Sunday, July 25, 2010

Fallacies on Infallibility

There's an idea that's been floating about in the last few years by Christian apologists attempting to discredit the Catholic Church. One such article is called Theo-Illogical: Quid Pro Canon by Timothy F. Kauffman.1

The gist of the argument seeks a stalemate. By that I mean, the arguer seeks to criticize his opponent of the same accusation of which his opponent accuses him. This fallacy of argument is sometimes known as the fallacy of tu quoque. Kauffman summarizes his discourse thusly:
Rome's answer to Sola Scriptura is Sola Verbum Dei, or "The Word of God Alone." Rome believes that the Word of God is contained in the Scriptures, Tradition, in her Magisterium—including ex cathedra papal statements. But Rome cannot produce an infallible list of ex cathedra papal statements from within what she calls the Word of God. Thus, in order to convey the Word of God, Roman Catholics must appeal to something which is not contained in the Word of God. Sola Verbum Dei therefore becomes self-refuting by the standards of Rome's own apologists.
Kauffman posits an interesting thought exercise. However, his condemning conclusions are unwarranted and in error as I hope to demonstrate. In the previous quote, he blurs the Catholic notion of the "Word" similarly to the way John MacArthur did in my "John MacArthur errs" blog entry. Since the Catholic Church believes the Magisterium has the promise of the Holy Spirit to unlock divine truth, there is no "appealing to something" external. That which is the "Word," Scripture and Tradition (cf. Dei Verbum, 10), is interpreted by the Magisterium. So there is no "Sola Verbum Dei" in Catholicism the way Kauffman describes.

Kauffman begins his article in a defense of sola scriptura. Some Catholic apologists have claimed that adherents to this principle self-refute it because sola scriptura necessarily demands an external human source to receive which books are to be considered Scripture. Popular Evangelical apologists Norman Geisler and Ralph MacKenzie summarized sola scriptura as: "'The Bible alone' means 'the Bible only' is the final authority for our faith."2 Thus, when Protestants claim to know what books are in the Bible without citing the Bible, some Catholic apologists have insisted sola scripturists give authority to the early Church, or some unidentified body of the faithful external to the written Word itself.

Kauffman writes: "Protestants, on the other hand, have no infallible source by which they may know they have the right 66 books, and therefore are members of a self-defeating religion. So thinks the Roman Catholic apologist."

What follows is interesting, but specious. Kauffman proceeds to argue that if there exists no Magisterial "list" that identifies infallible statements in history then the Catholic faithful will "not know certainly or exhaustively what the pope has infallibly taught or exactly what it is that they are required to believe."

It should be pointed out that in this article, he focuses on infallibility only exercised by the Pope. In Catholic theology, the idea of infallibility is rooted in the Holy Spirit's guarantee to the entire Church. Some of the Scriptural evidence for this is included in Lk 10:16, or Mt 28:18 with Jn 20:21, for example.

Use of the term "infallibility" in the Catholic Church is a protection from teaching error on an issue of faith or morals. Here are a couple Church sources expressing this idea:
The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium's task to preserve God's people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church's shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. (CCC#890)

Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks ex cathedra, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. (Vatican I, 4.4.9)
The majority of Kauffman's article attempts to contrast the various opinions of non-Magisterial Catholic apologists or theologians. He compares two Catholic authors, Adam S. Miller and Leslie Rumble, on the issue of "how many times" the Popes have exercised infallibility. They came up with totals of 11 and 18, respectively. I will admit I have not cross-checked his resources. I placed a phone call to the local library yesterday and learned how rare both of these books are. Only the Rumble book is even available at Amazon as of the date of this blog post. The Miller book was only available in one library in the country. But for the purposes of this blog post, I am going to assume Kauffman has fairly interpreted these authors.3

After Kauffman's attempt to show confusion in the Church is when he says the Catholic faithful "do not know certainly or exhaustively what the pope has infallibly taught or exactly what it is that they are required to believe."

This comment presupposes something false---that the Catholic individual is only required to believe teachings that he personally can identify as "infallibly taught." But this is not the case. Whether or not a teaching has been technically taught "infallibly," the Catholic faithful are to give religious assent to the teaching for the simple reason that Christ established His Church to teach such things. Kauffman, if he really considers Leslie Rumble an authority on this matter, should have already known this. Kauffman quoted the following from Rumble on two of the matters Rumble considered "infallible": "There are some Catholic theologians who hold that, although these two decrees of Pope Leo XIII are of the utmost authority, they still fall short of technical requirements for infallible 'ex cathedra' utterances."

That means even theologians who dissent that a doctrine has been taught infallibly still consider it taught with "the utmost authority!" Fr. Most, later in the same article on infallibility cited by Kauffman, quotes Vatican II regarding a "fourth level" of teaching not technically "infallible":
Religious submission of mind and of will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff even when he is not defining, in such a way, namely, that the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to according to his manifested mind and will, which is clear either from the nature of the documents, or from the repeated presentation of the same doctrine, or from the manner of speaking. (Lumen Gentium, 25)
Fr. Most says this submission "forbids public contradiction of the teaching."

It is also worth quoting Father John Trigilio, President of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, who echoes this sentiment:
According to Pope Pius XII in Humani Generis & Vatican II in Lumen Gentium #25, even non-infallible teachings are to receive the submission of mind and will of the faithful. While not requiring the ASSENT OF FAITH, they CANNOT be disputed nor rejected publicly and the benefit of the doubt must be given to the one possessing the fullness of teaching authority. (A Discussion of Infallibility)
So let's assume Kauffman is correct. Let's say there is vast confusion over what has been infallibly taught by the Church. If this were the case, Fr. Most already provides the answer for the faithful, later in the same article Kauffman quotes:
How can anyone give any mental assent when there is not absolute certitude? In normal human affairs, we do it all the time. Suppose we are at table, and someone asks if a dish of food came from a can, and if so, was it sent to a lab to check for Botulism. It is true, routine opening of a can would not detect that deadly poison. Yet it is too much to check every can, and the chances are very remote, so much so that normal people do not bother about it - yet their belief takes into account a real but tiny possibility of a mistake. Similarly with a doctrine on this fourth level. And further, the chances of error on this level are much smaller than they are with a can of food. Similarly, in a criminal trial, the judge will tell the jury they must find the evidence proves guilt beyond reasonable doubt. He does not demand that every tiny doubt be ruled out, even though it may mean life in prison or death.

If one should make a mistake by following the fourth level of Church teaching, when he comes before the Divine Judge, the Judge will not blame him, rather He will praise him. But if a person errs by breaking with the Church on the plea that he knew better - that will not be easily accepted.
The false premise proposed by Kauffman is that a Catholic must scruple about whether or not a doctrine has technically been defined "infallibly." But the caricature Kauffman paints of panicked Catholics flitting about in a stupor of confusion does not translate to reality.

Recall that Kauffman's central criticism is that Catholics don't have an infallible list of doctrines (like the Protestant doesn't have an intra-Biblical list of what books belong in the Bible.)

If this logic were to play out, it would make it impossible for God or anyone else to verify infallibility, no? Because if the Church did make a "list" of infallible teachings, the list itself would need verification as being an infallible list, no? An infallible statement would be required to say that the infallible list is indeed infallible. After all, shouldn't Kauffman's Catholic caricature question whether the list itself should be considered infallible? Was it just a list assembled for guidance? Now we need another list that includes the previous list along with the other infallible teachings! Therefore, the demand for an infallible list is in itself a specious requirement.

The issue is this. Infallibility is solely the gift of God speaking through the Church. This is what Pius XII meant in Humani Generis #20 when he cited Luke 10:16 as evidence of infallibility. "He who hears you, hears Me."

So who can verify that God has exercised infallibility when no one but Him can infallibly declare infallibility to have taken place? Who can verify that God Himself has, say, infallible foreknowledge of the predestined? In other words, when we demand to see infallible pronouncements infallibly certified, we are asking God to certify God.

The very nature of faith in Christ requires an assent of the will. The same demand for infallible proof Kauffman imposes on the Catholic Church would also apply to faith in Christ itself. The whole issue of the nature of faith is separate from the Catholic defense in this thread. But once a person is able to make the assent of faith in Jesus Christ, accepting that which is proposed for belief by His Church is the safest thing to do.

Can a reasonable Catholic read Munificentissimus Deus and doubt that the Assumption of Mary was infallibly declared? Pay special attention to paragraph 12 and then paragraph 44 putting the dogma into words. Why, when the Church calls to mind the protection of infallibility in the same document prior to defining this dogma, should we give more weight to the fallible devil's advocate demanding an additional infallible statement be made to stamp the previous one?

What Catholic scruples about whether or not Christ is fully man and God out of fear that the dogma of the Incarnation has not found its way to an infallible list of infallible teachings? Is there any sober reason for a Catholic to deny that the teaching of the Incarnation has been infallibly taught?

In Sacerdotii Nostri Primoridia, Pope John XXIII listed at least one occasion that was defined infallibly---the Immaculate Conception. He writes of St. John Vianney:
"[T]his man had such great devotion to the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mother of God that in 1836 he dedicated his parish church to Mary Conceived Without Sin and greeted the infallible definition of this truth as Catholic dogma in 1854 with the greatest joy and reverence." (116)
These examples are enough to demonstrate that infallibility can be identified in the Church whether or not one theologian or another may believe some other doctrine was not "technically" defined infallibly.

Finally, I want to point out Kauffman's unparallel premise. He equates the Protestant's inability to show the canon of Scripture from Scripture to the Catholic Church's absence of an "infallible list of infallible teachings." However, there is a major difference in the two. The Catholic Church does not profess to have or need an infallible list (and as I've shown, such a list would not serve the purpose Kauffman demands). The Protestant insists that the 66-book canon is correct---it is all that is needed for salvation---and the deuterocanonical books or other apocryphal literature considered in the early Church are definitively not part of the canon. These very assertions are external to the source which the Protestant claims is the sole authority to determine such matters. The Catholic Church, in teaching infallibility, claims only to teach by the authority of God that which is revealed through Scripture and Tradition. The Church does not go external to Her claimed sources of identifying truths of the faith.

1I do not intend for mentions of Protestantism herein to be an "attack." Mentions of Protestant teaching herein will be made only as they relate to Kauffman's comparisons.

2Geisler, Normal L. and MacKenzie, Ralph E., Roman Catholics and Evangelicals, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 178.3I should point out that claims of Kauffman's I was able to cross-check were not entirely sound. Later in the article, he claims there is confusion among Catholic apologists and theologians as to what is the criteria for when papal infallibility has taken place. However, the quotations he uses to prove this do not even include any such statement of "these are the only criteria" or some similar paraphrase. One of the theologians he quoted was Fr. William Most, whom Kauffman claimed believed only two criteria were needed for papal infallibility to take place. But the Fr. Most reference does not have him claiming to give an exhaustive list of criteria specific to papal infallibility. Rather, Fr. Most was clarifying if a particular formula of words were necessary for infallibility to take place. He said this in the context of how the Ordinary Magisterium can teach infallibly or how a Pope can teach infallibly when definitively settling a teaching among the Church. He was not attempting to redefine the quotation from Vatican I above which defines the nature of papal infallibility.

EDIT: August 20, 2010
Recall in this article how Kauffman quoted Rumble's footnote (this footnote corresponds to Rumble's position that infallibility applied to Pope Leo XIII's decrees on the nullity of Anglican Orders and his condemnation of merely naturalistic interpretations of Christian activities):
"There are some Catholic theologians who hold that, although these two decrees of Pope Leo XIII are of the utmost authority, they still fall short of technical requirements for infallible 'ex cathedra' utterances."
From that I pointed out that dissenting theologian who did not consider these to have technically been taught under the charism of papal infallibility, still considered them stated with the utmost authority. And remember, Kauffman's claim was that the Catholic faithful don't know "what...they are required to believe" as a result of this.

I also subsequently quoted Fr. Most who argued that the faithful are to be praised when assenting to that which the Church teaches, whether or not they understand that teaching to be taught with the particular charism of infallibility. And I think the following also supports that.

Since writing this article, I was able to acquire, via inter-library loan, the Rumble book The Catholic Church: A Radio Analysis. Kauffman left out the final sentence of that footnote, further confirming my conclusion that even if a Catholic is not sure a teaching has been technically stated "infallibly," he still is to give assent to the teaching. The entirety of Rumble's footnote reads:
"There are some Catholic theologians who hold that, although these two decrees of Pope Leo XIII are of the utmost authority, they still fall short of technical requirements for infallible 'ex cathedra' utterances. In practice all hold that they are binding on all the faithful."

EDIT: March 23, 2013
See also a rebuttal by PhilVaz of this same argument by 19th century Catholic opponent George Salmon.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Were there 3 Popes at the same time?

The short answer is "no." But! For more details, the following is reproduced from a paper (with minor clarification/typo edits) I did in my Church history master's class originally submitted December 30, 2008. I hope it gives a basic summary of the incident.
The Great Schism of the Popes: Causes and Solution
This paper will examine the dilemma surrounding the Great Schism of the Popes (1378-1417), the causes, the main characters involved, and its resolution.

The papacy of the Catholic Church had traditionally resided in Rome for centuries since the time of St. Peter. In 1305, the office took its residence to Avignon, France during the pontificate of Clement V. Clement was the archbishop of the French city of Bordeaux.
[Clement] moved to Avignon to escape the political pressures of Italy, including the warring Roman families. King Philip of France promised peace and protection in return for a certain measure of influence on the policies of the pope.1
Not only did King Philip IV make this invitation, but Avignon itself provided a “peaceful refuge, since its neighboring constat, Venaissin, already belonged to the Holy See; it was strongly fortified and close to Italy.”2

Clement’s election had come “after an eleven-month deadlock between pro-Boniface VIII cardinals opposed to King Philip IV…and the pro-French, anti-Boniface cardinals…”3 Boniface was the second-to-last pope prior to Clement. His predecessor Benedict XI died less than a year into his pontificate.

Clement had “never set foot in Rome.”4 “King Philip IV insisted that the new pope be crowned at Lyons, and Clement’s yielding to this insistence set the tone for the rest of the reign.”5 After his crowning, he “surrounded himself with French cardinals.”6 King Philip also induced Clement to “suppress” the Knights Templar, who had “rendered valuable service to the Christian cause”7 as fighters for the Church during the Crusades.

A March 2, 1312 letter from Philip to Clement read:
Your Beatitude is aware that I have been informed by trustworthy people of the results of inquiries into the brethren and Order of Knights Templar. These revealed such great heresies and other dreadful, detestable rimes that for this reason the order should justifiably be suppressed…I…humbly beg Your Holiness to be pleased to suppress the aforesaid order.8
The king’s concerned words belied another motive.
[The Knights Templar’s] wealth excited the cupidity of [King Philip]. He trumped up charges of heresy against them, persuaded Pope Clement V to suppress them, burned the last Grand Master at the stake (1312), and appropriated a large share of their property.9
The siege against the Templars was carried out by French officials. This was “made to appear, at the request of the ecclesiastical inquisitors, but in reality without their co-operation.”10

Such were the seeds of the Avignon period of the papacy. All this fueled controversy, leading “the rest of the world [to suspect] that these popes [during the Avignon period] had become the spokesmen of French interests.”11 Even “noted saints…St. Bridget of Sweden and St. Catherine of Siena”12 opposed the move, and during the Avignon period, did their part in convincing the popes to return to Rome.

Toward the end of the Avignon papacy, which exceeded 70 years, the papal “Curia was…largely French. [Then Pope] Gregory [XI] had been ready to go back to Rome with his court, but the opposition of the French cardinals had deterred him.”13

St. Catherine wrote to Pope Gregory to restore the papacy’s residence at Rome:
Be valiant and not fearful: answer God who calls you to come and to fill and defend the place of the glorious Pastor St. Peter, whose successor you are…But take courage and come, O Father; let not the servants of God, whose hearts are heavy with longing, have still to wait for you.14
Having tried to escape Roman politics, the papacy wound up in French politics, and apart from St. Peter’s original chair. As St. Catherine’s letter demonstrates, the faithful were scandalized by the Avignon departure. Pope Gregory returned to Rome in 1376.15 The Roman versus French struggle had not ended. And the stage for the Great Schism was set.

The Schism
Pope Gregory XI died in 1378. This brought “intense dismay [to] the Roman populace”16 who recognized him as the pope who returned to Rome in answer to their prayers. The cardinal-electors numbered sixteen: “four Italian cardinals, five French, and seven belonging to the [French] Limoges faction.”17 Many of these cardinals believed it was better to return to Avignon “where there were no…ruined palaces, no tumultuous Roman mobs and deadly Roman fevers.”18 There was thus a fear among the faithful that “a French pope might well be elected who would once more move the papacy back to Avignon”19 after just two years back in Rome. As the new pope was to be chosen, “[t]he Roman people gathered outside the Vatican Palace demanding a Roman, or at least an Italian, pope. … The heads of the city’s regions…also visited the palace to warn…against ignoring the will of the people.”20 After only a day, the archbishop of the Italian city of Bari, Bartolomeo Prignano, was elected by “all but one of the cardinals. … [He was the] last noncardinal elected to the papacy,” taking the name Urban VI.21

Urban was a bridge of sorts, whose experience connected him both to Avignon and Rome. He had been a “leading figure in the Curia in Avignon and then as regent of the papal chancery after Gregory IX returned to Rome.”22 He was “mild-mannered”23 and “[p]ersonally austere and learned in canon law.”24 Early on he was embraced, “public opinion was in the beginning favourable to him, and not only the cardinals in Rome, but also the six who remained at Avignon submitted to him.”25 As well, “in [the cardinals’] correspondence at the time [they] spoke of having ‘freely and unanimously’ elected him Pope.”26

However, he told the cardinals to “reform the Papal court and break down the luxury of its life, [which] gave deep offense to the cardinals.” Urban’s personality took a stern turn. He became a “violent-tempered Pontiff,”27 subjecting the cardinals to “insults and arrogance.”28 The French cardinals quickly reversed their alliance and fled from Rome. They declared Urban invalidly elected “on the ground that the Roman mob had surrounded the conclave and threatened the cardinals with death unless they should elect a Roman or an Italian Pope.”29 From the city of Agnani, to the southeast of Rome, the cardinals “sent out a notice to the Christian world that the pope had been deposed as incompetent and as an intruder.”30 They later moved to Fondi.

The French cardinals were not without support in the secular world.
Onorato Caetani, count of Fondi, became a military member of the [French cardinals’] secession, offering the cardinals his protection in Anagni, where he continued to act as rector even after Urban VI appointed Tommaso di Sanseverino senator of Rome and then rector of the Campagna in Caetani’s place.31
On September 20, 1378, the French cardinals held a new election of their own, electing Cardinal Robert of Geneva as Clement VII, ultimately, an antipope.32 Cardinal Robert was also the “French King’s cousin.”33 They announced this to “the European courts.”34

“Urban had more supporters among the nations than did Clement,”35 including the “Empire of England, with the northern and eastern nations and most of the Italian republics…”36 Clement had the support of “France, Scotland, Naples,”37 and later “Luxembourg and Austria.”38 Clement took refuge in Avignon. “Each pope attempted to collect all the ecclesiastical revenues, and each excommunicated the other with all his adherents.”39 There were episodes of violence, including a fight over Naples. Both Urban and Clement appointed their own successor to the Naples throne. Clement’s appointee eventually acquired power since no longer did “Urban [have] money to pay troops to relieve it.”40

The war between them was ugly and scandalous to the Church. And the great dilemma was upon Her. Who was the authentic pope?

The Schism is perpetuated in successors
Urban VI died in 1389, and “the Roman cardinals elected Boniface IX to succeed him. Five years later, Clement VII died at Avignon…[and] the French cardinals chose…Benedict XIII.”41 Two lines, the Roman and the French, continued making claims to the papacy.

Upon Clement’s death, the French king Charles VI had sent a letter to the cardinals at Avignon “not to elect a successor to Clement VII.”42 But they had already elected Benedict XIII “before opening the king’s letter.”43 Afterward, Charles still “[urged] Benedict to abdicate.”44 Prior to the Avignon election, all the cardinals had taken “an oath…to abdicate if and when the majority judged it proper to do so.” Benedict refused, which resulted in loss of support from “the rest of France”45 including the king who “withdrew recognition from the Avignon claimant to the papacy from 1398 to 1403.”46

Boniface would not discuss unity unless the Avignon line desisted. Before Clement had died:
[Boniface offered] to make the antipope Clement VII a legate for France and Spain and to allow him and his cardinals to retain their cardinalatial rank—in return for Clement’s abdication.47
No resolution was apparent. “This rupture of the Church’s unity was a terrible trial for believing Catholics…”48
Saints, intellectuals, and bishops on both sides, realizing that recourse to arms was a false avenue, offered several alternatives: arbitration, a general council, or resignation of both Popes.49
In the meanwhile, the Roman pontiff Boniface IX had died, and was succeeded by Innocent VII in 1404. Gregory XII then succeeded him in 1406. But “[n]one of the competing popes offered to resign..”50 Finally, the two colleges of cardinals, Roman and French, agreed to call a General Council, held “at Pisa in 1409.”51 Neither of the papal claimants Innocent or Benedict “recognized its authority, and neither obeyed its summons.”52 The generations of schism resulted in “desperate remedies…in the shape of the new conciliar theories.”53 A conciliar, or conciliary theory is the idea that “a general council is above the pope.”54 These events also come not long after Pope Boniface VIII’s 1302 papal bull, Unam Sanctum, in which he stated “that to be subject to the Roman Pontiff is for every human creature a necessity of salvation.” As well, the authority of the Pope had developed as a source of unity and authority from the first centuries.55

Since both Innocent and Benedict rejected the Pisa council, the cardinals there went ahead and with another election:
The cardinals [at Pisa]…elected another Pope, Alexander V, fondly hoping that they had achieved the union of Christendom. But the scandal only increased, for neither of the Popes yielded. There were now three Popes, and three Colleges of Cardinals, in some dioceses three rival bishops, and in some Religious Orders three rival superiors.56
Gregory opened his own council in 1409 at Cividale. At that council he “excommunicated both Benedict XIII and Alexander V.”57 The others neither embraced this action. Alexander died after a year, and “John XXIII,” another antipope, replaced him.58 Gregory had troubles of his own, with hostilities from the “archbishop of Aquileia,” causing him to flee to Naples. Alexander in turn got the cooperation of Naples authorities, and had Gregory banished from there in 1411. After Pisa, only five years passed with these three “popes,” Gregory, Benedict, and John before another council was called.

Resolution finally came at the ecumenical Council of Constance. It began in 1414 at the suggestion of such Church figures as the French theologian Jean Gerson, who believed the “authority of an ecumenical council was greater than that of a pope.”59

John had confidence in the council “because he hoped that it would confirm him”60 and also because he “had deliberately stacked the episcopate with his supporters.”61 Some “[e]ighteen thousand ecclesiastics of all ranks took part in the”62 Council of Constance. The “right to vote was extended to doctors of theology and law and even to some laymen…each nation, acting as a unit, would cast its one vote. John saw that he had been outmaneuvered....and…under cover of night, John, disguised as a groom, escaped from Constance…”63 He was eventually found and brought “back to Constance, tried by the council, found guilty of numerous crimes, and deposed.”64

Gregory had then agreed to attend the council and abdicate on the condition that “he would be allowed to formally convoke the council, since he did not recognize the authority of John. … [T]he request was agreed to.”65 On July 4, 1415, Gregory officially “convok[ed] the council and resign[ed]...”66

Benedict “still refused to abdicate, but the council declared him a heretic and deprived him of all rights to the papacy.”67 His deposition was finally declared on July 16, 1417.68

The council elected Martin V in 1417, which effectively ended the Great Schism of the Popes.

One of the statements from this international council came from the decree Sacrosancta of April 6, 1415 in which was stated of such an ecumenical council: “…all persons of whatever rank or dignity, even Pope, are bound to obey it in matters relating to faith and the end of the Schism…” With the voluntary resignation of the authentic Pope Gregory XII, the question did remain as to whether a valid pope could be subject to the authority of a council. Martin’s comments soon afterward suggest the Council was not correct:
The new Pope approved “all that the Council had resolved as a Council in matters of faith,” expressly rejecting the decrees of the fourth and fifth sessions, which had declared that the Council held its authority immediately from God, and that even the Pope was subject to it.69
A later council in 1449 that had convened without the pope (who had died before it began its sessions) ultimately “yielded to Pope Nicholas V and dissolved itself.”70 Dr. Ludwig Ott says it is a matter “de fide” that “[T]he pope possesses full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole Church, not merely in matters of faith and morals, but also in Church discipline and in the government of the Church.”71 He cites the first Vatican Council of 1870 from which this language comes. He also specifically says this is “against…Conciliary Theory.”72

Today, the Church recognizes the authentic papal succession to have gone through the Roman line of the validly elected Urban VI, Boniface IX, Innocent VII, and Gregory XII.


1 Schreck, Dr. Alan. The Compact History of the Catholic Church. Servant Books, Ann Arbor, MI. 1987. p 55-56.
2 Bokenkotter, Thomas. A Concise History of the Catholic Church. Doubleday, New York. 2004. p 182.
3 McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes. HarperSanFrancisco. 1997. p 233.
4 Maxwell-Stuart, P.G. Chronicle of the Popes. Thames and Hudson Ltd., London. 1997. p 125.
5 Maxwell-Stuart. p 125.
6 Laux, Fr. John. Church History. Tan Books and Publishers. Rockford, Illinois. p 396.
7 Laux. p 317.
8 King Philip IV, Letter to Pope Clement V. March 2, 1312. Quoted in Maxwell-Stuart. p 127.
9 Laux. p 317.
10 Moeller, Charles. "The Knights Templars." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1912. Accessed December 30, 2008.
11 Shreck. p 56.
12 Schreck. p 56.
13 Lives of Saints, Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc. Quoted in “SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA VIRGIN.” Accessed December 30, 2008.
14 St. Catherine of Siena. Letter to Gregory XI. ca. 1376. Quoted in Laux. p 403.
15 Schreck. p 56.
16 Bokenkotter. p 186.
17 Mulder, William. "Pope Urban VI." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 30 Dec. 2008 Accessed December 30, 2008.
18 Laux. p 404.
19 Bokenkotter. p 186.
20 McBrien. p 247.
21 McBrien. p 247.
22 McBrien. p 247.
23 Schreck. p 56.
24 Maxwell-Stuart. p 139.
25 Mulder. "Pope Urban VI."
26 Bokenkotter. p 186.
27 Laux. p 404.
28 Maxwell-Stuart. p 139.
29 Laux. p 404.
30 McBrien. p 248.
31 Williman, Daniel. “Schism within the Curia : The Twin Papal Elections of 1378.” Jnl of Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 59, No. 1, January 2008. Cambridge University Press.
32 McBrien. p 248.
33 McBrien. p 248.
34 Laux. p 404.
35 Maxwell-Stuart. p 139.
36 Laux. p 404.
37 Maxwell. p 139.
38 Bokenkotter. p 187.
39 Laux. p 405.
40 Maxwell-Stuart. p 139.
41 Laux. p 405.
42 McBrien. p 250.
43 McBrien. p 250.
44 Maxwell-Stuart. p 138.
45 Bokenkotter. p 188.
46 McBrien. p 250.
47 McBrien. p 250.
48 Bokenkotter. p 187.
49 Bokenkotter. p 187.
50 Schreck. p 57.
51 Laux. p 405.
52 Laux. p 405.
53 Hughes, Philip. A History of the Church: To the Eve of the Reformation. Vol. 3. Chapt. 3.5.i. Accessed December 30, 2008.
54 Ott, Michael. "Jacob of Jüterbogk." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. Accessed December 30, 2008.
55 See for example Irenaeus' Against Heresies, ca. 170: "it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church [at Rome], on account of its pre-eminent authority..." Or Cyprian's letter to Cornelius, ca. 252: "the principal Church [at Rome], in which sacerdotal unity has its source...” et al.
56 Laux. p 405.
57 McBrien. p 253.
58 Maxwell-Stuart. p 141.
59 Schreck. p 57.
60 Laux. p 407.
61 Berkenkotter. p 190.
62 Laux. p 407.
63 Bokenkotter. p 191.
64 Bokenkotter. p 191-192.
65 McBrien. p 253.
66 McBrien. p 253.
67 McBrien. p 253.
68 Laux. p 408.
69 Laux. p 408.
70 Laux. p 409.
71 Ott, Dr. Ludwig. Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Tan Books and Publishers. Rockford, Illinois. 1960. p 285.
72 Ott. p 285.


Bokenkotter, Thomas. A Concise History of the Catholic Church. Doubleday, New York. 2004.
Laux, Fr. John. Church History. Tan Books and Publishers. Rockford, Illinois.

Hughes, Philip. A History of the Church: To the Eve of the Reformation. Vol. 3.

Lives of Saints, Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc. Quoted in “SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA VIRGIN.”

Maxwell-Stuart, P.G. Chronicle of the Popes. Thames and Hudson Ltd., London. 1997.

McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes. HarperSanFrancisco. 1997.

Moeller, Charles. "The Knights Templars." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1912.

Mulder, William. "Pope Urban VI." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 30 Dec. 2008

Ott, Dr. Ludwig. Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Tan Books and Publishers. Rockford, Illinois. 1960.

Ott, Michael. "Jacob of Jüterbogk." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910.

Schreck, Dr. Alan. The Compact History of the Catholic Church. Servant Books, Ann Arbor, MI. 1987.

Williman, Daniel. “Schism within the Curia : The Twin Papal Elections of 1378.” Jnl of Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 59, No. 1, January 2008. Cambridge University Press.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Praying to Saints: A Visual Aid

Suppose you are a non-Catholic Christian and you have trouble with the Catholic (or Orthodox or some other church) teaching that Catholics "pray to angels or saints." You may say there is only one mediator between God and men, and that's Jesus. Or you may say prayer is due to God alone. Or perhaps you are a Catholic who has been confronted with these responses to the concept of prayer to saints. So let's take a brief look with a visual aid.

When a Catholic says he is "praying" to an angel or saint he is using the term prayer in the sense "to ask." It means to petition someone for something. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) words it simply to "ask them to intercede."

CCC#2683 When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were "put in charge of many things." (cf. Mt 25:21) Their intercession is their most exalted service to God's plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world.
This example is seen in Scripture many times when someone asks an angel or another member of the Body of Christ for intercession.
  • The Psalmist asks the angels to join him in prayer (Ps 103:20-21, Ps 148:1-2).
  • The Israelites consult the angel who intercedes to God for them, and God responds to the angel's intercession (Zec 1:11-16).
  • Paul asks other members of the Body of Christ to intercede in prayer for him (Rm 15:30, Col 4:3, 1 Thes 5:25, 2 Thes 3:1).
  • The elders and angels in heaven are seen passing on the "prayers of the saints" (Rv 5:8, Rv 8:4).
This interaction between members of the Body of Christ is a testament to the unity of the Body of Christ. Both the members in heaven and earth are a part of the same family in Christ (Eph 3:14-15). Whether it's an angel in heaven or our neighbor next door, we can ask them for intercessory prayer.

So the principle is set forth in Scripture: We can ask for the intercession of another member of the Body of Christ without violating the singular mediation of Jesus Christ, nor granting the saint the worship due to God alone. The principle finds no qualification in Scripture that asking members of the Body of Christ in heaven is off-limits. In fact, Scripture tells us the prayer of a righteous person is most powerful (
Jm 5:16). All the more should we then want the intercession of those fully united with Christ!

Graphically, praying to saints (or angels) looks like this:

Notice how the ends of intercessory prayer is always "God." When we pray (i.e. ask) a heavenly member of the Body of Christ for intercession, we are not going to them "instead of" God. Certainly we would not have considered Paul to have gone to the Romans "instead of" God when he asked them to pray for him, no? The same holds true for asking a heavenly member of the Body of Christ to pray for us.

Therefore, intercessory prayer neither violates the unique salvific mediation of Jesus Christ, nor applies worship to a creature.

Another concern that may come to mind is "How can the dead hear us?" Doesn't Scripture say the dead "know nothing"? (Ecc 9:5)

First, we see in Scripture a number of examples of the conscious awareness of angels or those who have undergone physical death.
  • Tabitha, who was dead, rises at the prompt of Peter telling her to rise (Act 9:36-40).
  • Jesus speaks with "dead" OT saints Moses and Elijah (Mt 17:3, Mk 9:4, Lk 9:30) (Granted someone could say Elijah didn't die but was assumed, but going by Scripture the same cannot be said of Moses, cf. Josh 1:1).
  • The angels are fully aware of what we say and do, and they even rejoice when a sinner repents (Lk 15:10, 1 Cor 4:9, Ps 91:11).
  • I would also reiterate the vision in heaven of angels and elders passing on prayers mentioned above from the book of Revelation. And even in the Old Testament, although done in a sinful way, a witch summons a manifestation of the deceased Samuel, which she could not do if the dead could not respond to her (1 Sam 28:7-14).
So what does the "dead know nothing" mean in Ecclesiastes? The very book can be confusing and one should not jump to form doctrine from contextless verses therein. The book itself opens with most non-doctrinal words: "All is vanity!" Ecclesiastes 9:5, which says the dead know nothing, also says there is no memory of them, which of course could be disproved simply by remembering someone dead. In verse 7, the speaker says "Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart..." This concept is one Paul actually condemns when writing to the Corinthians: "If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" (1 Cor 15:12). But of course the dead are raised as Paul argues, which suggests the writer of Ecclesiastes could only be correct (if he was ever correct) if there was no Resurrection.

Furthermore, the speaker in Ecclesiastes goes on to say that these "dead" are going to "Sheol" (Eccl 9:10). This is commonly held to be the "abode of the dead" (Strong's Concordance #H7585 , CCC#633, etc...) where Jesus visited and preached to "the spirits in prison" (1 Pt 3:19). If one wishes to consider the dead in Ecclesiastes to have been in this "abode of the dead" or whether he wishes to consider Sheol by it's only other definition of "hell," neither applies to the heavenly members of the Body of Christ in the New Covenant. Therefore, one cannot use Ecclesiastes to say the heavenly members of the Body of Christ "know nothing."

Finally, let's say one were to jettison all of the above and still insist he is not comfortable asking anything from anyone in heaven except for God. A solution for such a person would be to ask God to pass on his request for intercessory prayer. For example one could say: "Dear God, please ask Elijah to pray for my illness." In doing so, one addresses only God, yet still follows Paul's example of prompting other members of the Body of Christ to pray for him!

EDIT: September 6, 2010
Supporting the idea that Ecclesiastes 9:5 refers to those in Sheol is:

Psalm 6:5 For in death there is no remembrance of thee; in Sheol who can give thee praise.

Friday, July 9, 2010

John MacArthur errs on Catholicism & the Word

Pastor John MacArthur is an evangelical pastor at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA and President of The Master's College in Santa Clarita. He is the author of over 150 books, perhaps best known for his MacArthur Study Bible. He is the son of Jack MacArthur, and the fifth successive pastor in his family. He holds two honorary doctorates, one from Talbot Theological Seminary and one from Grace Graduate School.

I often listen to his radio show
Grace to You in the morning. Often he will offer some decent exegesis and advance good ideals less-common in some Christian preaching like mortification or the need to avoid sexual sin. He has even argued for Peter as the chief apostle. But when it comes to Catholicism, John MacArthur consistently misses the mark and proves himself unable to accurately portray basic Catholic teaching.

His website features a summary article called
Is Roman Catholicism Biblical?, adapted from his book Reckless Faith.

The article begins:
"Is Roman Catholicism simply another facet of the body of Christ that should be brought into union with its Protestant counterpart?"

To give you a flavor for how he approaches the Catholic Church, consider the following MacArthur quote which aired on
The Way of the Master Radio on November 9, 2006:
In the long war on the truth, the most formidable, relentless, and deceptive enemy has been Roman Catholicism. It is an apostate, corrupt, heretical, false Christianity. It is a front for the kingdom of Satan.
One would be hard-pressed to generate harsher language, no? He considers Catholicism the #1 enemy of Christianity. But John MacArthur does not understand Catholic theology. And I'd like to demonstrate that now. The following is a quotation from one of his sermons (aired 8/31/09) on Grace to You:
We certainly have much to thank Martin Luther for, but infant baptism isn't one of the things. Luther's Catechism says this, quote, baptism worketh forgiveness of sins delivers from death and the devil and gives everlasting salvation to all who believe as the Word of the promise of God declare. Well the baby can't believe. That's where Luther jumped in and said, well, surrogate faith on the part of his parents is rendered in his behalf. So baptized babies will be saved. The Lutheran Augsberg Confession says, quote of baptism, Lutherans teach that it is necessary to salvation, and that by baptism the grace of God is offered and that children are to be baptized who by baptism being offered to God are received into God's favor. This view is held by Anglicans, Episcopalians, some Reformed groups. The Roman Catholic Church essentially teaches the same thing, that the removal of sin depends on the sacrament of infant baptism. Without infant baptism, without baptism, no child can be saved. Council of Trent, 1563, based the salvation of infants on Roman Catholic baptism. In 1951, Pius XII taught that, quote, "No other way besides baptism is seen as imparting the life of Christ to little children." The new Catholic Catechism says, "By Christian baptism, one enters into the Kingdom of God, and into the Spirit of the saving work of Christ." So the answer of the sacramentalists is the baptized babies are saved, and the unbaptized babies aren't. Well, this would make salvation not an act of grace but an act of works! That is no credit to the grace of God!
What is perhaps most interesting about this quotation is how exactly it matches page 46 of Ronald Nash's 1999 book "When a Baby Dies." The exact same quotes from Luther's Catechism, the Augsberg Confession, Anglicans & Episcopalians, Council of Trent, Pius XII, and the "Catechism" are on that page, in the same order MacArthur listed them. Unfortunately, not going to a Catholic source resulted in MacArthur erring in saying Catholics teach unbaptized babies are not saved. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC#1261, specifically speaks of the hope and trust in the mercy of God to welcome unbaptized babies into His arms.

I think the following will also show that he often does not give due attention to Catholic sources before he speaks on behalf of Catholic teaching.

In his article
Is Roman Catholicism Biblical?, MacArthur asserts:
In Roman Catholicism, "the Word of God" encompasses not only the Bible, but also the Apocrypha, the Magisterium (the Church's authority to teach and interpret divine truth), the Pope's ex cathedra pronouncements, and an indefinite body of church tradition, some formalized in canon law and some not yet committed to writing. Whereas evangelical Protestants believe the Bible is the ultimate test of all truth, Roman Catholics believe the Church determines what is true and what is not. In effect, this makes the Church a higher authority than Scripture.
So is it true the Catholic Church considers all these things "the Word of God"? No. MacArthur is incorrect.

The ecumenical council of Vatican II produced a document called "Dei Verbum" (Latin for "Word of God"). Paragraph 10 clearly states:
"Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church."

Let's examine the error of some of his other claims. By "Apocrypha," MacArthur is referring to the Deuterocanonical texts of the Old Testaments which do not appear in Protestant Bibles (these books are Sirach, Wisdom, 1 and 2 Maccabbees, Judith, Tobit, Baruch, and parts of Esther and Daniel). In the first several centuries following the actual writing of the New Testament, the Catholic Church discerned by the Spirit what books constituted authentic Scripture. MacArthur, who does not accept that the Catholic Church by apostolic succession bears this guarantee of discerning such things, necessarily assigns that authority to other men that compiled the "Protestant Bible."

He said Catholics include the "Magisterium" as part of "the Word of God." This does not make sense. CCC#100 states:
"The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church..." The Magisterium is composed of the Pope and the bishops in union with him. The Magisterium is not "the Word of God" but rather the interpretive body which Catholics believe has the authoritative guidance of the Holy Spirit when interpreting the Word.

Depending on what he means by "church tradition," MacArthur is correct that a teaching on faith or morals (which would include Papal ex cathedra statements) not explicit in Scripture may come to us by the Spirit via Sacred Tradition. In Catholicism, the term "tradition" is used in a couple ways (see the
CCC for examples). Some Tradition is considered part of the Word of God as it is derived from the deposit of faith. Some tradition is not considered part of the Word, and outside the class of faith or morals. These would be disciplinary or customary practices like what colors the priest wears during what seasons, the Western discipline of celibacy for priests, what songs are sung during the Liturgy, etc. These would not be considered part of divine revelation which Dei Verbum calls "the Word of God." Such practices may change or be reversed in different cultures and eras.

MacArthur is also mistaken to think "canon law" is considered by Catholics part of the divinely revealed "Word of God." The Code of Canon Law is a legislative guide for various norms practiced in the Church. In remarks promulgating the 1983 Code of Canon Law
(Sacrae Disciplinae Leges), Pope John Paul II said, "it appears sufficiently clear that the Code is in no way intended as a substitute for faith, grace and the charisms in the life of the Church and of the faithful." There may be mentions of matters of faith or morals in Canon Law, but these are not derived from Canon Law, rather Canon Law may mention them.

Aside from his misperceptions on what the Catholic Church considers "the Word of God," MacArthur violates his own criticism. First, he sets forth the rule that "the Bible is the ultimate test of all truth" which nowhere is asserted within the Bible. Second, he criticizes the existence of an interpreting Magisterium while simultaneously appointing himself, de facto, a superior interpreter to the Magisterium. The idea that the Bible is the ultimate test necessarily depends on a human or humans correctly interpreting it by the power of the Holy Spirit.

MacArthur criticizes:
The Church not only infallibly determines the proper interpretation of Scripture, but also supplements Scripture with additional traditions and teaching. That combination of Church tradition plus the Church's interpretation of Scripture is what constitutes the binding rule of faith and practice for Catholics. The fact is, the Church sets itself above Holy Scripture in rank of authority.
The last sentence, which he also claimed earlier, is where MacArthur errs. It is also where he diffuses his own ability to interpret Scripture. Think about it. The Catholic Church considers Herself to have the Spirit-given authority to interpret Scripture. When MacArthur denies any of the Church's interpretations and sets forth the "correct" interpretation, he is placing himself above the Catholic Church, who he says places Herself above Scripture! In other words, it is nonsense to say one is "above Holy Scripture in rank of authority" just because one is interpreting it!

It is also apparent MacArthur is unaware of the Church's understanding of Her relation to Scripture, which is stated in
Dei Verbum:
[The Magisterium] is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed. (Dei Verbum, 10b)
Just as MacArthur believes of himself, the Catholic Church believes She is subject to what God says to us via Scripture. The Church cannot "create" a Tradition that contradicts Scripture, regardless of whether John MacArthur might insist the Church has done so.