Category Archives: Infallibility

It’s extremely complex

Roman Catholics are forced to rely on private interpretation in order to avoid the pitfalls of private interpretation.
Roman Catholics are forced to rely on private interpretation in order to avoid the pitfalls of private interpretation.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “revelation,” or the “deposit of faith,” is that “which has been committed” to the Roman Catholic church, “and which she proposes to all her members for their acceptance.” As Catholic Answers helpfully defines, the “doctrines of the Catholic Church are the deposit of faith revealed by Jesus Christ, taught by the apostles, and handed down in their entirety by the apostles to their successors.” Having been entrusted with “the faith which was once delivered” (Jude 3), the  Roman Catholic church is alleged to be the only authorized custodian and teacher of that deposit (Catholic Encyclopedia, Revelation). Continue reading It’s extremely complex

How to resolve an historical paradox

Escher's Drawing Hands
Escher’s Drawing Hands is illustrative of Rome’s self-validating Tradition.

M. C. Escher’s Drawing Hands shows two drawn hands drawing each other, each hand getting its power to draw from the other. True to Escher’s style, a paradox is presented to the eye of the beholder, and the paradox is never resolved—the eye must continually move from one object to the other. Each time the eye settles on an apparently solid 3-dimensional object that can make sense of the rest of the picture, the paradox reappears. The search for the original, “authoritative” hand never ends.

We believe this is a good illustration of Roman Catholicism’s view of Tradition because Tradition is based on what Rome teaches, and what Rome teaches is based on Tradition. We gave an example of this in our recent post, All the Way Back. In that post, Roman priest and Marian devotee, Fr. Thomas Livius, showed the origins of Marian doctrines from the Fathers of the first six centuries. When he arrived at the teachings of Origen, Basil and Cyril—that the sword that pierced Mary’s soul (Luke 2:35) was the sword of doubt and unbelief—rather than accept that the early church understood that Mary was sinful, Livius spends his next three pages correcting Origen, as well as Basil and Cyril who agreed with him.

This raises the obvious question: Continue reading How to resolve an historical paradox

Infallibility’s Fatal Flaw

Trial of Pope Formosa's Cadaver
The cadaver of infallible Pope Formosus was put on trial in 897 AD, and found guilty of perjury, among other charges.

In 897 AD, Pope Stephen VII had Pope Formosus’ body exhumed and put on trial at the infamous Cadaver Synod, during which the corpse was found guilty, and stripped of his papal vestments. Pope Theodore II later convened a synod and overturned Pope Stephen’s findings, as did Pope John IX after him. But later, Pope Sergius III overturned the rulings of Theodore II and John IX, and reaffirmed the conviction of Formosus. Perhaps Formosus’ corpse will find some little comfort in the knowledge that it is still—at least for now—listed on Rome’s “unbroken line of popes” currently on display at the Vatican.

We find a papal corpse a particularly fitting background image for this post on infallibility’s fatal flaw. The Roman Pontiff, in order that the Church may share in Christ’s infallibility, says the Catechism, “enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 891). But there is one problem: nobody knows when the Pope is speaking infallibly, nobody knows how often a pope has spoken infallibly, and nobody knows what the criteria are for when a pope is speaking infallibly. Continue reading Infallibility’s Fatal Flaw