DAILY CATHOLIC    MONDAY     March 8, 1999     vol. 10, no. 46

Pat Ludwa's VIEW FROM THE PEW

To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE and SECTION TWO and SECTION THREE
    INTRODUCTION
          Pat Ludwa, a committed lay Catholic from Cleveland, has been asked to contribute, on a regular basis, a lay person's point of view on the Church today. We have been impressed with his insight and the clear logic he brings to the table from his "view from the pew." In all humility, by his own admission, he feels he has very little to offer, but we're sure you'll agree with us that his viewpoint is exactly what millions of the silent majority of Catholics believe and have been trying to say as well. Pat puts it in words that help all of us better understand and convey to others what the Church teaches and we must believe.

          Today, he continues with his theme begun last Thursday on the 'Chair of Peter' showing that it doesn't mean "furniture" but likening it to a judge who rules 'from the bench.' The authority has been determined by a Higher authority and cannot be disputed as Pat points out to the right.

Teaching from the Chair of Peter

      After writing on the 'Chair of Peter', I felt I needed to also touch on what it refers to - the infallibility of the person holding the office of the Chair of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.

      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 religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra" (Vatican II; Lumen Gentium, Chap 3, #25)

      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.

    "...this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith, by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals. And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment. For then the Roman Pontiff is not pronouncing judgment as a private person, but as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the charism of infallibility of the Church itself is individually present, he is expounding or defending a doctrine of Catholic faith" (Ibid )
Note here that when the Pope teaches infallibly he " need(s) no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment." No petitions, no protest, no 'loyal dissent'.

      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:

    "Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian religion, for the glory of God our Savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic faith and the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the sacred council, we teach and define that it is a divinely revealed dogma that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks "ex cathedra," i.e., when exercising his office as pastor and teacher of all Christians he defines, by his supreme apostolic authority, a doctrine of faith or morals which must be held by the universal Church, enjoys, through the divine assistance, that infallibility promised to him in blessed Peter and with which the divine Redeemer wanted His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith or morals; and therefore that definitions of the same Roman Pontiff are irreformable of themselves." (Vatican I)

      To break it down simply, in order for a teaching to be infallible ('ex cathedra') the Papal teaching must meet four requirements.

  • 1. intends to teach ("teacher of all the faithful")
  • 2. by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority ("supreme pastor")
  • 3. a matter of faith or morals ("pertaining to faith or morals")
  • 4. to be held by the universal church. ("of all the faithful")

          Let's look at a recent 'teaching' that many have balked at being infallible.

      "Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (c.f. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful."(Ordinatio Sacerdotalis; On Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone)
  • 1. intends to teach ("teacher of all the faithful")
    "Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance" He clearly intends to teach all the faithful.
  • 2. by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority ("supreme pastor")
  • "in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (c.f. Lk 22:32"
  • 3. a matter of faith or morals ("pertaining to faith or morals")
    "a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself,"
  • 4. to be held by the universal Church. ("of all the faithful") "and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful."
    "I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women"

          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.

      Pax Christi, Pat

  • March 8, 1999       volume 10, no. 46
    VIEW FROM THE PEW

    DAILY CATHOLIC

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