Sunday, September 24, 2006

Infallibility Strawman

There goes the media (AFP) again! Setting up a ridiculously misinformed strawman argument to slam the Pope's criticism of islam:
LONDON, England (AFP) - Yusuf Islam, the British singer known as Cat Stevens before his conversion to Islam, added to the criticism of Pope Benedict XVI's recent remarks about the religion.

Islam, known for his 1970s hits including "Father And Son" and "Wild World," [and also known for supporting the death decree on Salman Rushdie, but the AFP neglects to mention that -- ed.] said that the pope quoting from a medieval text which attacks some of the Prophet Mohammed's teachings as "evil and inhuman" showed the pontiff was not infallible.

Roman Catholic theology says that the pope cannot err in teachings on faith or morals.
NO, it DOES NOT say that! Not everything the Pope says is considered infallible.

In fact, hardly anything any Pope has ever said is considered infallible.

Sloppy reporting? Or intentional obtuseness? I think it's deliberate misreporting in order to make Catholics look bad.

Because it's so obviously wrong.

The report continues, to drive the point home:
In an interview with BBC television, Islam said that he went to a Catholic school, "so at one point I used to believe that the Pope was infallible."

But he added that the pope's comments on Islam showed he was fallible
No, it shows nothing of the kind.

First, his comments on islam were correct, proven so by the violent responses worldwide.

Second, here are the rules on infallibility from the Catholic Encyclopedia:
-- infallibility is not attributed to every doctrinal act of the pope, but only to his ex cathedra teaching; and the conditions required for ex cathedra teaching are mentioned in the Vatican decree:

1. The pontiff must teach 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 Church universal.

2. Then it is only when, in this capacity, he teaches some doctrine of faith or morals that he is infallible (see below, IV).

3. Further it must be sufficiently evident that he intends to teach with all the fullness and finality of his supreme Apostolic authority...

4. Finally for an ex cathedra decision it must be clear that the pope intends to bind the whole Church. To demand internal assent from all the faithful to his teaching under pain of incurring spiritual shipwreck (naufragium fidei) according to the expression used by Pius IX in defining the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin.
So the Pope has to say a specific statement is an ex cathedra teaching for it to be held infallible, and this has only been done so a handful of times in the last 2000 years, on very basic and fundamental points of Catholic theological doctrine, such as to affirm the Immaculate Conception.

The article goes on to stress that:
It need only be added here that not everything in a conciliar or papal pronouncement, in which some doctrine is defined, is to be treated as definitive and infallible. For example, in the lengthy Bull of Pius IX defining the Immaculate Conception the strictly definitive and infallible portion is comprised in a sentence or two; and the same is true in many cases in regard to conciliar decisions.
We mean in other words that the Church is infallible in her objective definitive teaching regarding faith and morals, not that believers are infallible in their subjective interpretation of her teaching. This is obvious in the case of individuals, any one of whom may err in his understanding of the Church's teaching; nor is the general or even unanimous consent of the faithful in believing a distinct and independent organ of infallibility.
Let's look once more at this Yusuf Islam, aka Cat Stevens, and see what the AFP didn't find worthy of noting.

I recall when Rushdie was condemded to die for offending islam, that Cat Stevens, when asked his opinion of the matter, replied, "whoever defames the Prophet must die."

This is his official statement about that incident, from his own website:
By Yusuf Islam
March 2nd, 1989

Under Islamic Law, the ruling regarding blasphemy is quite clear; the person found guilty of it must be put to death. Only under certain circumstances can repentance be accepted.

On 21st February, I was speaking to a group of students at the Kingston Polytechnic, and in response to a question, I simply stated the Islamic ruling on the Rushdie affair. Suddenly. my picture was splashed on the front page of newspapers all over the world next to the headline: 'Kill Rushdie says Cat Stevens'. It is very sad to see such irresponsibility from the 'free press' and I am totally abhorred.

My only crime was, I suppose, in being honest. I stood up and expressed my belief and I am in no way apologizing for it. I expressed the Islamic view based on the Qur'an, the Prophet's sayings (peace and blessings be upon him) and the rulings of the Caliphs and renowned schools of Islamic jurisprudence.
The fact is that as far as the application of Islamic Law and the implementation of full Islamic way of life in Britain is concerned, Muslims realize that there is very little chance of that happening in the near future. But that shouldn't stop us from trying to improve the situation and presenting the Islamic viewpoint wherever and whenever possible. That is the duty of ever Muslim and that is what I did.
And anyone listens to this guy? As an authority on Papal infallibility?


Blogger 2$$G said...

I'm not sure papal infallability exists in any real sense. My understanding is that some infallahle teachings have been overturned after subsequent deliberations.
The one example that sticks out in my mind was an infallable teaching on the morality of slavery. A few years after the Church found slavery was acceptable (via infallable teaching) it reversed itself. ca 1856?

3:06 PM, September 25, 2006  
Blogger RDS said...

The theory is pretty canonical as far as Catholicism goes, as I understand it.

You're speaking of this, which was reversed in 1890:
As late as June 20, 1866, the Holy Office (now called the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) issued a statement that said:
"Slavery itself, considered as such in its essential nature, is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law, and there can be several just titles of slavery and these are referred to by approved theologians and commentators of the sacred canons.... It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given."

However, though some "authoritative" teachings may have been changed, such as the slavery one, these were not "ex cathedra" statement and hence not actually issued under the doctrine of Papal Infallibility as far as I can determine.

The Church has several organs for issuing teachings. The ordinary magisterium is not in itself considered infallible, nor even are papal Apostolic Letters and decrees unless the special conditions set forth above hold.

These are the main examples of apparently overturned "infallible", along with arguments for why ex cathedra infallibility did not, in fact, attach to these statements.


The only noteworthy objections against papal infallibility, as distinct from the infallibility of the Church at large, are based on certain historical instances in which it is alleged that certain popes in the ex cathedra exercise of their office have actually taught heresy and condemned as heretical what has afterwards turned out to be true. The chief instances usually appealed to are those of Popes Liberius, Honorius, and Vigilius in the early centuries, and the Galileo affair at the beginning of the seventeenth century.

Pope Liberius. Liberius, it is alleged, subscribed an Arian or Semi-Arian creed drawn up by the Council of Sirmium and anathematized St. Athanasius, the great champion of Nicaea, as a heretic. But even if this were an accurate statement of historical fact, it is a very inadequate statement. The all-important circumstance should be added that the pope so acted under pressure of a very cruel coercion, which at once deprives his action of any claim to be considered ex cathedra, and that he himself, as soon as he had recovered his liberty, made amends for the moral weakness he had been guilty of. This is a quite satisfactory answer to the objection, but it ought to be added that there is no evidence whatever that Liberius ever anathematized St. Athanasius expressly as a heretic, and that it remains a moot point which of three or four Sirmian creeds he subscribed, two of which contained no positive assertion of heretical doctrine and were defective merely for the negative reason that they failed to insist on the full definition of Nicaea.

Pope Honorius. The charge against Pope Honorius is a double one: that, when appealed to in the Monothelite controversy, he actually taught the Monothelite heresy in his two letters to Sergius; and that he was condemned as a heretic by the Sixth Ecumenical Council, the decrees of which were approved by Leo II. But in the first place it is quite clear from the tone and terms of these letters that, so far from intending to give any final, or ex cathedra, decision on the doctrinal question at issue, Honorius merely tried to allay the rising bitterness of the controversy by securing silence. In the next place, taking the letters as they stand, the very most that can be clearly and incontrovertibly deduced from them is, that Honorius was not a profound or acute theologian, and that he allowed himself to be confused and misled by the wily Sergius as to what the issue really was and too readily accepted the latter's misrepresentation of his opponents' position, to the effect that the assertion of two wills in Christ meant two contrary or discordant wills. Finally, in reference to the condemnation of Honorius as a heretic, it is to be remembered that there is no ecumenical sentence affirming the fact either that Honorius's letters to Sergius contain heresy, or that they were intended to define the question with which they deal. The sentence passed by the fathers of the council has ecumenical value only in so far as it was approved by Leo II; but, in approving the condemnation of Honorius, his successor adds the very important qualification that he is condemned, not for the doctrinal reason that he taught heresy, but on the moral ground that he was wanting in the vigilance expected from him in his Apostolic office and thereby allowed a heresy to make headway which he should have crushed in its beginnings.

Pope Vigilius. There is still less reason for trying to found an objection to papal infallibility on the wavering conduct of Pope Vigilius in connection with the controversy of the Three Chapters; and it is all the more needless to delay upon this instance as most modern opponents of the papal claims no longer appeal to it.

Galileo. As to the Galileo affair, it is quite enough to point out the fact that the condemnation of the heliocentric theory was the work of a fallible tribunal. The pope cannot delegate the exercise of his infallible authority to the Roman Congregations, and whatever issues formally in the name of any of these, even when approved and confirmed in the ordinary official way by the pope, does not pretend to be ex cathedra and infallible. The pope, of course, can convert doctrinal decisions of the Holy Office, which are not in themselves infallible, into ex cathedra papal pronouncements, but in doing so he must comply with the conditions already explained -- which neither Paul V nor Urban VIII did in the Galileo case.

Conclusion. The broad fact, therefore, remains certain that no ex cathedra definition of any pope has ever been shown to be erroneous.

There are two main bodies: the Pope ("papal magisterium") and then the unanimous council of bishops ("universal magisterium").

Each can teach authoritatively (but fallibly), or in very special cases, infallibly.

Only teachings through cases 2 and 4 below are doctrinally considered infallible, and only case 2 is what I'm talking about here (the Pope's extraordinary magisterium):

The papal and the universal magisterium express themselves in two ways:

1) The ordinary magisterium
2) The extraordinary magisterium (magisterium solemne)

What is the difference?

Ordinary = Not itself a solemn definition of a teaching to be understood as infallible. Examples are past teachings on slavery, as well as current teachings on contraception.

Extraordinary = A solemn definition that is intended to be understood as infallible. The defintions by Pius IX on the Immaculate Conception and Pius XII on the Assumption are prime examples.

Thus, there can be the following four categories of magisterial teaching:

1) The ordinary papal magisterium
2) The extraordinary papal magisterium
3) The ordinary universal magisterium
4) The extraordinary universal magisterium

8:09 PM, September 25, 2006  
Blogger Terror-Free said...

New Pope Shows Spine
Islamonazi CAIR Is Not Impressed - video

Please Call The Vatican Embassy In Washington, DC at (202) 333-7121 to Express Your Support!

4:50 PM, September 26, 2006  

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