THE GREAT SACRILEGE
permission to reprint this
defining work was personally granted by
Father James F. Wathen, O.S.J. in 2001.
Chapter Two

Part Two

PAPAL INFALLIBILITY

See EDITOR'S NOTE for an explanation of this work.



    A. Papal Infallibility

       The Infallibility of the Sovereign Pontiff is one of the major doctrinal developments of CatholicTheology over the course of the centuries. This development is understood to have reached its highest formal expression at the First Vatican Council with the promulgation of the Dogmatic Constitution, Pastor Aeternus, by Pope Pius IX on July 18, 1870.

        Catholics should exult in the holiness and greatness of this doctrine. It was made during an age when their forefathers were not ashamed of the Church, and with that boldness with which Divine Truth should always be proclaimed. It is now one of the glories of the Faith, and should be the source of great consolation and encouragement both in view of the history of the Church and of the present trouble-ridden era. For truly, those will be saved who strictly adhere to the definite and certain teachings of the Popes, without letting themselves be diverted by the assorted and fanciful inanities which Catholics are forced to listen to these days, even from their pulpits, and that, not infrequently, from some of the prelates of the Church. Let these Catholics be reminded that, no matter from what source it comes, every idea must be perfectly and clearly reconcilable with the Faith of their forefathers, or their assent to it should be withheld, if not forthrightly refused. Catholics can be at peace in the certainty that nothing has happened or will ever happen which will render anachronistic, or out-dated, the sacred truths of their childhood catechism, since, as they know very well, it is the antiquity of Catholicism which is a sign of its veracity and one of its proudest boasts. Another name for this is "Apostolicity."

        An ex cathedra definition is always the canonization of an Apostolic tradition. When the Pope defines a doctrine, thus exercising his Infallibility, he is doing nothing more than making explicitly, definite, and clear, a divine truth, holy in its essence, a truth which has been held-you might say, "taken for granted"-by the faithful from the beginning. He is only making explicit for the future what was implicit in the past, implicit in the teaching of the Apostles themselves.

        Above all, no Catholic need fear the Pope will ever violate his Infallibility; it is de fide ("of the Faith") that God will never permit it. God may permit any other kind of abuse of papal authority except this. The Church itself will sooner ease to be: …"and behold I am with you all days even unto the consummation of the world" (Matthew 28:20). The very existence of the Church depends on this never happening.

        That the Pope be infallible is absolutely necessary for the survival of the Church, since it is from the Papacy itself that the Church's own Infallibility flows. This is the true meaning of Our Divine Savior's words to St. Peter, "Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren." (Luke 22:31-32). The Church, as the source and cause of salvation, stands on the Papacy as a building stands on its foundation: its Imperishability derives from the Papacy, from the Infallibility of the Papacy. This can be easily seen: the Church must never err in those very matters which men are commanded by Christ to believe and do if they are to possess life everlasting. I know, a common notion has it that God in His mercy will save every man who has "good will." But that is not Catholic theology. The truth is, God will save those who acknowledge the sovereign authority of the Roman Pontiffs, believe what the Pontiffs say, and do what they command. As He is the God of Truth, men must know that the Church (and therefore the Pope) speaks His Truth, always, so that they may put their utter faith in it. It stands to reason that, should the Pope. As the chief spokesman of Faith can clearly see is false, it would be "all over!" In such a case, by that very act, the Church would have been wounded fatally, for ever after, the world would be without the only Magisterium of Revealed Truth there is. Even all its former true statements would at the same time come into question, and it could defend none of them. And there would follow that dissension and fragmentation which has been the history of Protestantism from its inception-only more so. Would the Builder of the Universe, the Carpenter of Nazareth, put His House on sand? "And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and if fell, and great was the fall thereof." (Matthew 7:27). He Who said these words knew something about building.

        At the First Vatican Council, the Fathers labored tediously to formulate exactly the statement of the doctrine of Papal Infallibility. Their effort was so to circumscribe the idea that only such immunity from error would be claimed for the Papacy as men must believe in for salvation, and as their own faith would recognize as true. It is imperative for a Catholic that his knowledge of this doctrine be identical with the truth of it. Therefore, our notion of Infallibility should include only what we are required to believe and nothing else.

        Let us then carefully attend to the wording of the definition of the term. Papal Infallibility:

          The Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra - that is, when in the Exercise of his office as pastor and teacher of all Christians he defines, by virtue of His supreme Apostolic authority, a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by the whole Church - is, by reason of the Divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, Possessed of that infallibility which the Divine Redeemer wished His Church To be endowed in defining doctrines of faith and morals; and consequently that Such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable of their own nature and Not by reason of the Church's consent. 8

      8. ("Infallibility" The catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. New York. 1910. Vol 7, p 796, col. 1.)

   In explaining this definition, The Catholic Encyclopedia says: …the conditions required for ex cathedra teaching are mentioned in the Vatican decree: (a) The pontiff must each in his public and official capacity as pastor and doctor of all Christians, not merely in his private capacity as a theologian, preacher or allocutionist, nor in his capacity as a temporal prince or as a mere ordinary of the Diocese of Rome. It must be clear that he speaks as spiritual head of the Universal Church. (b) Then it is only when, in this capacity, he teaches some doctrine of faith or morals that he is infallible. (c) Further it must be sufficiently evident that he intends to teach with all the fullness and finality of his supreme Apostolic authority, in other words that he wishes to determine some point of doctrine in an absolutely final and Irrevocable way, or to define it in the technical sense…(d) Finally for an ex cathedra decision it must be clear that the Pope intends to bind the whole Church, to demand internal assent from al the faithful to his teaching under Pain of incurring internal shipwreck (naufragium fidei), according to the expression used by Pius IX in defining the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin 9
9. (Ibid).

    Let us expand upon the meaning of this quotation.

  • 1. Papal Infallibility can be said to be exercised only when the Pope teaches the Universal Church a truth of the Faith. By his pronouncement, he necessarily silences, concludes, and bans any further contrary argument on the particular subject, which, until then, had been a debatable question, theologically speaking. It amounts to his saying: OF all the things we do not know, this we do; and you can base further speculations on this without fear of error. Any effort you make to disprove this teaching will prove futile and a waste of your time. It will be sinful besides, for it will be challenging Divine Truth. Only as much has been defined as is certainly known; theologians and mystics may go on from here.

  • 2. Further, not only are you not allowed to argue the point, but you are bound to believe it. God commands you to do so. And to refuse is to assail His veracity. You are not free to remain indifferent or agnostic about the matter, or to refrain from giving your assent to it. Not to believe and profess it is to deny it. By this ex cathedra definition the traditional belief has been confirmed as a dogma of faith, as certainly and unalterably true as all other dogmas of the True Religion.

  • 3. No matter how verbose or scientific its phrasing, once all the terms are defined, a papal decision can always be expressed in a simple declarative sentence. It can be one of two kinds of statements: a dogmatic truth-Mary was conceived Immaculate; The Blessed Eucharist is the Body of Christ; The Pope is infallible - or a moral prohibition - abortion is a mortal sin; contraception is a mortal sin; betrayal of one's country is a mortal sin.

  • 4. An infallible definition is made when the teaching Church arrives At the conclusion that God requires all men to believe the particular truth defined. He has revealed this truth because men need to know it. If it is a doctrine, they should believe it primarily because it is a manifestation of His glory, power and love, a disclosure of Himself and His ways. If the revelation is a moral prohibition, it is a warning that the act is wicked in itself and to commit it is to attack directly the goodness and sovereignty of the Revealer and to bring death to one's soul.

  • 5. An ex cathedra definition is addressed to all the members of the Universal Church, regardless of which of the several Rites (into which it is divided canonically and liturgically) they belong to. Ex cathedra definitions are a matter of spiritual life and death, of salvation or perdition. They are more important than temporal affairs, social problems, earthly love. They involve every man with God. Man's disinterest in them is the vice of sloth. They are eternal and holy, regardless of who is Pope or who is king. Every man must himself discover why they are important to him; they are what his mind is for - truths to be discerned by his intellect for the salvation of his soul.

        That is not to say that dogmatic and moral truths are irrelevant to the world and the problems of human life. The world needs nothing more direly than infallible, supernatural truth. The Pope could not do the world more good that by letting it hear his voice, authoritative, certain, commanding, teaching. The world needs no alternatives of palliatives to Catholicism in all its fullness. Because men have dared to discard divinely revealed truth, they have gotten themselves into their present woeful predicament. Now they are at the mercy of the "agitation-propaganda" (or "Agit-prop") of the world-engulfing Revolution, of which, as we shall see later, the so-called "New Mass" is a product and a tool, and, to my knowledge, one of its greatest triumphs.

  • 6. The question may be asked: But suppose a certain Pope did make a clearly false ex cathedra definition? The idea of Papal Infallibility makes such an hypothesis a contradiction in terms. The doctrine means that God Himself, Who knows the most secret thoughts of men, would prevent such a thing from happening, either directly or through His ordinary overmastery of all creatural actions. As a matter of fact, who can say that God has not thus intervened in the past? So susceptible are all human beings to error, sin, and temptation that we may easily imagine that He has found it necessary to do so, unbeknown though it may have been.

        These considerations should help the reader see the distinction between a papal ex cathedra definition and an act by which the Pope may legislate concerning the Holy Mass. The former is a statement by which the Pope teaches a truth which is a part of the "Deposit of Faith." The latter is an act by which the Pope employs his jurisdiction for pastoral discipline. In the former case, he is protected from error by the Holy Ghost Himself; in the latter he is completely capable of making poor or imprudent decisions. And, if he be malicious, if he would dare so tempt God, and if he thinks he can get away with it, he may even, conceivably, attempt some deliberate perversion.

        Even though the prayers of the Mass contain affirmations of faith, these prayers are not themselves ex cathedra proclamations. The Church does teach her children the doctrines of the Faith by embodying these doctrines in her liturgical prayers - a better word would be familiarize. However, the main purpose of the prayers is not to teach, any more than the main purpose of any prayer is to teach, but to worship and communicate with God. The Liturgy does not define the truths of the Faith; it assents to them, meditates on them, glories in them, and thanks God for revealing them. How utterly disorderly and intolerable, therefore, would it be if the communal prayer of the people contained the least ambiguity, inaccuracy, or unfamiliar teaching, or lacked perfect clarity, doctrinal precision, or beauty of expression! For it to contain anything that savored of positive error or falsity or propaganda or mistranslation would be something too horrendous to imagine or to describe!

        The legislation of the Church on liturgical matters, and particularly the Holy Mass, falls under the heading of discipline or legislation rather than under teaching or doctrine. When Pope St. Pius V finalized the ritual of the Mass of the Latin Rite, he was not defining the truths expressed in its prayers. He was passing a law forbidding anyone to alter these prayers because these prayers suitably expressed the major doctrines which had been defined by the Council of Trent

       This is why the Mass of the Roman Rite was bound to be referred to as the "Tridentine Mass," even though all the prayers predate that Council by centuries. Indeed it was from these prayers that the Council Fathers had learned the teaching which they defined. The Mass as it is found in the other Rites of the Church could never be called "Tridentine." The reason is, though the prayers of these liturgies are doctrinally pure and unquestionably Catholic, their emphasis and mentality and mode of expression are not so intimately related to or so interdependent with, the decrees of the Council of Trent as are the prayers of the Mass of the Latin Rite.

        From all the above, it is quite clear that Pope Paul VI's imposition of the "New Mass" is in no sense of the word an act of his infallible teaching authority. It must be assessed as a pastoral act, one which pertains to the discipline and practice of the Roman Rite. Once this point is clearly understood, we are free to draw the following conclusions:

  • 1. In issuing the "Novus Ordo", Pope Paul was using his legitimate authority. But, we are permitted to discuss whether he was abusing his authority in doing so. Moreover we are commanded to do so in view of what the "New Mass" is!

  • 2. Since there is no question of Papal Infallibility involved, it is not at all out of order to question either the morality, the liceity, the validity, the orthodoxy, the nature, the purpose (give or real), the wisdom, or any other aspect of the "New Mass."

        All the foregoing has been though necessary because of the aura of infallibility which surrounds the subject of the "New Mass." Not a little of this mentality was deliberately created, as I will have occasion to point out again further on. For the present, if we are agreed that the subject is permissible and open to discussion, we will begin.

        Necessarily all the aspects listed above will receive consideration in the following pages, not specifically, however, but by way of inclusion. The main emphasis here will be on the morality of that Act by which Pope Paul introduced and imposed his "mass," a subject which, strangely, seems to have been raised by only a few lay people. Almost all discussion, sparse as it has been in view of the seriousness of the subject, has centered around either the legality of this Act or the validity of the Consecration of the wine, due to the obvious mistranslation of the Consecration Form. I am forced to say, however, larger and more obvious question, namely, how the "New Mass" contradicts the will of God. The explanation for this gross oversight, the almost entire failure to examine the "New Mass" and the morality of its imposition is the "legalism" to which Catholics of the Latin Rite are so prone, and for which our enemies have often justly found fault with us. Thus, those who have accepted the "New Mass," whether gladly or reluctantly, have done so under the mistaken notion that its introduction was legal, or at least apparently so, and therefore its acceptance was both permissible and necessary. Most of those who have made an effort to resist the final and complete imposition of the "New Mass" have directed their fire against the technical flaws in its make-up (real as they are) and at the illegal mode of its imposition, rather than at the morality of the Pope's Act, as we shall do here.


        The Great Sacrilege by Father James F. Wathen