New post at The Anglo-Catholic on religious freedom

An excerpt:

One of the things that I have noticed on some blogs and discussion forums is that a phrase will be taken out of document deemed infallible and used to beat other people over the head with.  There is no salvation outside the Church!, for example.  I hope and pray that I never become one of those “converts” who bludgeons people with phrases like that!  There are ways, sadly, that one can spout even truthful things in a way that pushes people away from that truth.

Others will run with a quote from one of the Vatican II documents as if it stands on its own or abrogates everything else the Church has taught previously.

I am reminded, sadly, of the way Protestants behave when they hurl Bible proof-texts at each other.

Just as I have come to understand that every passage in Scripture has to be interpreted in light of other passages and Tradition, is it not better to interpret various infallible documents in light of each other?

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6 Responses to New post at The Anglo-Catholic on religious freedom

  1. Rev22:17 says:


    You asked: Just as I have come to understand that every passage in Scripture has to be interpreted in light of other passages and Tradition, is it not better to interpret various infallible documents in light of each other?

    Yes, of course.

    But first, one needs to be clear as to which documents are intrinsically infallible and which are not. Basically, the Catholic church holds that all dogmatic constitutions (doctrinal pronouncements) by an ecumenical council are intrinsically infallible, but that apostolic constitutions promulgated by the pope are intrinsically infallible only if issued ex cathedra. Of the documents promulgated by the Second Vatican Council, for example, only the dogmatic constitutions Lumen gentium on the church and Dei verbum on divine revelation are intrinsically infallible. Likewise, there are only two papal documents issued ex cathedra to date: the apostolic constitution Ineffabilis Deus defining the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, promulgated by Pope Pius IX on 08 December 1854, and the apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus defining the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, promulgated by Pope Pius XII in 1950. Note that the papal bull Unam sanctum, which some cite as authority for saying that there is no salvation outside the church, is not such a document. Signficantly, the first of these documents stirred up a lot of debate about the capacity of the pope to issue such a document — debate which the First Vatican Council definitively laid to rest by promulgating the decree Pastor aeturnus defining the limits of so-called “papal infallibility” in 1870.

    FWIW, note that the theological objections to the definitive teaching of Lumen gentium of the Society of St. Pius X, cited in an earlier topic on this blog, are flawed in that they wrongly assume intrinsic infallibility of papal decrees that simply are not intrinsically infallible.


    • Peter Karl T. Perkins says:

      Those documents of the Second Vatican Council are NOT infallible, intrinsically or otherwise. The word ‘dogmatic’ in the title of a document does not confer infallibility. It only means that the document pertains to infallible teaching. In order to partake of the charism of infallibility, the conditions set forth for that must be met. In the case of the Second Vatican Council, the fathers must define the dogma and declare that they are invoking that charism. Why? Because they themselves put this limit on conciliar documents in a doctrinal note of the doctrinal commission, included with Lumen Gentium.

      Other dogmas are infallible in virtue of the Extraordinary Magisterium if they have been held always by all and everywhere. The dogma Extra Ecclesia Nulla Salus is infallible. However, what it means is that nobody is saved outside the spiritual action of Holy Church. For example, if those not united to the Pope in communion are saved, it is owing to the spiritual action (e.g. prayers) of the faithful


  2. conchurl says:

    I like the way the Orthodox frame the issue:

    We we know where the Church is; we do not know where it is not.

  3. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:

    As an addendum to my last post, I point out the following:

    1. The dogma Extra Ecclesia Nulla Salus, as properly defined by the Magisterium (which I have mentioned) is an infallible teaching of the Church. It does not mean that all non-Catholics are going to Hell, only that those who do go to Heaven go there as a result of the assistance given unto them by the faithful in prayer and otherwise. The teaching is infallible as part of one of the three great Creeds in virtue of the Ordinary Magisterium: it has been held always, everywhere and by all and officially.

    2. In order for any conciliar teaching to be infallible, except when the fathers, convoked as one body, repeated teaching already held to be infallible, one must look to the authority they declare and their manner of doing so. In the case of Vatican II, there is a simple exclusion owing to “The Announcements made by the Most Excellent Secretary General of the Most Holy Council at the 123rd General Congregation, 16 November, 1964”. This was attached to Lumen Gentium (see Abbott, p. 68). It refers to the Declaration of the Theological Commission of 6 March, 1964: “In view of conciliar practice and the pastoral purpose of the present Council, this sacred Synod defines matters of faith or morals as binding on the Church only when the Synod itself openly declares so”.

    As many commentators have noted, not once did the fathers make such a declaration with or without the needed definition of terms to make a teaching infallible. Moreover, except where the fathers declare a binding teaching specifically, Vatican II documents do not bind the faithful by any particular degree of submission of mind and will but only by a general submission of this kind. That means that many of these documents, despite their authoritative-sounding titles, do not even impose a complete submission of mind and will. Only Holy Church may decide the degree to which they bind us in that way, and ‘Norm’ is not Holy Church.

    I note that this very issue is the reasons why, in the negotiations with the S.S.P.X, an attempt is underway (as openly admitted by Bishop Fellay) to distinguish between doctrinal and non-doctrinal declarations of Vatican II, and to decide the theological quality of the submission due to the former. But in no case is there a question of infallibility, except insofar as the Council fathers repeated teaching already held to be infallible.

    Back to more important matters: Which Offertory prayers were used at the Mass of reception in Ottawa. The videotape froze at that point. Was this deliberate, so that we could not discern the answer by seeing if there was a Lavabo?

  4. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:

    One Note on Extra Ecclesia:

    The ‘Feeneyites’ will disagree with me and insist on a strict interpretation of this teaching. Rome, since 2011, has admitted them as having an acceptable belief on this matter, but she has not, since then, imposed this on the rest of the faithful. I don’t want to turn this blog into a place where Feeneyites descend, and I’m sure that others here would agree on that, including Norm!

    It seems that Benedict XVI’s umbrella is large enough for incoming Anglicans, Feeneyites, and others. Whatever.


  5. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:

    One note on Norm’s expression:

    Norm writes that doctrinal documents of an œcumenical council are “intrinsically infallible”. If he means that this is so except to the extent that they are self-restricted by definition, then he is mistaken. The same Theological Commission also declared: “Other matters which the Sacred Synod proposes as the doctrine of the supreme teaching authority of the Church, each and every member of the Church is obliged to accept [from Latin: meaning ‘receive’] and embrace according to the mind of the Sacred Synod itself, which becomes known either from the subject matter, or from the language employed, according to the norms of theological interpretation”. This is given by the Commission (“Other”) in contradistinction to infallible conciliar teachings. So it would appear that, given certain subjects and given a certain manner of expression, some declarations in dogmatic constitutions are neither infallible nor even non-infallibly doctrinal.

    Were Norm to say that an œcumenical council, provided that it is in union with the Pope, bears an ‘intrinsic infallible authority’, we could agree wtih him, although I’m not sure what is added here by the qualifier.

    Norm also makes this odd distinction between conciliar and ex cathedra infallibility. That is not the standard distinction made by the Church. Conciliar dogmas are not infallible unless approved by the reigning Pope ‘from the chair’. So they are exercises of the Extraordinary Magisterium when they are infallible. The standard distinction is between infalliblity in virtue of the Ordinary Magisterium (constantly held teachings by all, everywhere, always) and those of the Extraordinary Magisterium. Extra Ecclesia is part of the Athanasian Creed, whcih is infallible in virtue of the former.


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