Amazing articles on just about every subject...


Mr. Gladstone's `infallibility' And The Pope's Infallibility

( Originally Published 1875 )



MR. GLADSTONE'S ` infallibility ' and the Pope's in-fallibility are two very different things. But before I draw the line between them, and show in what respects they differ, to clear the way before me I must remove one or two more of his misconceptions.

As one proof that ` Rome has substituted for the proud boast of semper cadem a policy of violence and change in faith,' Mr. Gladstone expostulates in these words : ` It is necessary for all who wish to understand what has been the amount of the wonderful change now consummated in the constitution of the Latin Church, and what is the present degradation of its episcopal order, to observe also the change, amounting to revolution, of form in the present, as compared with other conciliatory decrees. . . . When, in fact, we speak of the decrees of the Council of the Vatican, we use a phrase which will not bear examination. The canons of the Council of Trent were, at least, the real canons of a real Council ; and the strain in which they are promulgated is this : Haec sacrosancta, ecumenic/ et generalis Tridentina Synodus, in Spiritu Sancto legitime gata, in ea praesidentibus eisdem tribus apostolicis Legatis, hortatur, or docet, or statuit, or decernit, and the like ; and its canons, as published in Rome, are " canones et decreta sacrosaucti ecumenici Concilie Tridentina," and so forth. But what we have now to do with is the Constitutio Dog inatica Prima de Ecclesia Christi, edita in sessioize tertia of the Vatican Council. It is not a constitution made by the Council, but one promulgated in the Council. And who is it that legislates and decrees ? It is Pius Episcopus, Scrvus Servorum Del; and the seductive plural of his docemus et declaramus is simply the dignified " we " of royal declarations. The document is dated Pontificatus nostri Anno XXV.; and the humble share of the assembled Episcopate in the trans-action is represented by sacro approbante Concilie.'

There is such a conscious tone of having caught the Pope in an act of ` revolution,' of form at least. and the Episcopate in ` present degradation,' in this passage, such an unction, too, of conscious superiority over Rome, that, as a specimen of ` expostulation,' not a word of it could be spared the reader. Let us, then, use a little of that ` modern thought and ancient history,' which, whatever Mr. Gladstone may say, we have no intention of discarding, especially in the present case.

First be it observed, that in the course of eighteen centuries the Church must be expected to make many changes in disciplinary forms. Her whole history shows that she does so. Always the same in doctrine, although some doctrines may at one time be held implicity, at another explicitly—always the same like-wise in the fundamental principles of that discipline which springs from her divine constitution—in the application of its details the Church, as her history most clearly tells, knows how to vary according to circumstances and conditions, so that the spirit of her constitution may be the more perfectly preserved. For law is like an arm, and form is a species of law. Its basis, the fundamental principles of right, is fixed unchangeably on the divine authority, as the upper arm is fixed unchangeably upon the body ; whilst the hand, the changeable application, adapts itself in varied movements to the ever-varying objects and circumstances which it has to take hold of, yet always resting on one and the same unchanged basis, as change of law rests on unchangeable right.

The solution of Mr. Gladstone's difficulty is this. General Councils are held in one or the other of two distinct forms, and hence there are two distinct and different forms in which their decrees are drawn up and promulgated. Either the Pope presides by his Legates or he presides in person. When the Pope presides over a Council by his Legates, the decrees run in the name of the Council, and this authenticates them when presented to the Pope for his authoritative approval, enforcement, and promulgation. The earlier General Councils were held in the East, and were presided over by Papal Legates, and after their conclusion they were submitted to the Pope, who gave them authentic approbation and effect. The first over which the Popes pre-sided in person were the first four General Councils of Lateran. Of the first three the decrees remain, but not the acts or forms. Of the First, in 1123, we have the bare decrees, without mention of the authority by which they were approved or promulgated. The Second, in 1139, under Innocent II., and the Third, in 1179, are drawn up in the form of Papal Constitutions with the formula Sacra approbante Concilio, precisely as in the Vatican Council. The Fourth, in 1215, under Innocent III., runs likewise in the Pope's name. Mr. Gladstone, in a note, suggests that though some hold it to be so, this is not established. But, as given in Harduin, and as extracted in the authentic decretals of Gregory IX there is the very style and even the terms that Mr. Gladstone reprobates as an innovation of Pius IX. and the Vatican Council. The decrees of the Fourth Council of Lateran begin with the words, ` Nos autem, sacra-sancta et universali Concilia approbante.' The decrees of the First General Council of Lyons, under Innocent IV., run obviously in the Pope's name, and such phrases as these occur in them : ' We therefore, confiding in the mercy of Almighty God, and in the authority of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul ; ' and ` We receive them into the protection of Blessed Peter and our own.' These terms belong exclusively to Papal documents. The delinquencies of Frederic IV. were discussed by the Council, but the constitution giving sentence is the Pope's, with the clause sacro presente Concilie.

The decrees of the Second General Council of Lyons, where the Greeks and Latins were united, are given in an apostolic constitution of Gregory X., who presided. In the General Council of Vienne there was but one decree, the judgment on the Templars. It was given in a constitution of the presiding Pontiff, Clement V. In the famous Council of Florence, where for the last time the Greeks and Latins were united, Pope Eugenius IV. presided, and the form observed is precisely that of the Vatican Council. The decree or ` definition,' as the decree of faith was called, is in the form of a Papal Constitution, which begins: Eugenius Episcopus servus servorum Dei. It states at the outset that the Greek Emperor John Paleologus, the delegates of the Patriarchs, and representatives of the Eastern Bishops approved ; it begins the definition of doctrine in words identical with the doctrinal constitutions of ti e Vatican : ` hoc sacre approbante universali Florentin Concilio definimus.' After the signature of the Pope follow the signatures of all the Latin and Greek Prelates. It is evident that the Greeks raised no more objection to this form than the Latins, for their subscriptions prove the contrary.

The like forms are used in the Fifth Council of the Lateran, presided over by Leo X. I might have equally referred to the Council of Constance, after the election of Pope Martin V. had taken place in the Council. And although the mode of proceeding in that Council was really informal, inasmuch as its members voted by nations, a portion of its doctrinal decrees obtained force through the dogmatic constitution of Martin V. The difference of style, then, between Trent, and the Vatican is obviously based upon an in-variable rule of the Church, and is no innovation of Pius IX.

It must not be forgotten that it was the Bishops in the Vatican Council who discussed and settled the terms of the two dogmatic constitutions, suppressing, adding to, and modifying the original drafts by their majorities. During the discussions the Pope was absent, and only present at the final votings. Every Bishop within the Council gave his placet or non placet, there being but two itou placets uttered in defining the Infallibility. The Pope never opened his lips on the question before the Council until all discussion and voting was completed ; he then gave the final judgment. All the Bishops, moreover, subscribed the constitution after the Pope, as defining, and their names are all printed as defining in the authentic edition of the Council.

It has commonly been considered a foolish thing to slay the slain ; but I cannot help noticing Mr. Gladstone's instancing, as one token of change, that the canons of Trent ` are published in Rome as " canones et decreta sacrosancti cumenici Concilii Tridentini," and so forth. But what we have now to do with is the Constitutio Dog »naticaPrinza de Ecciesia Christi, edita in session tertia of the Vatican Council.' Precisely so. But it so happens that my official copy of the Council of the Vatican has a similar title to that of Trent. The title is: Acta et Decrcta Sacrosancti Œcumentci Concilii Vaticaiti. Mr. Gladstone has confounded the title of a constitution with the title of the entire Council ; and if he will turn over the pages of his copy of the Council of Trent, he will there find a title resembling that which has given him so much offence. It stands as follows :

Bulla S. D. AT. Pli Divina Provideutia Papa I V. suffer con firmatione oecumenici genera/is Concilii Tride ntlinz.

In that Bull are contained these words, without which the Council would be of no effect : ` With the counsel and consent of our brethren [the Cardinals], we this day have confirmed by Apostolic authority all and each [of the decrees and canons of the Council], and have decreed that they be received and observed by all the faithful.' So the Queen, and not the Parliament, makes our laws ; they run in the Queen's name, the Parliament consenting.

The expostulator may depend upon it that the Church is semper eadem. But it is curious to notice how the language of his accusation of change shifts about. First he tells us that within the days of his memory ' the constant, favourite, and imposing argument of Roman controversialists was the unbroken and absolute identity of belief of the Roman Church from the day of our Saviour until now. He then notes a sensible change in the present tenor of our literature ` during the last forty years.'* Secondly, he speaks of the deadly blows of 1854 and 1870' aimed at ` the old historic, scientific, and moderate school,' which ' surely was an act of violence.' And in several other passages we are told that the evil claim of the Pope to Infallibility and unlimited obedience dates from 1870. But then in a note we are told that ` the gist of the evil we are dealing with consists in following (and enforcing) precedents from the age of Pope Innocent III.' That Is, from 1215, which makes six centuries and a half. Then we are told, on the same authority, that ' the Popes had kept up, with comparative little intermission, for well-nigh a thousand years, their claim to dogmatic Infallibility; and had, at periods within the same tract of time, often enough made, and never retracted, that other claim which is theoretically less but practically larger—their claim to an obedience virtually universal from the baptised members of the Church.'

On the two very points on which Mr. Gladstone has raised all this clamor, and that on the express ground of violent and even revolutionary change, by his own admission, the Church has been substantially the same, as far as these Papal claims are concerned, for well-nigh a thousand years. Yet he complains, and invites Catholics to complain, that, by the decrees of 1870, ` the religion of a man has been changed for him, over his head, and without the very least of his participation.'» Well, the doctrines have not been changed, but defined by the Pontiff and the Episcopate—first by the Episcopate, as far as their judgment was concerned, and finally by the Pontiff—and they teach the unchangeable faith of the Catholic Church.

I will venture to quote an English author who by no means accords with the sentiment I have just quoted. ` Our Redeemer,' he says, ` as we are henceforward to assume, founded upon earth a visible and permanent society, cohering, and intended always to cohere, by means of a common profession of belief, but also of common and public ordinances, which by their outward form constituted and sealed the visible union of believers ; while, by the inward spiritual grace attached to them, they were also destined to regenerate men in Christ, and to build them up in Him, and thus to constitute their inward and essential as well as their external oneness. Now there has been in practice the closest connection between the doctrines of a visible Church, and that of spiritual grace in the Sacraments, and that of an Apostolical Succession in the ministry ; so that in general they have been received or rejected together.

Then, after a few pages, speaking of the ordinances of the Church, the author says : ` Now it would be a supposition most repugnant to all antecedent probability, that the administration of such ordinances under such circumstances (that is, the having to cope with all the opposing forces of the unbelieving world, and yet more with all the bitterly, though more subtilely, hostile influences which the breast of every man professing allegiance to the Saviour supplies) would be committed to the members of the society at large ; and this for several reasons. First, because of the high and mysterious connection between their outward form and their substance, and of the blessings they convey, we should expect them in the hands of those whose function in life it is especially to know and to guard the treasures of Christianity. . . Therefore their administration becomes a matter of government and discipline, and one, too, requiring the best—nay, indeed, much more than the best—discernment that is to be found among men for its right management ; from whence it seems to follow, that as different persons are adapted in various degrees for such an office, and as the mass are not at all fit for it, while the very best are but imperfectly capable of its discharge, it should be kept in the hands of a select body of persons, the most suit-able that can be secured.'

And in another passage, speaking of succession from the Apostles, If there be a divine commission, not a figurative, but an actual, not a supposed, but an attested commission involved in the true idea of the Christian ministry, then we have a way open for us naturally and readily to believe that the gifts and graces which belong to the author of that commission indeed closely attached to its legitimate exercise. Then we have a full and adequate representation of the religious dispensation under which we live, as a system of powerful influences emanating altogether from God, and operating upon us as their necessitous recipients ; and that relation between Him and our-selves, which we must correctly apprehend in order to perceive the adaptation of the Christian doctrines to their purposes, is rightly established in the ideas of His unbounded might and bounty on the one hand, and of our absolute weakness and need on the other—of Him as the universal Giver, and of us as receivers qualified by necessity alone.'

And soon after the author says : ` The argument from the commission to preach and instruct, and from the power of the keys, is nearly parallel, and is corroborative of that from the authority requisite for the right administration of Sacraments.'

It would be a very liard task to reconcile these beautiful passages with Mr. Gladstone's demand on the Catholic people to disclaim the teaching of the Apostolic See and the Episcopate, or with the complaint he makes of their acquiescing in the having their religion changed over their heads without their concurrence. But the author of these extracts is Mr. Gladstone.* No doubt he often contradicts his own church Principles in the details of the very book from which they are quoted ; but these are, or were, Mr. Gladstone's principles.

It is impossible to take up all the misconceptions contained in the sixty-six pages of the Expostulation, but there is a glaring one about ex cathedra definitions, where he says that ` there is no established or accepted definition of the phrase ex cathedra,' and that no one

has power to obtain one, and no guide to direct choice among some twelve theories on the subject, which, it is said, are bandied to and fro among Roman theologians, except the despised and discarded agency of his private judgment.' The whole of his argument rests upon the authority of it is said. Doubtless, whilst agreeing in the main, theologians differed as to minor conditions of what was a true and complete definition of the term ex cathedra before it was dogmatically used and defined ; yet they always agreed that it was the official act of the Pope teaching the Church. Mr. Gladstone asks for an ` accepted definition,' and the Council has given him one. It was before his eyes in the decree of Infallibility he had just quoted. No sooner does the Church in Council introduce the term ex cathedra than she gives its authentic definition, and, what is more, its very terms are taken word for word from the dogmatic decree of the Council of Florence, which was signed by both Greeks and Latins. The definition is in these terms: ` When he (the Pope) speaks ex cathedrt —that is to say, when discharging the office of Pastor and Doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority—he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals.

There was a time when Mr. Gladstone had no difficulty in his own judgment of defining what is ex cathedra. In 1840, in his Church Principles, after quoting Gregory XVI.'s condemnation of indifferentism as maintained by the unhappy De la Mennais, he says : ` And this the Pope promulgated ex cathedra, as being infallibly decided by his voice, and as being obligatory upon all the children of the Church to receive.' * Four-and-. thirty years ago Mr. Gladstone understood the term ex cathedra, and could even apply it to Papal documents where both the term definimus and the term anathema are wanting. He could even think at that period that it ` became obligatory on all the children of the Church to receive it ' ; that is, the Papal condemnation. Why, then, should he first be shocked in 1874 that the Council should define in 1870 what he believed in 1840 was the Catholic doctrine of Papal Infallibility and obedience to the Pope ?

And now let us approach the Council itself. The Expostulation goes to suggest that the Council was convened mainly with a view of defining the Infallibility, and that the definition itself was brought about, chiefly for political objects, through the action of the Pontiff and ` a dominant party.' A falser notion could not be entertained. I have the official catalogue before me of the schemata prepared by the theologians for discussion in the Council. In them the Infallibility is not even mentioned ; far the greater part or them regard ecclesiastical discipline. Through mundane revolution such vast changes had taken place in the condition of the Church and its affairs since the Council of Trent, that in a very large portion of the Church many of the laws of discipline enacted three hundred years ago had ceased to be applicable, and new enactments were imperatively required. In discussing these, a not inconsiderable progress had been made when calamitous events suspended the Council. The whole doctrinal schema respecting the Church and the Papal primacy was presented to the Council, and discussed without there being a word respecting the Papal Infallibility in the programme. For although that point had been prepared by the theologians, representing not merely Rome, but all the principal Churches, before the Council began it was decided not to introduce it. Accordingly, the schema on the Church and the Papacy appeared with-out it. What, then, gave subsequent rise to the introduction of the doctrine of the Infallibility ? The chief moving cause was the incessant attacks made upon the Council, originating with the unsound German profess-ors. They assumed, even before the Council sat, that the Infallibility was to be carried, and that by some stratagem issuing in acclamation of the doctrine ; their attacks were reverberated from other quarters, and the world was full of them ; whilst the Bishops, absorbed in the Council, could not reply. The very fear which these men showed at the thought of the Infallibility, their loud denial of its being an article of Catholic doctrine and tradition, and the way in which, with all the say to themselves, they managed to establish an influence, raised the question to one of supreme practical gravity.

Many of the Bishops began to reflect, and to communicate their reflections one to another. It was observed how much these men, some of whose other doctrines had been already corrected at Rome, were in fear of the Infallibility. Their positive denial of it was noted, and their spurious defence of the opposite doctrine. If this was not repelled, it would go far towards establishing the impression that the doctrine was not definable ; the result would be, that men like the writers in the Augsburg Gazette, notwithstanding the traditional teaching of the Church, and the canonical practice of all times that involved the Papal Infallibility, would resist or disown the doctrinal decisions of the Pontiff whenever brought against them. The consequence would be that the authority of the Pontiff definitively to settle controversies of doctrine, which the Church had ever acknowledged and acted upon, would be set at naught by a party within the Church, and between Council and Council there would be no authority recognized by them that could with irresistible vigour put down new errors against faith or moral doctrine. There \vas precisely that justification for action which Mr. Gladstone ascribes to the definitions of the earlier Church. ` The justification,' he says, ` of the ancient definitions of the Church, which have endured the storms of fifteen hundred years, was to be found in this—that they were not arbitrary or wilful, but that they wholly sprang from, and related to, theories rampant at the time, and regarded as menacing to Christian belief. Even the canons of the Council of Trent have in the main this amount, apart from their matter, of presumptive warrant.'

Besides the motives already assigned, to borrow Mr. Gladstone's words again, ` the levity of the destructive speculations so widely current, and the notable hardihood of the anti-Christian writing of today,' as it appeared to many Bishops, rendered it all the more important that the Pope should be armed with that full strength with which Christ had invested Peter and his successors, to confirm his brethren in the truth, and to smite with irreversible judgment the false doctrines that might lift up their pride within the Church. For these reasons many Bishops united in a postulation that the question of Papal Infallibility might be brought into the Council; and accordingly it was introduced. Once introduced, there could be no doubt of the decision ; for even those Prelates who argued against its opportuneness, with the exception of three or four, maintained the doctrine. I have already declared that no political motive, or notion of giving political dominion to the Pope, ever entered the minds of those to whom we owe the definition.

It remains to consider the meaning and extent of the Infallibility: first, as it is viewed through the prejudices of Mr. Gladstone ; secondly, as it is understood and defined, and so limited, by the Council. Mr. Gladstone says, that ` the reach of the Infallibility is as wide as it may please the Pope, or those who prompt the Pope, to make it.'. This he asserts on the ground that the sense of the limiting term ex cathedra is undefined. But we have shown that the Council itself de-fined the term. He likewise asserts that the office formerly claimed by the Church was 'principally that of a witness to facts,' but that now, especially within the last forty years, the claim is ` principally that of a judge, if not a revealer, of doctrine.' And then we have it asserted that in the earlier claim ' the processes were subject to a constant challenge to history, maintaining the truth and power of history, and the Inestimable value of the historic spirit.' But, ` in the second, no amount of historical testimony can avail against the unmeasured power of development.'

This is the intellectual basis of Dr. Döllinger's party as exhibited in their maifesto, the book entitled Janus; in which book the whole of Mr. Gladstone's arguments may be found, with all their heresy. That book, written previously in the shape of articles in the Augsburg Gazette, and that before the definition, has since become their plea for rejecting the Council. Let Mr. Gladstone read the reply to it in the Anti-`Janus of Dr. Hergenrother, and, if his mind be candid, he will see how far an appeal to history upon foregone conclusions respecting doctrine will carry men away from historic truth. The old Protestant principle of private judgment, as against the teaching authority of the Church, was the appeal to Scripture. The new principle of private judgment of Dr. Döllinger and his party, as against her authority, is the appeal to history. This is precisely that spirit of historical criticism that I denounced in my Pastoral.

The assertion that until recent times the Church acted as witness, not as judge, of doctrine, presents us with a most singular example of modern thought arrayed against ancient history. What were the decrees and the canons, the anathemas and the excommunications pronounced against heresies and heresiarchs, of all the ancient Councils, and of so many of the older Popes, but doctrinal judgments ?

Then as to the charge of substituting unmeasured development for the testimony of history. The Church witnesses to two sources of evidence before she pronounces upon her own doctrine. The first is the actual existing belief of the Catholic world; the second is the tradition come down through the ages from the beginning. The full testimony of the actual living Church was within the Vatican Council in the voice of her Bishops, representing every clime and nation ; and for the tradition of the past, never was history so thoroughly searched before, and that on both sides of the question, in dissertations written by 158 of the Fathers for the use of the Council ; in discussions pro-longed until history and argument were absolutely exhausted ; and in a flood of pamphlets circulated among the Fathers. The constitution in which the Infallibility is defined cites decisions of the Second Council of Lyons and that of Florence, in both of which the doctrine had already been virtually defined by the Greeks and Latins united. It also quoted the Fourth Council of Constantinople of 869. But this by no means represents the evidence brought forward in discussion from much earlier Councils and Fathers, and from the Sacred Scriptures. Indeed, it may be safely said, that to an unprejudiced eye the evidence of the Sacred Writings is much stronger and more persuasive for the Infallibility of Peter's successor than for that of the Episcopate. On this subject there was no call whatsoever for the principle of development ; nor do I think it was once mentioned.

Mr. Gladstone is fond of putting his statements in the shape of questions, and he asks : ` Will it be said that the Infallibility of the Pope accrues only when he speaks ex cathedra ?' * This question insinuates the contrary. But the Council strictly limits the Infallibility to ex cathedra decisions ; and the objector ought to understand that such documents are of strict interpretation, and that no one has a right to affirm that more is contained in the decree than is expressed. Again, it is asked : ` Will it be said that the Infallibility only touches faith and morals ? Only matters of morals ! ' t And here, by way of illustrating the extent of morals, Mr. GIadstone very correctly describes our human life as involving duty at every step, as if the Pope pursued every man throughout his life, pronouncing ex cathedra judgments upon all his acts. He confounds judgment upon moral doctrine with judgment upon moral acts, and by this confusion of ideas contrives to bring all human life under the prerogative of Infallibility. No wonder that, after this monstrous widening of the sphere of Infallibility, he is enabled to hurl so many figures of rhetoric against, not the Pope's Infallibility, but his own invention. Such, then, are Mr. Gladstone's misconceptions of the Papal Infallibility. I low completely it illustrates Dr. Newman's well-known remark, that ` true testimony is unequal to the Protest-ant view ' !

It remains to see what the Infallibility as defined by the Council truly is, and what it truly is first say, that the Church is not responsible for either doctrines or their applications as given by those who, even though members of the Church, are not her authorised teachers, in whatever shape they may appear. Nor is it fair to pick out the obiter dicta of competent writers and exhibit them as Catholic doctrine. The only way of fair dealing is to take the formal expositions of competent authorities when expressly directed to explain an article of faith. So we take the legal expositions of judges, so the evidence of experts.

Before giving the definition of the Infallibility, it will be expedient to observe that the whole chapter in which it is contained underwent considerable alteration from the Bishops as the result of their discussions. For example, the original title of the chapter was De Romani Pontificis Infallibili Auctoritate. But the word auctoritate was altered to magisterio, with the express intention of marking that the infallible authority was limited to teaching For greater convenience I give the definition in an English version of it as follows :

`The Sacred Council approving, we teach and define that it is a dogma divinely revealed, that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks cathedra—that is, when, in discharge of the office of Pastor and Doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the Universal Church, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter—is possessed of that Infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that His Church should be endowed for defining doctrine regarding faith or morals ; and that therefore such definitions of the Roman Pontiff-are irreformable of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church. But if any one—which may God avert—presume to contradict this our definition, let him be anathema.'

As an objection has been raised in the Times that there is no canon and no anathema attached to the definition, it may be well to observe, first, that definitions of doctrine are not always put in the form of canons, although they were so in the Council of Trent ; secondly, that the clause docemus et divinitus revelatum dogma esse definimus begins the definition ; thirdly, that the definition does conclude with the anathema sit against all who presume to contradict this definition, which is the equivalent of a canon. The definition strictly limits the Infallibility to doctrine of faith and of morals, and that only when the Pope is exercising his Apostolic authority in teaching all Christians from the Apostolic Chair. Mr. Gladstone confounds throughout his pamphlet moral conduct with moral doctrine ; but the Infallibility is expressly limited in the text to doctrine of faith and doctrine of morals, or moral doctrine, which, in fact, is of the elements of faith as well as of ethics.

`The reach of the Infallibility is as wide,' says Mr. Gladstone, ` as it may please the Pope, or those who prompt the Pope, to make it.'* And he even questions whether it may not enable the Pope to proclaim new revelations. This shows that he has never carefully studied the text of the definitions, nor the exposition of its sense delivered in the preamble. In that exposition it is expressly stated that ` the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter, that by revelation they might make known new doctrine, but that by His assistance they might inviolably keep and faith-fully expound the revelation or deposit of faith delivered through the Apostles.' This, then, is another limitation to the Infallibility, that it is not by revelation, nor does it extend to new doctrines, but is, by assistance of the Holy Ghost, to keep the deposit of faith delivered from the beginning.

In another passage of the preliminary exposition it is shown that the Pope employs all wise and judicial precautions in taking the testimony of the Church to any doctrine before defining it. ` The Roman Pontiffs,' it says, ` according to the exigencies of time and circumstances, sometimes assembling CEcumenical Councils, or asking for the mind of the Church scattered throughout the world, sometimes by particular Synods, sometimes by using other helps which Divine Providence supplied, have defined as to be held those things which, with the help of God, they had recognised as conformable to the Scriptures and Apostolic traditions.' This brief narrative of the measures taken by the Popes securely to obtain the sense of the Church before pronouncing a doctrinal judgment was inserted into the decree as one of the results of discussion in the Council.

The distinction between the false Infallibility, as Mr. Gladstone has been taught to view it, and the true Infallibility held by the Church, has been admirably expressed by the late learned and lamented Père Gratry. Misled like others as to what the Council really intended, he wrote against the definition; but before he died the actual decree reached his hands, and he wrote, in his retractation :

`I combated an inspired Infallibility ; the Council's decree rejects inspired Infallibility. I combated a personal Infallibility ; the decree gives but an official In-fallibility. Writers of a school I thought excessive were undesirous of a limitation to Infallibility ex cathedra as being too narrow ; and the decree but gives Infallibility ex cathedra. I almost feared a scientific Infallibility, a political and governmental Infallibility ; and the decree gives but doctrinal Infallibility in matter of faith and morals.'

A more authoritative exposition of the limits of Papal Infallibility was given in the joint Pastoral of the Swiss Bishops in the year following that of the Council, which received the commendation of the Pope himself, and in which is contained the following passage : ` It cannot be said that the Roman Pontiff is personally in-fallible, in the sense that each of his affirmations is in-fallible, and that it depends but on his personal views to impose faith in new dogmas upon the faithful. The Pope is neither infallible as a man, nor as a scholar, nor as a priest, nor as a bishop, nor as a temporal prince, nor as a judge, nor as a legislator. He is neither infallible nor incapable of sin in his life and con-duct, in his political views, in his relations with princes, nor even in the government of the Church ; but he is solely and exclusively infallible when, in his quality of supreme Doctor of the Church, he pronounces a decision in matter of faith or morals that ought to be accepted and held as obligatory by all the people.'

I might give extracts in the same sense from the most valuable work of the late Bishop Fessier, the learned Secretary-General to the Council, for which he received a congratulatory Brief from the Sovereign Pontiff. But as the work itself, entitled the True and False Infallibility of the Popes, will speedily appear in an English translation, I refrain from doing so. Having disposed of half the ground of Mr. Gladstone's Expostulation, I proceed to dispose of the other half.

Home | More Articles | Email: info@oldandsold.com