Apologetics for the Masses #467 - Pope Francis, Bp. Strickland, Papal Indefectibility, and...Dave Armstrong (Part 2)

Bible Christian Society


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Talking about Fiducia Supplicans, Pope Francis, Bishop Strickland, Papal Indefectibility and Papal Infallibility.

General Comments

Well, mixed reviews on the last newsletter.  I was accused of supporting heresy by one, while another accused me of sitting on the fence, while a few others were very supportive.  We'll see what happens after the next couple of newsletters...


At the end of the last newsletter, I said that in this newsletter I would give you "my take on Fiducia Supplicans and the blessing of couples in 'irregular' situations, and will also expand a bit on 'papal indefectibility' and why I believe a number of folks, Dave Armstrong among them, are not quite understanding it, and papal infallibility, correctly."  

However, as I got into writing this newsletter, I realized that it is not going to go as quickly as I thought.  I've spent a few hours already and have barely scratched the surface in terms of putting together all of what I want to write.  The problem is that I'm having to go back and forth between several different documents to make the arguments I want to make and to say what I want to say - and as I read this document and that, more arguments keep popping into my head.  All of which is just taking up a whole lot more time than I thought it would - time that I do not have (I have a niece's wedding rehearsal to get to). 

So, instead of getting part way into my commentary on Fiducia Supplicans and maybe having to stop at a point that would not be a good place to stop, I am going to make this a short newsletter by just giving you some background information for what I'm going to be saying about Fiducia Supplicans, and I beg your patience and forbearance as it will be another week before I can do a deep dive into my commentary on all of this. 


First thing I want to do, though, before talking specifics in regard to Fiducia Supplicans, is to note that there are different levels of teaching within the Church.  Or, another way to put it, is to say that there are differing "theological grades of certainty" in regard to the teachings of the Church.  For example, a "de fide" teaching is a teaching that holds the "highest degree of certainty" with respect to revealed truths.  At the other end of the spectrum are "theological opinions" which are "free views on aspects of doctrines concerning Faith and morals, which are neither clearly attested in Revelation nor decided by the Teaching Authority of the Church."  (Quote is from Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludwig Ott.)  I think the teaching on Limbo would probably fall into the category of theological opinion. And, there are a few theological grades of certainty between de fide and theological opinion. 

Anyway, the point is that not everything that is taught in Catholic theology is an infallible teaching.  Again, from Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma: "With regard to the doctrinal teaching of the Church, it must be well noted that not all the assertions of the Teaching Authority of the Church on questions of faith and morals are infallible and consequently irrevocable.  Only those are infallible which emanate from General Councils representing the whole episcopate, and the Papal Decision Ex Cathedra.  The ordinary and usual form of the Papal teaching activitiy is not infallible.  Further, the decisions of the Roman Congregations (Holy Office [aka Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith], Bible Commission) are not infallible.  Nevertheless, normally they are to be accepted with an inner assent which is based on the high supernatural authority of the Holy See...By way of exception, the obligation of inner agreement may cease if a competent expert, after a renewed scientific investigation of all grounds, arrives at the positive conviction that the decision rests on an error." 

In other words, much of the teaching that comes out of the Vatican - whether from the Pope, in an encyclical or other type of letter, or from one of the Vatican dicasteries - does not necessarily fall under the category of infallible teaching.  Now, that does not mean that just because something is not an infallible teaching that the faithful can pick and choose what they want and don't want to believe of these non-infallible teachings.  "Normally," they are to be accepted by the faithful with an "inner assent".  However, as noted above, there could be exceptions to that rule, as in the case of a "competent expert" finding that the "decision rests on an error".  (I'll say more on this in the next newsletter, when I talk about the indefectibility/infallibility of the Pope.)

Okay, that's the background for the next newsletter.  Again, my apologies for the truncated discussion, but I just kept coming up with more to say on the topic and simply ran out of time this afternoon.  So, hopefully, what you get next week will be worth the wait.

Closing Comments

I hope and pray that all of you have a great week!


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Apologetics for the Masses