Monday, 4 August 2008

A message for those seeking the truth...

When, as teacher and pastor of all the faithful, he defines a teaching of faith and/or morals to be held by the universal Church...

the Pope is infallible!

... Or you could just disagree and try valiantly to make sense of the 99,000 other Christian denominations who all disagree over what the Bible actually means.

Or just chuck it all and make yourself your own god.

Let's face it. It's a no brainer. No infallible teaching authority means no truth and no certainty.

So why not stick with the obvious right answer?

Simple, really, isn't it?

Papal infallibility for ever!

PS. and fortunately he is rather a nice bloke, too...



Brian said...

How would you KNOW that he's infallible?

Tribunus said...

If what?

"Would" is conditional!

I think you perhaps mean how "do" I know he's infallible, right?

You can see that I am pedantic about these things and hate sloppiness.


You've come to the right place to ask that question.

I will be doing a post on it when I have time.

But for the present this will have to do.

Belief in the infallibility of the pope is a rational belief and can be proved rationally.

An argument can be proved rationally and yet still be disbelieved. That is because people are not always rational.

I am going to assume that you are rational - I hope rightly.

All belief-systems - even atheism - are claimed by their adherents to be true. For a proposition to be true it has to be proved to be true or, at the least, not proved to be false.

Very few people think that the belief-system they choose to believe in is false or even doubtful. Otherwise they would simply not believe in it.

This is the simplest form of "infallibility" - self-belief in one's own belief-system.

Now, if a person can be convincingly shown that his belief-system is false then it is likely that he will eventually abandon it.

Catholics are no different in this respect.

The doctrine of papal infallibility is closely defined by the very organ which claims to exercise that infallibility viz., the Pope and an Ecumenical Council ratified by him.

The definition of papal infallibility made at the 1st Vatican Council in 1870 states as follows:

"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."

There are 5 conditions set out in this definition.

If this definition is false, it ought therefore to be easy to rebut it by looking at the definitions of popes and Councils over the last 2,000 years of Roman Catholic Christianity.

All one need do is show that one pope or Council made a definition clearly inconsistent with, or contrary to, another such definition.

The problem is that you can't.

It has been tried and no-one has been able to show that the proposition is false.

There have been some close calls e.g. Popes Liberius, Honorius, John XXII and a few others. However, none of these entailed a clear contradiction.

The worst that can be said is that a papal, or papally approved, definition was ambiguous.

Ambiguity is not contradiction.

That is the first test - consistency.

And it is a remarkable fact that the Catholic Church is the only belief-system in the world that can claim that consistency of definitive teaching.

All other major world religions either do not have a teaching authority at all or else have an authority that does not teach consistently.

Round One to the Catholic Church.

And it is a vitally important round because if all other belief-systems fail the test of consistency of doctrine then they are simply not credible as belief-systems. And if the only one left is Catholicism then it has the best claim to be the true belief-system.

But consistency is not all. One can be consistently wrong, for example.

In his Development of Christian Doctrine, Cardinal Newman then goes on to provide a list of 7 truth-tests which he applies to the development of Christian doctrine.

These tests are: (1) preservation of type (2) continuity of principles (3) the power of assimilating apparently foreign material without corruption (4) 'early anticipation' of the mature form (5) 'logical sequence' of ideas, and finally, (7) 'chronic continuance'.

He then applies all of these tests to the various forms of Christianity and is forced, against his initial will, to conclude that only the Roman Catholic form of Christianity passes all these tests. Indeed, all the other forms fail the majority of these tests.

He considers all major Catholic doctrines in so doing.

Exactly the same exercise can be done for all the other major world religions and there one finds that none of them meet all, or even many, of the tests of a true doctrinal development.

In a further book, his Grammar of Assent, Newman then looks logically at what is required for logical assent to any set of metaphysical doctrines and shows, with ineluctable logic, why only the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church merits such assent.

This is predicated on both deduction, as is metaphysical logic, but also upon induction, as all science is. From both forms of logic Newman proves the truth of Catholic Christianity and, indirectly therefore, of the doctrine of papal infallibility.

From these tests, non-Catholic religions are easily and readily dismissed as logically inconsistent and purely fallible, not infallible.

Complete atheism, however, cannot be dismissed so readily on that basis. It is at least consistent in claiming that there is no God at all.

However, atheism fails on other grounds.

These grounds are addressed by St Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Contra Gentiles which was aimed at non-Christians.

In this work he sets out his famous "5 Ways" which prove the existence of God. They are all eminently logical, convincing and unassailable.

The most famous is the argument for a "unmoved mover", predicated upon a regress of motion or causes back to an original "unmoved mover" or "uncaused cause" which men call God.

We see all around us that events have causes. How is it that all events in the Universe have efficient causes but not the main event, the creation of time and space.

If there was a "Big Bang" then what, or who, caused the "Big Bang"?

To say "no-one" or "nothing" is to say that a Universe of causes and effects has no cause and effect.

This is simply not credible.

We return to "papal infallibility".

Every belief-system has its teachers. All, except the Catholic Church, are either inconsistent at some time and place or else claim no clear authority and so cannot be definitively true.

Any rational person must thus either go on and try to prove this statement to be untrue or else admit that papal infallibility cannot be impugned as inconsistent or illogical.

That being so then, if he cannot also disprove the logical inconsistency of other belief-systems, he ought, logically, to endorse papal infallibility.

Over to you, then, to prove any of this wrong.