INSIDE THE MIND OF BENEDICT XVI
By Shawn Patrick Thornton
PART TWO-THE THEOLOGY OF INFALLIBILITY
/24-7PressRelease.com/ - Newport Beach, CA, April 25, 2005 - This is Part Two of a three part series on the mind of recently elected Pope Benedict XVI. This section assumes that the reader has the information imparted in Part One. Part One is available in the 24-7PressRelease.com archives.
It is not really possible to understand the mind of Benedict XVI without a basic knowledge of the Roman Catholic Church's doctrine of infallibility. This doctrine has helped to perpetuate error and to imprison many good Catholic minds, including the minds of theologians, bishops, Benedict XVI and the Popes before him
THE THEOLOGY OF INFALLIBILITY
The doctrine of infallibility became a matter of required Catholic belief at the First Vatican Council in 1870. That Council held that a pope is infallible when he speaks ex cathedra as, "The Supreme Head of the Visible Church on Earth". Also infallible are Church councils, some Church traditions and the bishops speaking in unison. Infallibility is strictly limited to matters of faith or morals. Traditional Roman Catholic theologians often believe that, "the Spirit of Christ will 'infallibly' guide his Bride." Traditional theologians also believe that any Catholic who knowingly and willfully does not believe in this teaching is guilty of serious sin and is deserving of eternal punishment. Popes included!
Provided that they give external assent by not announcing their personal position publicly, theology experts are exempted from giving internal mental assent if they have sufficient reason to doubt a doctrine. Discreet publication in a theological journal is allowed. Even popes and cardinals are obliged to assent to previously approved doctrines. This doctrine has permitted the perpetuation of error over many hundreds of years. Theologians who disagree with traditional views are often called to Rome, or to their bishop's office. A well known example is Father Charles Curran, an American Catholic theologian, who was stripped of his right to teach theology at Catholic University. In doing so, Washington Archbishop James A. Hickey said that the Vatican had decreed that, "there is no right to public dissent" within the church. That Church teachings even if "not solemnly defined" require submission of "intellect and will". Although Curran was supported by a signed statement from nine former presidents and seven hundred members, of various Catholic theological societies, Hickey, no doubt controlled by fear of his own eternal punishment, ignored the voices of over 700 expert theologians.
The Episcopal Magisterium, as they are called, rarely speaks in a binding fashion, however many Catholics are not quite sure which pronouncements are infallible and which are not. It is complicated dogma. Many avoid risk and assent to everything, reasoning that it is better to assent to everything than to risk going to Hell.
Once this doctrine was proclaimed by the First Vatican Council the Church controlled the faithful, body and soul. It told them what books or theater was appropriate. It censored their thoughts and their writings and controlled their sex lives and diets. One's most private sins had to be confessed. The Church also decided what acts or omissions were sins. The desire for freedom of conscience and religion was called "deliramentum" (insane raving) by Pius IX, in Quanta Cura. If one defines a "cult" as an organization that controls the minute details of its members' lives, then without a doubt the Roman Catholic Church is the world's largest and most successful cult!.
As a result of the Protestant Reformation the Church had adopted a position of opposition to modern thinking. In 1863 a congress of Catholic intellectuals was convened in Munich, Germany to discuss theological advances. Rome reacted to this and a number of other similar attempts with Leo XIII's encyclical Aeterni Patris (1879). This encyclical called for a revival of the theology of St. Thomas in Catholic schools and seminaries. In 1918, Canon Law 1366 made Leo's call Church law. This resulted in moral theology manuals containing almost the same content as the Jesuit Intitutiones Theologiae Moralis of the seventeenth century. The Catholic clergy were thus denied exposure to various types of current theological thinking.
Many of the Church's 'infallible' traditions on sexual morality have come from incorrect scientific information. For instance, in 1677 Van Leeuwenhoek discovered the "scientific fact" that the male sperm contained a miniature person. It wasn't until 1875 that Oscar Hertwig discovered the union of the nuclei of the sperm and the female ovum. Thus, prior to 1875, the masturbating male was throwing away little humans. The same thing was true of the male ejaculating during oral or anal sex. Most forms of birth control, similarly, either threw away or killed little humans.
The reasons for many Church positions on sexual morality have been lost in antiquity. This, coupled with the Church's belief in the infallibility of its tradition and in "salvation by good works", has put heavy and inappropriate burdens on the backs of the faithful. The clergy are also victims. They are fearful that if they mislead the faithful that they too might end up in Hell. Being without Spirit baptism that has matured, the clergy is frightened by Christ's alleged comment, "Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Mt. 5:19
THE FALL OF THE DOCTRINE OF INFALLIBILITY
The Second Vatican Council met in the mid-twentieth century. It acknowledged the right of personal conscience and encouraged theology. As a result, theologians like the Swiss Hans Kung began looking into the subject of infallibility. Kung knew that if he could document even one instance when the Church had reversed an "infallible" position that the whole doctrine would fall.
Research showed that the Roman Catholic Church had to reverse its traditional position that interest taking was immoral. The Church's stand against interest taking (they called it "usury") had been based upon Scripture (Ex. 22:25, Lev. 25:35 37, Ps. 15:5, Ez.18:5 9 and Luke 6:33 35). In the West, Ambrose, Jerome and Augustine and in the East Clement of Alexandria, Basil and Gregory of Nyssa, all prominent figures in shaping Catholic doctrine, had held that interest taking was immoral. Three ecumenical councils, Lateran II, Lateran III and Vienne had supported this position. Four popes, Alexander III, Urban III, Eugene III and Gregory IX, and as far as it could be determined all theologians concurred with this doctrine. Clearly this was the doctrine of the Church, and it had been so over a long period of time, and thus, in theory at least, it was infallible.
In the sixteenth century, due to the experience of bankers, theologians Dominic Soto and John Medina questioned this teaching and one hundred years later a Roman congregation reversed this 'infallible' Catholic position.
These findings emboldened Catholic intellectuals. They knew that the entire body of Catholic theology was subject to reexamination. The Vatican resisted, but it was too late, too many intellectuals knew the truth. However, Hans Kung was disciplined and called a heretic. And, even though his friend Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, was aware of the above facts he was so indoctrinated that he was unable to face up to reality and he publicly criticized Kung.
Also very dangerous to Catholic spiritual freedom and growth was the conservative call for a uniform worldwide catechism that Catholics would be required to believe. Recently Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger completed this catechism. Many of the required beliefs are "under pain of mortal sin" (possible condemnation to Hell). This catechism may set the Church back a thousand years.
From the mystics view, the notion of infallibility, combined with sanctions, is nothing more than a theistic, religious absurdity. Infallibility, with sanctions, assumes that a relationship of authority can exist between God and man, because God and each human being are separate beings. And, that God has appointed a Church to decide what is good in itself (a subjective rather than objective determination), and then to develop rules of morality for the rest of mankind. And further, that God will enforce the Church's doctrines (which again assumes that God and humanity are separate beings) and that there are certain moral absolutes that are of great importance to mankind's salvation (which assumes that humanity is not already inherently righteous by virtue of its oneness with God).
In conclusion, it is clear that Benedict XVI , a traditional theologian, not only will not, but he cannot, change the Church's 'infallible' positions without admitting that the Church is not infallible and personally committing 'mortal sins' that he believes would condemn him to hell.
ABOUT SHAWN PATRICK THORNTON
Shawn Patrick Thornton is the author of a 2005 published book entitled, In Defense of the Christ: Why Jesus would Disown Christianity (www.christbestseller.com) . Shawn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Shawn spent 14 years in Catholic schools including a Jesuit high school and university. On February 13,1978, after a long spiritual odyssey Shawn experienced Spirit baptism and writes from the creative 27 year expansion of that spiritual awakening.
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