Edward Feser on Papal Infallibility

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Edward Feser has authored as good a summary on papal infallibility – or, in this case, papal fallibility – as you will ever read. There’s too much there to go through and quote, so take the time and read through it when you have the chance.

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  1. Excellent article. Most informative. It is interesting that Catholics who wish to have Pope Francis teaching on climate change and income redistribution be infallible are often the same ones who wish to have Church teaching on abortion and euthanasia be subject to their own personal judgement of conscience.

  2. I have posted a comment on Fesser’s original article:-
    The borderline between questions of doctrine and questions of fact is by no means always clear-cut.
    All theologians accept that Pope Innocent X’s condemnation of the famous Five Propositions of Jansenism in Cum Occasione of 1653 was an exercise of the infallible magisterium. The pope claimed that these propositions were taught in the Augustinus of Cornelius Jansen.
    In 1656, in Ad Sanctam Beati Petri Sedem, Pope Alexander VII declared that since some still insisted that those propositions were not to be found in the Augustinus, or were not meant by the author in the sense in which they were condemned, he declares that they are contained in the Augustinus, and have been condemned according to the sense of the author. It is hard to see how this could possibly be a question of faith or morals.
    Nevertheless, in 1664 in Regiminis Apostolici, he imposed on the clergy subscription of a formula, submitting “to the apostolic constitution of the Supreme Pontiff Innocent X dated May 31, 1653, and to the constitution of the Supreme Pontiff Alexander VII dated October 16, 1656, and, with a sincere heart, I reject and condemn the five propositions taken from the book of Cornelius Jansen entitled Augustinus and in the sense understood by that same author, just as the Apostolic See has condemned them by the two above-mentioned constitutions and so I swear.” How anyone could subscribe that formula in good conscience who had not read the Augustinus or who differed from the Pope’s interpretation is an interesting question. Were they required to make a submission of faith to the Pope’s judgment?

  3. This observation, within Feser’s great article, by then-Card. Ratzinger, is highly pertinent at the present time in the present pontificate:

    Thus the Spirit’s role [in a papal election] should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined. (Quoted in John Allen, Conclave: The Politics, Personalities, and Process of the Next Papal Election)

    That is all I am hoping for — “that the thing cannot be totally ruined..” The Catholic Church, that is.

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