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Dogmatic Fact or Fancy

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JMJ

I recently became involved in an online argument with some people about dogmatic facts and their application.

The key element is that my 'opponents' were caught in a circular argument seemingly without being aware of it.

In broad strokes they claim that because of the canonization of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Francis can't be Pope since canonizations are held to be an act of the infallible magisterium and this is obviously an error.

The problem comes that the same authority that established the doctrine of the infallibility of canonizations likewise established that the acceptance of a newly elected Pope by the bishops in union with Rome establishes an infallible dogmatic fact that the new 'Pope' is Pope - the Vicar of Christ.

My opponents rejected this latter dogmatic fact while maintaining the former.  As they both rest on the same authority, it is not rational to reject one and accept the other on ones own authority.

Reviewing the following reference reviews unity on the following point:

Acceptance of an elected Pope by the Church (Hunter is specific that the infallibility rests with the Bishops - not the faithful) is infallible.

Some objected that, following Billot, the Catholic faithful and Bishops do not accept the Pope as a 'rule of faith' and therefore Francis can't Pope.  There are two problems with this statement.

Firstly, Billot is explicit that the acceptance by the Church is an infallible act and provides the 'reason' why.  To place the reason why overtop of the action is an unwarranted logical inversion.

Secondly, it is a subjective measure (in the internal forum) and appears to warp the meaning of 'rule of faith' (see this article).

This is clear and to reject this 'fact' is ... wel as Ott noted: A False Proposition.

P^3




Now as to what constitutes a dogmatic fact, here are some references:

Hunter: 

... if the person of the Pope were uncertain, it would be uncertain what Bishops were in communion with the Pope; but according to the Catholic faith, as will be proved hereafter, communion with the Pope is a condition for the exercise of the function of teaching by the body of Bishops (n. 208) ; if then the uncertainty could not be cleared up, the power of teaching could not be exercised, and Christ's promise (St. Matt, xxviii. 20; and n. 199, II.) would be falsified, which is impossible. ... it is enough to say that if the Bishops agree in recognizing a certain man as Pope, they are certainly right, for otherwise the body of the Bishops would be separated from their head, and the Divine constitution of the Church would be ruined. (Hunter, 1894) (ref1, ref2


Ott:

Dogmatic Facts (facta dogmatica). By these are understood historical facts, which are not revealed, but which are intrinsically connected with revealed truth, for example, the legality of a Pope or of a General Council, or the fact of the Roman episcopate of St. Peter. The fact that a defined text does or does not agree with the doctrine of the Catholic Faith is also, in a narrower sense, a dogmatic fact." In deciding the meaning of a text the Church does not pronounce judgment on the subjective intention of the author, but on the objective sense of the text (D 1350: sensum quem verba prae se ferunt). (p9)
It should also be noted that contradicting a dogmatic fact is classified by Ott as being subject to the censure 'A False Proposition' (p10)

To the secondary object of Infallibility belong: a) Theological conclusions derived from a formally revealed truth by aid of a natural truth of reason. b) Historical facts on the determination of which the certainty of a truth of Revelation depends (facta dognlatica). c) Natural truths of reason which are intimately connected with truths of Revelation. For further details see Introduction, Par. 6. d) The canonisation of saints, that is, the final judglnent that a membcr of the Church has been assumed into eternal bliss and may be the object of general veneration. The veneration shown to the saints is, as St. Thomas teaches, " to a certain extent a confession of the faith, in which we believe in the glory of the saints" {Quodl. 9, 16}. If the Church could err in her opinion, consequences would arise which would be incompatible with the sanctity of the Church.

Billot (provided by my 'opponents')

Source: Withheld for moral reasons
Sed quidquid demum de possibilitate vel impossibilitate praetatae hypothesis adhuc sentias, id saltem veluti penitus inconcussum et extra omnem dubitationem positum firmiter tenendum est: adhaesionem universalis Ecclesiae fore semper ex se sola infallibile signum legitimitatis personae Pontificis, adeoque et exsistentiae omnium conditionum quae ad legitimitatem ipsam sunt requisitae. Neque huius rei a longe repetenda ratio. Immediate enim sumitur ex infallibili Christi promissione atque providentia : Portae inferi non praevalebunt adversus eam, et iterum: Ecce ego vobiscum sum omnibus diebus. Idem namque foret. Ecclesiam adhaerere pontifici falso, ac si adhaereret falsae fidei regulae, cum Papa sit regula vivens quam Ecclesia in credendo sequi debet et semper de facto sequitur, uti ex dicendis in posterum luculentius adhuc apparebit. Equidem permittere potest Deus ut aliquando vacatio sedis diutius protrahatur. Permittere quoque potest ut de legitimitate unius vel alterius electi exoriatur dubium. Permittere autem non potest ut Ecclesia tota eum admittat pontificem qui verus et legitimus non sit. Ex quo igitur receptus est, et Ecclesiae coniunctus ut corpori caput, non est amplius movenda quaestio de possibili vitio electionis vel defectu cuiuscumque conditionis ad legitimitatem necessariae, quia praedicta Ecclesiae adhaesio omne vitium electionis radicitus sanat, et exsistentiam omnium requisitarum conditionum infallibiliter ostendit. (De Eccelsia Christi, third ed., 1909, vol. 1, pp. 620-621.)

And the translation provided by Da Siveria:

Finally, whatever you still think about the possibility or impossibility of the aforementioned hypothesis [of a Pope heretic], at least one point must be considered absolutely incontrovertible and placed firmly above any doubt whatever: the adhesion of the universal Church will be always, in itself, an infallible sign of the legitimacy of a determined Pontiff, and therefore also of the existence of all the conditions required for legitimacy itself. It is not necessary to look far for the proof of this, but we find it immediately in the promise and infallible providence of Christ: “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it”, and “Behold I shall be with you all days”. For the adhesion of the Church to a false Pontiff would be the same as its adhesion to a false rule of faith, seeing that the Pope is the living rule of faith which the Church must follow and which in fact she always follows, as will become even more clear by what we shall say later. God can permit that at times a vacancy in the Apostolic See be prolonged for a long time. He can also permit that doubt arise about the legitimacy of this or that election. He cannot however permit that the whole Church accept as Pontiff him who is not so truly and legitimately. Therefore, from the moment in which the Pope is accepted by the Church and united to her as the head to the body, it is no longer permitted to raise doubts about a possible vice of election or a possible lack of any condition whatsoever necessary for legitimacy. For the aforementioned adhesion of the Church heals in the root all fault in the election and proves infallibly the existence of all the required conditions. Let this be said in passing against those who, trying to justify certain attempts at schism made in the time of Alexander VI, allege that its promoter broadcast that he had most certain proofs, which he would reveal to a General Council, of the heresy of Alexander. Putting aside here other reasons with which one could easily be able to refute such an opinion, it is enough to remember this: it is certain that when Savonarola was writing his letters to the Princes, all of Christendom adhered to Alexander VI and obeyed him as the true Pontiff. For this very reason, Alexander VI was not a false Pope, but a legitimate one. Therefore he was not a heretic at least in that sense in which the fact of being a heretic takes away one’s membership in the Church and in consequence deprives one, by the very nature of things, of the pontifical power and of any other ordinary jurisdiction.”
(nts: I appears that the english translation is greater than the latin)

St. Alphonsus de Ligouri

“It is of no importance that in past centuries some Pontiff was illegitimately elected or took possession of the Pontificate by fraud; it is enough that he was accepted afterwards by the whole Church as Pope, since by such acceptance he would have become the true Pontiff. But if during a certain time he had not been truly and universally accepted by the Church, during that time the Pontifical See would have been vacant, as it is vacant on the death of a Pontiff”.

Update: Van Noort

Since it was established in the volume, Christ’s Church, that the Church’s infallible teaching power extends to matters connected with revelation and that its infallible authority deserves an absolutely firm assent, the only question which remains is what name to give that assent and how to describe its nature. These points will be discussed in just a moment.
Meantime, notice that the Church possesses infallibility not only when she is defining some matter in solemn fashion, but also when she is exercising the full weight of her authority through her ordinary and universal teaching. Consequently, we must hold with an absolute assent, which we call “ecclesiastical faith,” the following theological truths: (a) those which the Magisterium has infallibly defined in solemn fashion; (b) those which the ordinary magisterium dispersed throughout the world unmistakably proposes to its members as something to be held (tenendas). So, for example, one must give an absolute assent to the proposition: “Pius XII is the legitimate successor of St. Peter”; similarly (and as a matter of fact if this following point is something “formally revealed,” it will undoubtedly be a dogma of faith) one must give an absolute assent to the proposition: “Pius XII possesses the primacy of jurisdiction over the entire Church.” For — skipping the question of how it begins to be proven infallibly for the first time that this individual was legitimately elected to take St. Peter’s place — when someone has been constantly acting as pope and has theoretically and practically been recognized as such by the bishops and by the universal Church, it is clear that the ordinary and universal magisterium is giving an utterly clear-cut witness to the legitimacy of his succession.

Comments

  1. "The problem comes that the same authority that established the doctrine of the infallibility of canonizations likewise established that the acceptance of a newly elected Pope by the bishops in union with Rome establishes an infallible dogmatic fact that the new 'Pope' is Pope - the Vicar of Christ."

    But if the acceptance of a new pope pertains to dogmatic facts, so the pope can speak ex cathedra about it. And in fact we have an infallible encyclical on this subject, which the theologians you cited apparently forgot to mention: Cum ex apostolatus officio by Paul IV in 1559.02.15. ( http://www.dailycatholic.org/cumexapo.htm )

    "6. In addition, [by this Our Constitution, which is to remain valid in perpetuity We enact, determine, decree and define:] that if ever at any time it shall appear that any Bishop, even if he be acting as an Archbishop, Patriarch or Primate; or any Cardinal of the aforesaid Roman Church, or, as has already been mentioned, any legate, -> or even the Roman Pontiff <-, prior to his promotion or his elevation as Cardinal or Roman Pontiff, has deviated from the Catholic Faith or fallen into some heresy:

    (i) the promotion or elevation, -> even if it shall have been uncontested and by the unanimous assent of all the Cardinals <-, shall be null, void and worthless;

    (ii) it shall not be possible for it to acquire validity (nor for it to be said that it has thus acquired validity) through the acceptance of the office, of consecration, of subsequent authority, nor through possession of administration, -> nor through the putative enthronement of a Roman Pontiff, or Veneration, or obedience accorded to such by all <-, nor through the lapse of any period of time in the foregoing situation;

    (iii) it shall not be held as partially legitimate in any way;

    (iv) to any so promoted to be Bishops, or Archbishops, or Patriarchs, or Primates or elevated as Cardinals, -> or as Roman Pontiff <-, no authority shall have been granted, nor shall it be considered to have been so granted either in the spiritual or the temporal domain;

    (v) each and all of their words, deeds, actions and enactments, howsoever made, and anything whatsoever to which these may give rise, shall be without force and shall grant no stability whatsoever nor any right to anyone;

    (vi) those thus promoted or elevated shall be deprived automatically, and without need for any further declaration, of all dignity, position, honour, title, authority, office and power.

    [...]

    10. -> No one at all <-, therefore, may infringe this document of our approbation, re-introduction, sanction, statute and derogation of wills and decrees, or by rash presumption contradict it. --> If anyone, however, should presume to attempt this, let him know that he is destined to incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul <--."

    Am I wrong?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are a few problems here:
      a. I don't see the formulae required for an infallible statement.
      b. He doesn't include unanimous consent of the hierarchy or Church in general including laity.
      c. There is not authoritative proof / declaration that any of the popes have deviated prior to their election as pontiff

      The crux of this type of argument is how would you 'know', I mean objectively , that the sin of heresy (deviation from the Faith) had occurred?

      That would take an explicit judgement of the person in question by an authority above them.

      None of his has happened regarding to the Pope's in question and the thought that a Pope can bind succeeding pope's with a non-infallible statement such as this has already been deemed impossible.

      P^3

      Delete
    2. << a. I don't see the formulae required for an infallible statement." >>

      It's in paragraph 10:

      "If anyone, however, should presume to attempt this, let him know that he is destined to incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul."

      This formula is also present in many other papal documents. The most notable is perhaps Pius XII's MUNIFICENTISSIMUS DEUS, in which he defined the dogma of the Assumption ( https://www.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_p-xii_apc_19501101_munificentissimus-deus.html ).

      So we have Paul IV really speaking 1) as universal pastor, 2) to the whole Church, 3) about a dogmatic fact (secondary object of the infallibility according to Ott, page 299) and 4) demanding ecclesiastical assent (fides ecclesiastica, which is the case for doctrines of the Church - see Ott, page 8). Therefore, he is, according to this understanding that the legitimacy of a pope is a dogmatic fact, speaking infallibly.
      -----------
      << b. He doesn't include unanimous consent of the hierarchy or Church in general including laity. >>

      Yes, he does, in...

      (ii) it shall not be possible for it to acquire validity (nor for it to be said that it has thus acquired validity) through the acceptance of the office, of consecration, of subsequent authority, nor through possession of administration, -> nor through the putative enthronement of a Roman Pontiff, OR VENERATION, OR OBEDIENCE accorded to such BY ALL <-, nor through the lapse of any period of time in the foregoing situation;

      (TO BE CONTINUED)

      Delete
    3. (CONTINUING)

      << c. There is not authoritative proof / declaration that any of the popes have deviated prior to their election as pontiff >>

      In fact, we have no authoritative declaration. But one thing is the real aspect of the Church, and other thing is its legal aspect. If things do well, the legal aspects of the Church reflect the reality.

      But, ok, you said:

      "The crux of this type of argument is how would you 'know', I mean objectively , that the sin of heresy (deviation from the Faith) had occurred?

      That would take an explicit judgement of the person in question by an authority above them."

      And I would say that, if it's always necessary a formal declaration, so we would have no reason to avoid engaging in evangelical sects, for example. How would I know that I'm dealing with heretics if there is not a formal condemnation of the "Church of Whatever" that just arrived in my street? And here comes the main point here: the mere existance of the Catholic Magisterium relies on the assumption that it CAN be understood by the faithful. Otherwise, why would the Magisterium exist? So that the clergy could speak to the stones? To the wind that passes by? Of course not. A catholic faithful CAN understand the doctrine and detect heresy, and it's precisely fot this reason (protect the faithful from heresies) that the Magisterium exist. And that's the reason why we can't engage in protestant sects even without a declaration from Rome that the new evangelical guys on the block are in fact heretics. So, even if "none of this has happened regarding to the Popes in question", a faithful catholic still CAN detect a heretic when he is manifest, and CAN say that he is not part of the Church - and theologians teach that heresy can be manifest by many ways, even by the actions of the heretic, which reveal that he has not the catholic faith. If the Church has not made any formal declararion of his heresy is just another thing. That's why one can be catholic even believing that the men in white for the past 60 years or so were not real popes: it's common teaching of doctors and theologians (St. Francis of Sales, St. Alphonsus de Liguori and St. Robert Bellarmine, for example) that a pope loses jurisdiction ipso facto when he inccurs in heresy, without need of declaration, which would be just a second step, so that, as I said, the legal aspects of the Church may reflect its reality. Therefore, a faithful can see when it happens and recognize that the deeds of such heretic are null (and it's not that hard to find that the Vat II popes are preaching a whole new religion, you just have to search for the articles about each one of them in NovusOrdoWatch.org, for example: it's clear that they believe different things from their predecessors, and that they know traditional catholic theology (that they deny) much more than us, mere laymen; therefore, are formal heretics).

      You also said that "the thought that a Pope can bind succeeding pope's with a non-infallible statement such as this has already been deemed impossible", but this is a misunderstanding of the subject: it's not mere discipline here, IT'S A DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH THAT A HERETIC IS NOT A MEMBER OF THE CHURCH. What Paul IV is declaring is not a mere rule, it's the reality behind faith, apostasy, baptism, belonging to the Church, the nature of the Church, etc. IT'S (at least) A DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH, such as the ones mentioned by Ludwig Ott on the page 8 of his "Fundamentals". So, yes, EVERY PERSON IN THE WORLD is bound by the doctrine that the catholic faith is necessary to be a member of the Church, and that absolutely no one can be head without being a member. And a catholic faithful can disobey a manifestly heretic pope with no fear, for the heretic simply is not a pope anymore, despite all the appearances.

      But of course I'm open to a rebuttal.

      Delete
    4. Regarding A: You are correct that it is in https://www.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_p-xii_apc_19501101_munificentissimus-deus.html

      ... but ...

      Not the words that you cite. The actual words that mark it as an infallible statement are found in article 44:

      44. ... by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

      So you part A is still invalid as it simply contains the admonition but not the infallible declaration.

      In b ii, this is in reference to the subject (newly elected pontiff) accepting the object (petrine office).

      With respect to c: You may want to declare Pope Francis a heretic (pre-election), but without that definitive declaration either by an ecclesial judge (pre-election), or post-election an imperfect council of cardinals or by the Pope himself (apparently this must be followed by a act to separate himself from the Church) - it is only your opinion. Even the imperfect council of cardinals is just a hypothesis.

      Can you see the Faith of a person? That is why Paul IV is useless in the case of occult heretics.

      In dealing with something with such wide and deep ranging ramifications, your opinion and that of all the lay-people and pretenders to the pontificate does not have the weight necessary to move from the layer of private opinion to public declaration by authority.

      Regarding disobeying a 'manifestly heretic pope'. Well now you have a real problem. Pope Francis is not a 'manifestly heretic pope'. He has said many things are look heretical, but he hasn't been explicit and met the criteria.

      So we're stuck waiting for God to solve the problem by calling Pope Francis before the judgement seat.

      In doing a bit of research for this post I found this link:
      http://foretasteofwisdom.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-question-of-occult-heretics.html


      P^3

      Delete

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