When I was reading Loraine Boettner's "Catholicism" (the anti-catholic's bible), I read how he tried to show the fallacy of it by noting that the 'chair' was probably no more than a thousand years old. He states that the Church teaches that the Pope can teach infallibly only while sitting on the 'chair of Peter'. If this is so, and the chair is only about 1,000 years old, then by the Church's standard's, the Pope can't speak infallibly.
This is of course absurd. 'Ex Cathedra' (from the chair) means no different than a judge handing down a ruling 'from the Bench'. The judge doesn't need to actually be sitting on a bench to make a decision 'from the Bench'.
The problem is, many Catholics have the same distorted notion (carefully cultivated by some) of what teaching 'ex cathedra' (infallibly) means.
I recall discussing this issue with one person who felt that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis wasn't an infallible teaching because the Pope didn't sit on the 'Chair of Peter', or have any other ceremony to distinguish it as an infallible statement. The first problem with this logic is that it doesn't matter whether or not he sits on the 'chair of Peter' or not.
This is handy since, as they have been taught, if they need only follow what the Pope teaches infallibly, then they need not follow any teaching they don't feel is infallible. So they are taught that some special ceremony is needed for it to be an infallible teaching. They reject Vatican II's clear teaching that we are bound to follow his teachings, even if NOT given 'ex cathedra'.
The other tact is to say that the Pope can teach infallibly when the entire Church joins with him, or assents to the teaching. Again, this flies in the face of authentic Vatican II teaching.
Another misconception is that the Pope speaks nothing but infallible statements and if asked a question of faith and morals will give nothing but an infallible statement.
Karl Keating of 'Catholic Answers' and author of the apologetics book "Catholicism and Fundamentalism" explains Papal infallibility like this. Let's say the Pope was infallible in matters of faith, morals, and math. You give him 100 math questions to answer. Will he get all 100 correct? No. Those he answers will be correct, but he need not answer all of them. This is why there is a distinction between the Pope teaching as the head of the Church on matters of faith and morals, and a private person, a fellow bishop, giving an opinion.
To better understand this, let's look at something which is 'an exercise in infallibility'. Vatican I defined Papal infallibility this way:
To break it down simply, in order for a teaching to be infallible ('ex cathedra') the Papal teaching must meet four requirements.
Let's look at a recent 'teaching' that many have balked at being infallible.
If it walks like a duck..!
Now many will say this doesn't relate to the faith. Doesn't it? They claim that the only reason why Christ appointed men as priests was because He was constrained by His times. Isn't He God? Is God constrained by the times? Our 'faith' declares that Jesus is Lord. If He was 'forced' by His times to do what was normal, then He isn't the Lord! And THAT is a matter of faith. Besides, if it were true that He was so 'constrained' by His times, why did He eat with sinners, tax collectors, Samaritans, etc.? Why did He perform a miracle for a Gentile Roman Centurion?
In short, the Pope need not sit anywhere special, needs no special ceremony, or approval to teach infallibly. He need only: Intend to teach, by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, on a matter of faith or morals, and they are to be held by the universal Church.
Special mention should be made of the encounters with the Risen Jesus reported in the New Testament. Mary Magdalen meets the Risen One, and as a result overcomes her discouragement and grief at the death of the Master (cf. Jn 20:11-18). In his new Paschal glory, Jesus tells her to proclaim to the disciples that he has risen: “Go to my brethren” (Jn 20:17). For this reason, Mary Magdalen could be called “the apostle of the Apostles”.(14) The disciples of Emmaus, for their part, after meeting and recognizing the Risen Lord, return to Jerusalem to recount to the Apostles and the other disciples all that had happened to them (cf. Lk 24:13-35). Jesus, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Lk 24:27). Later they would recognize that their hearts were burning within them as the Lord talked to them along the road and opened the Scriptures to them (cf. Lk 24:32). There is no doubt that Saint Luke, in relating this episode, especially the decisive moment in which the two disciples recognize Jesus, makes explicit allusion to the accounts of the institution of the Eucharist by Jesus at the Last Supper (cf. Lk 24:30). The Evangelist, in relating what the disciples of Emmaus told the Eleven, uses an expression which had a precise Eucharistic meaning for the early Church: “He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread” (Lk 24:35).
One of the encounters with the Risen Lord which had a decisive influence on the history of Christianity was certainly the conversion of Saul, the future Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, on the road to Damascus. There his life was radically changed: from being a persecutor, he became an Apostle (cf. Acts 9:3-30; 22:6-11; 26:12-18). Paul himself describes this extraordinary experience as a revelation of the Son of God “in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles” (Gal 1:16).
The Lord always respects the freedom of those He calls. There are cases where people, in encountering Jesus, close their hearts to the change of life to which the Lord is calling them. Many people in Jesus's own time saw and heard him, and yet did not open their hearts to his word. Saint John's Gospel points to sin as the reason which prevents human beings from opening themselves to the light which is Christ: “the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (Jn 3:19). The Gospels teach that attachment to wealth is an obstacle to accepting Christ's call to follow him fully and without reserve. Here, the attitude of the rich young man is indicative (cf. Mt 19:16-22; Mk 10:17-22; Lk 18:18-23).
NEXT MONDAY: Installment Three: Chapter One, part two: Encountering Christ in the time of the Church -
"Again, I plead with all my priest-sons to open the churches and allow my little ones to come before my Divine Son."
Those words from the Mother of God were imparted to the Hidden Flower of the Immaculate Heart in Message #424 on October 22, 1993 in which Our Lady asks for the churches to honor her Divine Son with Perpetual Adoration. This was asked in Bella Vista and we are happy to report that the Chairman of the Board of MIR-A-CALL Center has notified us that it has now become a reality at St. Bernard's Church in Bella Vista. All in God's time. Over the past five or six years many other churches have opened up, providing Perpetual Adoration as well as daily adoration through the efforts and prayers of many devoted souls. Our Lady prefaces her plea in her 423rd Message four days earlier by entreating her children to take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. For Messages #423 and #424 from Our Lady, click on "I SOLEMNLY TELL YOU..."
Messages 423 and 424
Please hear my words and love with all your being my Divine Son Who suffered and died for you. Believe in His True Presence in the Blessed Sacrament and be fed and refreshed by this Sacrament of Love and Mercy. Cleanse yourself frequently by going to Confession.
I do solemnly tell you that you must live holy lives, prepared for the banquet - for my Divine Son shall come soon!
Therefore, pray! Pray! Pray! Thank you for responding to my Call!
Please tell my children that they cannot delay their response to come back to my Divine Son any longer. The times that you have entered into shall be a sign for the hardened hearts of this generation who have made a mockery of God. These signs shall be the fulfillment of Sacred Scripture. These signs shall be given to all, and no nation shall be spared.
Dear little children, I am pleading with you. Live holy lives, love, honor and adore my Divine Son at all times. Give Him all reverence in the Blessed Sacrament. Again, I plead with all my priest-sons to open the churches and allow my little ones to come before my Divine Son. All churches should have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, for I solemnly tell you that if you do this there will be sufficient light for you during the tangible darkness. Pray, my children. Do not speak about my messages but live them daily, for they are the Gospel message of my Divine Son.
Offer yourselves daily to the Most Blessed Trinity as willing victims of Divine Love, and abandon yourselves to God. He Who is your true Father shall care for you in every way that will lead you to salvation.
Pray, little children and be of one mind and one heart through the grace of the Holy Spirit.
I love and bless you. I give you my Divine Son's Peace. Thank you for responding to my Call!