“Ah! But it’s not Ex Cathedra”: A Test of Congruence between Traditionalists and Vatican 1 as influenced by Bishop Gasser’s Relatio

The presentation given by Bishop Vincent Ferrer Gasser (1809-1879) to the general congregation of Bishops at the 1st Vatican Council, famously referred to as Gasser’s relatio, is the single best treatise on the subject for anyone interested in the theological rationale of the doctrine on Papal infallibility. That means the relatio, while not being the final and infallible word on the subject, is definitely the chief reference for exploring what Catholics believe on this all-important subject. It has great relevance to the contemporary Pontificate of Pope Francis, whose Papal administration has been what many Catholics would say “the worst Pontificate in history.” I remember when I was an Anglican, after spending months studying the Church Fathers, the Ecumenical Councils, the History of the Church, philosophical argumentation, and the general teaching of Catholicism, I had my initial troubles before entering the Catholic Church under Pope Benedict XVI Emeritus. Since the first interview I heard of Pope Francis, I knew that the Church was in for a time of testing on the matter of the Papacy as divinely instituted office for the benefit of the body of Christ. In particular, the limits of Papal power and the authoritative reach that the Papal magisterium has over the conscience of the faithful. This piece will be written with a consideration of one part of Gasser’s relatio and how coherent it is under scrutiny. Gasser wrote:

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LOTH Second Edition: July 2021 Updates

Tom's Digest

The USCCB’s Secretariat for Divine Worship has recently updated their Liturgy of the Hours Second Edition progress tracker page with some key updates since the last bishops’ plenary meeting, which included votes on final-draft components of the overhaul.

The changes/updates that stood out to me include (all emphases mine):

  • Making it clear and explicit that as of February 2020, “The Abbey Psalms and Canticlesis authorized for optional liturgical use in the United States andpublished by USCCB Communications.” (Note: I created a handy breviary insert to print, cut and fold, containing all the new approved texts for the Invitatory Psalm 95, the Te Deum, Benedictus, Magnificat, and Nunc Dimittis, available for download here. A good church musician friend also put together chant tones for singing the new Te Deum text, available here.)
  • Providing a tentative timeline for a new hymnal that will contain the nearly…

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The Apostolic See Only Infallible Twice in History? The Catholic Church Implies Otherwise

Most Catholics today think that the infallibility of the Pope is extremely restricted and meticulously conditioned by a set of complex requirements that make for an ex cathedra decree. Bishop Vincent Gasser himself, the one who wrote the famous and influential relatio presented to the congregation of Bishops at Vatican 1 (1870), is of the belief that “thousands and thousands of dogmatic judgments have gone forth from the Apostolic See.”[1] In contrast, the majority of Catholics operate under the impression that, within the vast expanse of 2,000 years of Catholic history, the Pope has only been infallible twice. That is, in Ineffabilis Deus (1854) and Munificentissimus Deus (1950), the decrees on the immaculate creation of the Virgin Mary and her bodily assumption into heaven at the end of her earthly sojourn. It is worth taking a moment to see whether this modern perspective really stands when compared to the many statements about the power and primacy of the Apostolic See in history, including those of the Supreme Magisterium.

The first example worth looking at is the famous Libellus of Hormisdae, or the Formula of Hormisdas (519). In the 4th session of the 1st Vatican Council, the dogmatic constitution on the Church of Christ, normally referred as Pastor Aeternus, cites the Formula of Hormisdas to show forth the historical confession of the infallibility of the Apostolic See. It states:

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The Roots of Roots of Papacy: The Patristic Logic

The Roots of the Papacy: The Patristic Logic

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Erick Ybarra © 2021



Is it true that the Catholic doctrine of the Pope’s universal and immediate jurisdiction and infallible magisterium has its roots in the primitive church? “No,” is the emphatic answer we receive from many sides. Modern Protestant scholarship has reached this conclusion. Eastern Orthodox and Anglican publications have reckoned likewise. Even certain Roman Catholic scholars have been recorded saying as much. Aside from there being plenty of misconceptions, one thing we cannot escape is the difficulty created from the fact that there is hardly a Patristic author who intently devoted his pen to give a robust treatment on ecclesiology, and of ecclesiastical primacy in particular. One might have expected St. Irenaeus of Lyons, with all that he did write about the foundations of the Christian faith, to have gone into the teaching concerning the scope of episcopal authority, jurisdiction, councils, or prerogatives in relation to priests, but we find no detailed commentary. His statements on the authority of the Roman See are undefined enough to postulate several working theories of what he may have thought, none of which necessarily infer the doctrine of the Papacy as described in Pastor Aeternus (1870). Another example is the absence of any treatment on the episcopate in St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Mystagogical Catecheses. Likewise, St. Ambrose’s 4-volume work De Doctrina Christiana contains no portion dedicated to the nature of the episcopate or church government. Neither in St. John of Damasus’ De Fide Orthodoxa!  If I had to refer to somewhat of a measurable treatment on ecclesiology in the early centuries, I think it would be St. Optatus of Mileve’s 7-volume work Against the Donatists. I would hope, however, that this would not lead someone to say that the Fathers throughout a major chunk of the first millennium did not hold to the divine institution of the Church, its supernatural constitution, or its possession of a Magisterium (Teaching Office), simply because we lack a robust treatise. So also, the lack of a robust treatise on Papal authority should not automatically indicate the lack of its essential acceptance by early Christianity. Nonetheless, we engage in an exceedingly difficult task when trying to piece together what may have been the whole picture of the Church to the ancients. Therefore, it becomes vital to investigate the teaching of the sacred Scriptures, the Fathers, and the overall Tradition handed down, and to decide what kind of ecclesiology most closely lines up with the aforementioned. For my purposes here, I intend to show from these sources the logic that grounded the developing doctrine of the Papacy or the office and primacy of the Bishop of Rome, otherwise uniquely referred to as the office of the Apostolic See in the historical literature.

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