find a better solution: one can still maintain the true influence of God on the human authors without making him responsible for their weaknesses. These relate only to the form or the outer garment of the Gospel, and not the latter itself, however much the two might be inwardly connected- indeed, without this genuine humanity, with all its limitations, Scripture would appear like a foreign body in our world. But God speaks to us in this way, in our language, from out of our midst.

A number of Council fathers followed the example of Cardinal Koenig and refer to him as an authority: others, admittedly in the minority, produced the traditional statements, without, however, dealing with the new points raised by Cardinal Koenig. H. Vorgrimler, ed. Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II (Herder & Herder, 1969), 3:204-207.


  1. What is so intersting is that all this back pedaling took place at and in the 5 decades following Vatican 2. All the examples you gave prove this. If you look at the dates when all the reversals occur it was all after the sixties. I find that interesting. You can say Vatican 2 was the moment when Rome really decided to continually condradict itself. I think all this back tracking is a symptom of the modernist and liberal takeover of the Roman Church of the past 50 years.

    1. Vincent VAN DER WEERDEN wrote:

      "What is so intersting is that all this back pedaling took place at and in the 5 decades following Vatican 2. All the examples you gave prove this. If you look at the dates when all the reversals occur it was all after the sixties."

      No, that's not true. See what Steve cited under his "Rebooting tradition" section regarding the Assumption of Mary. In his section on the fate of suicides, Steve cites a Catholic source commenting that "the older law was applied more leniently than it read". It's not as though the beliefs and practices of the Second Vatican Council and beyond came from nowhere. They had precursors. And see here for examples of beliefs widely held in Roman Catholicism prior to the 1960s that were widely rejected in the earliest centuries of Christianity (e.g., praying to the dead, the sinlessness of Mary).

  2. The first 199 popes might have supported the death penalty but if the last three oppose it we follow the last three. In other words, Dave's just not feeling it:

    1. Armstrong spends not three words addressing the discontinuity between Francis' teaching on the DP and what preceded it. Apparently that aspect of the issue is of no concern to him. Having made his bed on the other side of the Tiber he must now lie in it. It is fitting that the comments section for that article is closed.

  3. "A Catholic might object that that's just my personal belief, but ultimately our personal beliefs will always be the starting-point and endpoint. We can't escape our own minds. That's the filter. Catholics are not exempt. "

    That's a good point. If a church that taught in 1950 that the DP validates the dignity of life and a church in 2018 says it's a violation of human dignity, then a protestant says that's a contradiction. A catholic says no. The protestant says: "We hear our Master's voice" (Brunner).

  4. This post will make a good future reference.