Can the Pope Teach Heresy in his Non-Infallible Magisterium? Some Preliminary Thoughts

In the first place, I would like to say that I am extremely sympathetic to any attempt to uphold a high view of the teaching ministry of St. Peter in the mystery of the Church. If the throne of St. Peter is the Cathedra Unitatis (Chair of Unity) and the foundation upon which the unity of the Church is built, it would only make perfect sense for that entity to be pristinely orthodox and divinely protected. To the degree that this Chair of Unity can become a “see of pestilence” (to quote Bishop Vincent Gasser), the very purpose and design of it begins to lose rational sense, if not all.

It is for this reason that I am slightly puzzled as to why the bishops at the 1st Vatican Council did not themselves harp on a stronger and more general set of conditions upon which there is a divinely applied protection to the teaching ministry of the Pope as the occupant of the supreme pontificate. One can speak about how the logical foundations of the Papacy, being expressed in Patristic citations such as the Formula of St. Hormisdas which says that the Apostolic See, on the basis of the Tu es Petrus promise, the Catholic religion is always preserved unsullied, preclude even the possibility of a Pope to promulgate, in his non-infallible mode of magisterial teaching, a direct denial of a dogmatic teaching (that which is de fide).

This makes a lot of sense to me, and I resonate. In fact, I’ve written quite a bit on how the 1st-millennium texts that describe the divine pedigree of the See of Peter seem to have a general infallibility to every official teaching of the Pope. That is, texts such as the utterance of Philip the legate @ Ephesus (431), the Formula of Hormisdas, the Tome of St. Agatho, and the Tome of Hadrian to Nicaea 787, all give a picture of a teaching ministry that is more generally under the protective arm of the Holy Spirit in light of the Petrine institution by Christ in the Apostolic College. Restricting it to simply ex-cathedra utterances, which many folks think only happened twice in Church history, and merely within the last 200 years at that (!), is simply not seemingly compatible with the Patristic descriptions of the Papacy.

Having said that, I reiterate my puzzlement at how the bishops at the 1st Vatican Council, having rehearsed all of this, and even going further in adorning the divine purpose of the establishment of the Papacy, felt it sufficient to show that this divine protection only expresses itself in a way that is protected from error in the ex-cathedra modality alone. In other words, when I read Pastor Aeternus, I see an argument that is being built from its start and culminating in its definition of infallible teaching. However, the argument I see being built up should have concluded with something much more strong, general, and applicable to the broader exercise of Papal teaching. But what we see is that they only reached the strict conditions of ex-cathedra. Rather disappointing, in my personal opinion, from a certain vantage point.

Because V1 only reached this very strict condition of infallibility, the Council has since then rendered it a logical implication that if the Pope is not teaching in his ex-cathedra modality, then he is not a recipient of the charism of infallibility in those teaching utterances. And if he is not infallible, then that means he can teach errors in a wide variety of magisterial modes. As my readers know, this has led to problematic discussions on just how erroneous a Pope can be in his official magisterium. Today, it is permissible for theologians to hold that a Pope can go so far in error (on faith and morals) so as to commit a heresy in his magisterial mode (non-infallible as it may be). Some others think, quite understandably, that is such a thing were to occur, it would be an effective turning over of the very logical purpose of the Papacy.

When one reads Pastor Aeternus saying, “This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successorsโ€ฆ so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, so the whole flock of Christ might be kept away from them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine,” one might infer thereafter that if Pastor Aeternus is right about this, then we should also say it is impossible for a Pope to directly and implicitly deny a clear dogma even in his non-infallible magisterium.

Of course, I sympathize with this. However, Pastor Aeternus never arrived at such a conclusion despite its building argument about the “gift of truth” and “never-failing faith”. Rather, the apex of the argument of Pastor Aeternus was rather restrictive towards ex cathedra modality alone. In other words, when Pastor Aeternus says “gift of truth” and “never failing faith”, they understood this to be actualized in the ex-cathedra modality and speak to nothing else. Now, as I said above, this is disappointingly so because the ex-cathedra modality is so fine, strict, and minimized. But the reality is that the Petrine argument in 1870 only reached the conclusion of such a strict condition.

Moreover, I would say that even if we could arrive at the conclusion that the Papal protection implies an impossibility of the Pope to directly and explicitly reverse a dogmatic truth, that is also still too restrictive, because it leaves the possibility of the Papal magisterium to indirectly and implicitly reverse a dogmatic truth as well as directly and explicitly reverse a widely upheld truth that is not dogmatic, and these two latter phenomena, if applied regularly, would equally turn the logic of the Papal function on its head. In other words, positing a divine protection against direct and explicit heresy against a universally known dogma in the Pope’s non-infallible magisterium seems still only a small addition to the already strict condition of ex-cathedra infallibility.

If the Pope were still open to indirectly and implicitly reverse a universally known dogma, and if he were still to be open to directly and explicitly reverse a widely known truth (that comes a hair less than dogma at the current magisterial consciousness), then we can potentially still be seeing high levels of damage from the throne of St. Peter which equally shakes the foundation of the Papacy. Our efforts to procure a protection against Papal heresy (canonically defined by the 21st century) in his non-infallible magisterium might end up being redundant in light of this. Now, one might say that souls are still safe under a Pope who seeks to go wild in promoting indirect and implicit denials of clear dogma or by promoting direct and explicit reversals of things which aren’t dogmatic (at least, yet), but that kind of safety is the 1st millennium’s damnation. We might have to wonder how manufactured “safety” really is in this whole scheme. If we determine the meaning of “safety” based upon a pre-engineered definition of what avoids harm, then such a safety is artificial.

Consequently, the logic of the Papacy only really makes a comfortable circle if we can extend the protection to everything in the Pope’s magisterium, whether ex-cathedra or in any form of magisterial promulgation. That would be very nice, wouldn’t it? That would make it so much easier to fit with it being a divine help to the Church without having to resort to private judgment at all. And it would make the whole project that Pastor Aeternus claimed with Christ & Peter vis-a-vis the universal Church make a whole lot more sense. The only reason we don’t do this is because we know, historically, that this simply has not been reality.

In other words, historical facts stand in the way. The situations of Pope Honorius, Vigilius, Liberius, Nicholas I, and the acceptation of Haec Sancta Synodus (Constance 1415), just to name a few, stand in the way of saying that the Pope is infallible in his entire magisterium. Haec Sancta is a rather brutal piece of history to discuss, and so I’ll leave that for another time. What is interesting about Vigilius and Honorius is that the contemporary bishops in both the Greek and Latin hierarchies understood the errors of Vigilius and Honorius to be “heresy” which injured those around them, including the whole church. For example, when the bishops at the 5th Ecumenical Council (Constantinople 553) excommunicated Vigilius, they did so because they believed he had become Nestorian, which would mean that they understood his constitutions (constitua 1 & 2) to the whole Church to be an explicit and direct denial of the Council of Ephesus (431) and Cyrillian Christology.

Now, I sincerely doubt Vigilius truly made such an error directly or explicitly, but the simple fact is that the Ecumenical Council at the time did think the Pope directly and explicitly denied Cyrillian dogma of Christ’s unity. Very similar is the condemnation of Pope Honorius. In the official sentence contra Honorius, albeit posthumously, they state that his errors were harmful to souls. Granted, what “heresy” meant to the 1st millennium Episcopal College is not what developed in the Latin canonical tradition especially with the influence of scholastical doctorship. I myself think the contradiction existing in the 2 constituta of Vigilius deserves to be looked at once again because I don’t think English scholarship has really adequately dealt with the issue there. One notable scholar, Fr. Klaus Schatz SJ, has the following to say (see bold especially):

โ€œ๐˜๐˜ต [๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ญ] ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฐ๐˜ต ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ญ๐˜บ ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ค๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ฑ๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ด ๐˜ฃ๐˜ถ๐˜ต ๐˜ฆ๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ฆ๐˜น๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฎ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฆ. ๐˜›๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ธ๐˜ข๐˜ด ๐˜ข ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ช๐˜ฒ๐˜ถ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ค๐˜ข๐˜ด๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ถ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ข๐˜ญ ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ญ ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ๐˜ต๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ด๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ๐˜ง ๐˜ค๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ญ๐˜บ ๐˜ข๐˜จ๐˜ข๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ด๐˜ต ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜บ๐˜ฆ๐˜ต ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฐ๐˜ต ๐˜ด๐˜ถ๐˜ง๐˜ง๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ง๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜Œ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ถ๐˜ด ๐˜๐˜, ๐˜๐˜ฏ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ฅ, ๐˜ฐ๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ ๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ, ๐˜ช๐˜ต ๐˜ธ๐˜ข๐˜ด ๐˜ข๐˜ค๐˜ค๐˜ฆ๐˜ฑ๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฆ๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜จ๐˜ฏ๐˜ช๐˜ป๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ข๐˜ด ๐˜ท๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฃ๐˜บ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฆ. ๐˜›๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ญ ๐˜จ๐˜ฐ๐˜ต ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ข๐˜ฑ๐˜ข๐˜ญ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฐ๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ฃ๐˜บ ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ง๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜”๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ธ 18:20 (โ€œ๐˜ž๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ธ๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜จ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ ๐˜ฎ๐˜บ ๐˜ฏ๐˜ข๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆโ€ฆโ€): ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฐ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ๐˜ช๐˜ท๐˜ช๐˜ฅ๐˜ถ๐˜ข๐˜ญ ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ญ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ช๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ด๐˜ข๐˜ญ ๐˜Š๐˜ฉ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ค๐˜ฉโ€ (Papal Primacy, 53)โ€ฆ”๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฃ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฎ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฐ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ข๐˜ฑ๐˜ข๐˜ค๐˜บ ๐˜ฃ๐˜บ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ญ ๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ด ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฐ๐˜ต ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜บ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ฐ๐˜ญ๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ฅ๐˜ข๐˜บ..โ€ (ibid, 54).

Fr. Francis Sullivan likewise shared concern:

โ€œ๐‘‚๐‘“ ๐‘Ž๐‘™๐‘™ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘’๐‘๐‘ข๐‘š๐‘’๐‘›๐‘–๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘™ ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘›๐‘๐‘–๐‘™๐‘ , ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘–๐‘  ๐‘–๐‘  ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘’ ๐‘คโ„Ž๐‘–๐‘โ„Ž ๐‘ค๐‘–๐‘ก๐‘›๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘ ๐‘’๐‘‘ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘š๐‘œ๐‘ ๐‘ก ๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ž๐‘‘๐‘–๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘™ ๐‘โ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘™๐‘™๐‘’๐‘›๐‘”๐‘’ ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘™ ๐‘Ž๐‘ข๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ๐‘–๐‘ก๐‘ฆ ๐‘œ๐‘› ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘ก ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘’๐‘Ž๐‘ ๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘› ๐‘’๐‘๐‘–๐‘ ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘ก๐‘’. ๐‘๐‘œ ๐‘‘๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘๐‘ก ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘–๐‘  ๐‘–๐‘  ๐‘™๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘”๐‘’๐‘™๐‘ฆ ๐‘‘๐‘ข๐‘’ ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘“๐‘Ž๐‘๐‘ก ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘ก ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘–๐‘  ๐‘ค๐‘Ž๐‘  ๐‘Ž๐‘™๐‘ ๐‘œ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘™๐‘ฆ ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘›๐‘๐‘–๐‘™ ๐‘–๐‘› ๐‘คโ„Ž๐‘–๐‘โ„Ž ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘’๐‘Ž๐‘ ๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘› ๐‘๐‘–๐‘ โ„Ž๐‘œ๐‘๐‘  ๐‘ค๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘’ ๐‘ข๐‘›๐‘–๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘‘ ๐‘Ž๐‘š๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘” ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’๐‘š๐‘ ๐‘’๐‘™๐‘ฃ๐‘’๐‘  ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘ค๐‘–๐‘กโ„Ž ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘’๐‘š๐‘๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘Ž๐‘”๐‘Ž๐‘–๐‘›๐‘ ๐‘ก ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘๐‘’โ€ฆ ๐‘‡โ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘›๐‘๐‘–๐‘™, ๐‘ข๐‘›๐‘‘๐‘’๐‘Ÿ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘‘๐‘œ๐‘š๐‘–๐‘›๐‘Ž๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘œ๐‘› ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘’๐‘š๐‘๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ, ๐‘‘๐‘’๐‘๐‘™๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘‘ ๐‘‰๐‘–๐‘”๐‘–๐‘™๐‘–๐‘ข๐‘  ๐‘’๐‘ฅ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘š๐‘š๐‘ข๐‘›๐‘–๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘‘ ๐‘“๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘‘๐‘’๐‘“๐‘ฆ๐‘–๐‘›๐‘” ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘’๐‘๐‘ข๐‘š๐‘’๐‘›๐‘–๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘™ ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘›๐‘๐‘–๐‘™, ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘๐‘Ÿ๐‘œ๐‘๐‘’๐‘’๐‘‘๐‘’๐‘‘ ๐‘ค๐‘–๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘ก โ„Ž๐‘–๐‘š ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘‘๐‘’๐‘š๐‘› ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ โ€˜๐‘‡โ„Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘’ ๐ถโ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘ โ€™. ๐‘ป๐’‰๐’† ๐’„๐’๐’–๐’๐’„๐’Š๐’ ๐’„๐’๐’–๐’๐’… ๐’‰๐’‚๐’“๐’…๐’๐’š ๐’‰๐’‚๐’—๐’† ๐’Ž๐’๐’“๐’† ๐’”๐’•๐’“๐’๐’๐’ˆ๐’๐’š ๐’†๐’™๐’‘๐’“๐’†๐’”๐’”๐’†๐’… ๐’Š๐’•๐’” ๐’“๐’†๐’‹๐’†๐’„๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’ ๐’๐’‡ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’‘๐’‚๐’‘๐’‚๐’ ๐’„๐’๐’‚๐’Š๐’Ž ๐’•๐’ ๐’…๐’†๐’‡๐’Š๐’๐’Š๐’•๐’Š๐’—๐’† ๐’•๐’†๐’‚๐’„๐’‰๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’‚๐’–๐’•๐’‰๐’๐’“๐’Š๐’•๐’š. โ€ฆ ๐‘‰๐‘–๐‘”๐‘–๐‘™๐‘–๐‘ข๐‘ โ€™๐‘  ๐‘ ๐‘ข๐‘๐‘๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘ ๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ๐‘  ๐‘œ๐‘› ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘™ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘’ ๐‘“๐‘’๐‘™๐‘ก ๐‘œ๐‘๐‘™๐‘–๐‘”๐‘’๐‘‘ ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘ข๐‘โ„Ž๐‘œ๐‘™๐‘‘ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘‘๐‘’๐‘๐‘–๐‘ ๐‘–๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘  ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘›๐‘๐‘–๐‘™, ๐‘๐‘ข๐‘ก ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’๐‘ฆ ๐‘‘๐‘–๐‘‘ ๐‘ ๐‘œ ๐‘Ž๐‘ก ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘ ๐‘–๐‘‘๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ž๐‘๐‘™๐‘’ ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘ ๐‘ก ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘”๐‘’ ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘๐‘ฆ ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘ข๐‘›๐‘–๐‘ก๐‘ฆ ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘ค๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘› ๐‘โ„Ž๐‘ข๐‘Ÿ๐‘โ„Ž, ๐‘ ๐‘–๐‘›๐‘๐‘’ ๐‘–๐‘ก ๐‘ก๐‘œ๐‘œ๐‘˜ ๐‘ค๐‘’๐‘™๐‘™ ๐‘œ๐‘ฃ๐‘’๐‘Ÿ ๐‘Ž ๐‘๐‘’๐‘›๐‘ก๐‘ข๐‘Ÿ๐‘ฆ ๐‘“๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘๐‘’๐‘  ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘๐‘–๐‘™๐‘’ ๐‘™๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘”๐‘’ ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘  ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘Š๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘ก ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘คโ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘ก ๐‘ค๐‘Ž๐‘  ๐‘ ๐‘’๐‘’๐‘› ๐‘๐‘ฆ ๐‘š๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘ฆ ๐‘Ž๐‘  ๐‘Ž ๐‘๐‘’๐‘ก๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ž๐‘ฆ๐‘Ž๐‘™ ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐ถ๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘›๐‘๐‘–๐‘™ ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐ถโ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘™๐‘๐‘’๐‘‘๐‘œ๐‘›.โ€ (Magisterium: Teaching Authority in the Catholic Church, pages 68-69).

I have to admit, in my wrestling with the data, the 5th Council’s explicit denial of Papal supremacy has been the biggest puzzle for me, and I’ve not seen this resolved by any thus far in English. I have my own theories, included in my book, but more so in my Academia articles. There might be works in French or German that seek to tackle the issue that I don’t know about. I think Ignaz Von Dรถllinger’s criticism remains standing, from a historical standpoint, especially since it strikes at the heart of Newman’s concession that if he were to ever find a proven instance of a Pope seeking to teach the universal Church erringly (ex cathedra), that he would admit that his entire argument for Catholicism would be ground to powder.

In conclusion, I really would like to go as far as asserting further guaranteed protections to the non-infallible Papal magisterium, and I would like to go even further, since any kind of damage done from the throne of St. Peter is unwanted, but I think the 1st Vatican Council did not see to it that this further implication outside of ex cathedra teaching was in store. Bishop Fessler (secretary general of V1) response to a known German critic in True and False Infallibility seems to restrict infallibility to very tight and minimized conditions. Secondly, asserting that the Pope is only further protected from explicit and direct heresy in his magisterium still leaves open wide enough potential damage that would equally shake the divine purpose of the Papacy. And lastly, the consciousness of the 1st millennium Episcopate on the damage that was done by Honorius and Vigilius, not to mention Haec Sancta, seem to leave it as historical facts (unless we ignore them as mere appearances) that prove the Papacy went to the brink of universal error in a matter that deserved public anathemas.

4 thoughts on “Can the Pope Teach Heresy in his Non-Infallible Magisterium? Some Preliminary Thoughts

  1. This really is very depressing, as it underscores how divergent west and east are (assuming that your position here is highly representative of Roman Catholics); specifically, you start with the assumption that “the throne of St. Peter is the Cathedra Unitatis (Chair of Unity) and the foundation upon which the unity of the Church is built.” No mention of whether or not the occupant must have as a pre-condition for unity the right faith; rather, because you start with the throne as the source of unity independent of the right faith, a need for divine protection is deduced as a logical necessity. To paraphrase Cardinal Newman, God would not have left us without such an arbiter. Such a depressing rationalization to justify something so tangential to salvation. It’s so manufactured and artificial, and requires so many unnecessary mental gymnastics of the faithful.

    Now, in response, westerners often say, ‘well, without that divine protection, how else are we to know what is or is not the right faith?’ A fair question, especially if all you’ve ever known is to look for unity exclusively from a particular see, and nowhere else. And, especially if you do not have a healthy, well-developed sensus fidelium of the church as a whole, where the shared, public prayer life of the Church is recognized as the ultimate yardstick by which something would be considered heresy or not. (lex ordandi, lex credendi: If we pray it, that’s a good indicator that we believe it, and if we don’t pray something, how can it be said that it is part of the deposit of faith?). And, like any muscle atrophies when not used, the sense of ownership by the western laity of their liturgical patrimony atrophied, to the point that the magisterium and clergy could roll out after Vatican II the liturgical innovations with little to no resistance. And what happy resistance exists today 50+ years later, is manifestly in defiance of that same magisterium and represents a recovery of ownership by the laity of their liturgical patrimony. Not just “pray, pay and obey”, but guard it as you live it.

  2. There are no patristic statements alleging an i fallible pope (quite the contrary, see Cyprian) and the Vatican Clown One council was flying by the seat of its pants while the pope had the gun of hia ability to fire bishops at will to their heads forcing them to vote him as infallible; they didn’t put forth a coherent thwory of how it works because its false and doesn’t work. Period. Catholics all go to hell for worshipping the pope in place of God the Father and Mary in place of Christ. Crispy critters all.

  3. How late do the “Patristic descriptions of the Papacy” you refer to start? Aquinas probably. And this doesn’t make you rethink your boneheaded position. Catholics are just sad. There is no way you have any “Patristic descriptions of the Papacy” from before the schism, and if you claim to they are post-schism forgeries like the Donation of Constantine. It is certain no papacy existed even at Nicea. So certainly there are zero “Patristic descriptions of the Papacy” in the Ante-Nicene fathers. The papacy is as much a late creation by heretics as the JWs Watchtower Society, and believing it is infallible is just as stupid as believing the JW Watchtower Magazine is infallible.

  4. What I find troubling about the Vatican 1 council is that it dogmatically condemned Gallicanism as heresy. Yet Gallicanism had been believed in the Western Catholic Church for centuries. How can a council just condemn a centuries old tradition like that?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s