From time to time we can meet in the Catholic world an opinion, which deals with an important issue of the current Church’s crisis, and apparently leads to the proper solution of the problem. But when we look closer to its content, it appears that, however the sole conclusion seems right, nevertheless the reasoning is wrong-based. It is worth to spend a longer time on investigating the issue, because such an error does not only help to foster the truth contained in the conclusion, but also hinders its fruitful, persistent propagation by placing it on a false basis, thus making it vulnerable to attacks from the opponents of the thesis. It is also an opportunity to become familiar with more detailed argumentation regarding the discussed issue and help other people in this field.
Last autumn, I came across an article of Mr. Andrew Cionci regarding the Bergoglian antipapacy republished on the “From Rome” website run by Brother Alexis Bugnolo OFM. The piece was posted under the title “How Bergoglio unmasked so many Traddies and Conservatives as Modernists” on the 10th of October 2021 A.D at the following location:
Having noticed some flaws in the main argumentation of the article and inquired further into them, I prepared a commentary and sent it to the site for authorisation and publication. It has not happened so far, therefore I find it useful to publish my remarks on this site. Moreover, since the title of the abovementioned publication seems to mark some not-liberal Catholics as modernists: particularly H.E. Archbishop Charles Mary Vigano named in the editor’s note, what, in my opinion, borders to slander, it could be also morally advantageous to stand up in their defense by highlighting the futility of such hasty accusations.
Laudetur Iesus Christus!
I would like to make some comments regarding the quoted above article, as I find it advisable to attract the attention of the readers to some doctrinal aspects of the Church’s Magisterium. Please excuse my language errors; I am not a fluent speaker of this language. [Unfortunately the formatting of my text has been cleared, thus no emphasis for crucial parts will be shown.]
The quotation from a catechism is taken out of its full context; the whole article is as follows:
“892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent” which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.”
My comment: The Ordinary Magisterium (of itself) does not employ infallibility; logically it does not require (of itself) the assent of faith since Divine faith implies infallibility; while The Ordinary and Universal Magisterium does it require. Divine assistance, as concerns the discussed case, does not imply infallibility; in case of an infallible (ergo definitive, i.e. irreformable) teaching Divine assistance assures both possibility of attaining the truth and preservation from falling into error.
See further the “Tuas libenter” letter from H.H. Pius IX:
“(…)For, even if it were a matter concerning that subjection which is to be manifested by an act of divine faith, nevertheless, it would not have to be limited to those matters which have been defined by express decrees of the ecumenical Councils, or of the Roman Pontiffs and of this See, but would have to be extended also to those matters which are handed down as divinely revealed by the ordinary teaching power of the whole Church spread throughout the world, and therefore, by universal and common consent are held by Catholic theologians to belong to faith.”
Please read carefully the quotation from H.E. Louis Francis Ladaria:
“It is important to reiterate that infallibility concerns not only the solemn pronouncements of a Council or of the Supreme Pontiff when he speaks ex-cathedra, but also the ordinary and universal teaching of the bishops throughout the world, when they propose, in communion with each other and with the Pope, Catholic doctrine to be held definitively.”
My comment: Monsignor Ladaria states that: infallibility concerns not the ordinary teaching as a whole, but only the ordinary and universal teaching, thus provided further conditions are fulfilled: in communion… – which is quite obvious (but in fact requires a deep understanding as it concerns not only synchronic but also diachronic consistency), and in a “definitive manner”. One can easily fall into a “pars pro toto” error and hastily extend infallibility to the whole ordinary teaching, contrary to the literal meaning of the quotation.
Behold some of the teachings of the Vatican Council on the sources of the infallible Magisterium (it is only a translation which I put for the sake of popular understanding, and probably not an exact one, so in case of any doubt please refer to the original text which can easily be found in the internet):
Session III, Chapter 3 on Faith:
“Further, by divine and Catholic faith, all those things must be believed which are contained in the written word of God and in tradition, and those which are proposed by the Church, either in a solemn pronouncement or in her ordinary and universal teaching power, to be believed as divinely revealed.”
Session IV, Dogmatic Constitution I on the Church of Christ:
“And so We, (…), teach and explain that the dogma has been divinely revealed: that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when carrying out the duty of the pastor and teacher of all Christians in accord with his supreme apostolic authority he explains a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, through the divine assistance promised him in blessed Peter, operates with that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer wished that His church be instructed in defining doctrine on faith and morals; and so such definitions of the Roman Pontiff from himself, but not from the consensus of the Church, are unalterable.”
Then also please check: Catechismus Catholicus Cura et studio Petri Cardinalis Gasparri Concinnatus; Catechismus pro adultis hominibus qui pleniorem doctrinae catholicae cognitionem habere exopant, p. 132:
Q. 144. In munere docendi Ecclesia estne infallibilis?
R. In munere docendi Ecclesia, ob perpetuam Spiritus Sancti assistentiam a Iesu Christo promissam, est infallibilis, quando, sive ordinario et universali magisterio, sive solemni iudicio supremae auctoritatis, veritates fidei et morum vel in se revelatas, vel cum revelatis connexas ab omnibus tenendas proponit.
My comment: Infallibility covers not only directly revealed truths (of faith and morals), but also those, which are connected with them; obviously it is necessary to defend the Deposit of faith.
Finally, brief quotations from the “Si, si, no, no” (The Angelus English-language article reprint of January 2002) with references to some theological sources:
a) on classification of magisterial (papal) acts:
“The “Authentic Magisterium” cannot be so simply identified with the Ordinary Magisterium. In fact, the Ordinary Magisterium can be infallible and non-infallible, and it is only in this second case that it is called the “Authentic Magisterium”. The Dictionnaire de Theologie Catholique under the heading of “papal infallibility” (vol VII, col. 1699ff) makes the following distinctions: 1) there is the “infallible or ex cathedra papal definition in the sense defined by Vatican I” (col. 1699); 2) there is the “infallible papal teaching which flows from the pope’s Ordinary Magisterium” (col. 1705); 3) there is “non-infallible papal teaching” (col. 1709).
Similarly, Salaverri, in his Sacrae Theologiae Summa (vol. I, 5th ed. Madrid, B.A.C.) distinguishes the following: 1) Extraordinary Infallible Papal Magisterium (no. 592ff); 2) Ordinary Infallible Papal Magisterium (no. 645ff); 3) Papal Magisterium that is mere authenticum, that is, only “authentic” or “authorized” as regards the person himself, not as regards his infallibility (no. 659ff).
While he always has full and supreme doctrinal authority, the pope does not always exercise it at its highest level, that is at the level of infallibility. As the theologians say, he is like a giant who does not always use his full strength. What follows is this:
1)”It would be incorrect to say that the pope is infallible simply by possessing papal authority,” as we read in the Acts of Vatican I (Coll. L ac. 399b). This would be equivalent to saying that the pope’s authority and his infallibility are the same thing.
2) It is necessary to know “what degree of assent is due to the decrees of the sovereign pontiff when he is teaching at a level which is not that of infallibility, i.e., when he is not exercising the supreme degree of his doctrinal authority” (Salaverri, op. cit. no. 659).”
b) on different kinds of assent required for magisterial acts:
“As regards those non-infallible doctrinal decisions given by the pope or by the Roman congregations, there is a strict duty of obedience which obliges us to give an internal assent… that is prudent and habitually excludes all reasonable doubt, but this assent is legitimized [not by infallibility, but rather] by the high degree of prudence with which the ecclesiastical authority habitually acts in such circumstances” (entry “Eglise” in the Dictionnaire de Theologie Catholique, vol. IV, col. 2209).
That is why we owe the “authentic” Magisterium not a blind and unconditional assent but a prudent and conditional one:
Since not everything taught by the Ordinary Magisterium is infallible, we must ask what kind of assent we should give to its various decisions. The Christian is required to give the assent of faith to all the doctrinal and moral truths defined by the Church’s Magisterium. He is not required to give the same assent to teaching imparted by the sovereign pontiff that is not imposed on the whole Christian body as a dogma of faith. In this case if suffices to give that inner and religious assent which we give to legitimate ecclesiastical authority. This is not an absolute assent, because such decrees are not infallible, but only a prudential and conditional assent, since in questions of faith and morals there is a presumption in favor of one’s superior… Such prudential assent does not eliminate the possibility of submitting the doctrine to a further examination, if that seems required by the gravity of the question (Nicholas Jung, Le Magistere de l’Eglise, 1935, p. 153,154).”
My comment: As far as I remember H.E. Archbishop Charles Mary Vigano indicated an erroneous act of the Ordinary Magisterium exercised by The Ecumenical Council of Florence and approved by H.H. Eugene IV (by the way: the same error which Aquinas had adhered to). In no way such a statement challenges the infallibility of the Church since it was neither an extraordinary nor a universal (and definitive of course) teaching, i.e. absolutely binding; quite the opposite: it clearly shows that, notwithstanding the human fallacy experienced at the top of the organization, She enjoys Divine protection. The problem was finally resolved only by H.H. Pius XII five centuries later; it never resulted in the destruction of the Church, however, one can easily imagine what could possibly have been done with the Apostolic succession.
T. M. A. Bogucki