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Infallibility. I will therefore take them in order, and then answer certain objections.
I. First, the definition limits the infallibility of the Pontiff to the acts which emanate from him ex cathedra. This phrase, which has been long and commonly used by theologians, has now, for the first time, been adopted into the terminology of the Church ; and in adopting it the Vatican Council fixes its meaning. The Pontiff speaks ex cathedra when, and only when, he speaks as the Pastor and Doctor of all Christians. By this, all acts of the Pontiff as a private person, or a private doctor, or as a local Bishop, or as sovereign of a state, are excluded. In all these acts the Pontiff may be subject to error. In one, and one only, capacity he is exempt from error; that is, when, as teacher of the whole Church in things of faith and morals.
Our Lord declared, “Super cathedram Moysi sederunt scribæ et Pharisæi:" the scribes and Pharisees sit in the chair of Moses. The seat or “ cathedra" of Moses signifies the authority and the doctrine of Moses; the cathedra Petri is in like manner the authority and doctrine of Peter. The former was binding by Divine command and under pain of sin, upon the people of God under the old law; the latter is binding by Divine command and under pain of sin, upon the people of God under the new.
I need not here draw out the traditional use of the term cathedra Petri, which in St. Cyprian, St. Optatus, and St. Augustine is employed as synonymous with the successor of Peter, and is used to express the centre and test of Catholic unity. Ex cathedra is therefore equivalent to ex cathedra Petri
and distinguishes those acts of the successor of Peter which are done as supreme teacher of the whole Church.
The value of this phrase is great, inasmuch as it excludes all cavil and equivocation as to the acts of the Pontiff in any other capacity than that of Supreme Doctor of all Christians, and in any other subject matter than the matters of faith and morals.
II. Secondly, the definition limits the range, or, to speak exactly, the object of infallibility, to the doctrine of faith and morals. It excludes, therefore, all other matter whatsoever.
The great commission or charter of the Church is, in the words of our Lord, “Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations ... teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world."*
In these words are contained five points.
1. First, the perpetuity and universality of the mission of the Church as the teacher of mankind.
2. Secondly, the deposit of the Truth and of the commandments, that is, of the Divine Faith and law entrusted to the Church.
3. Thirdly, the office of the Church, as the sole interpreter of the Faith and of the Law.
4. Fourthly, that it has the sole Divine jurisdiction existing upon earth, in matters of salvation, over the reason and will of man.
5. Fifthly, that in the discharge of this office our Lord is with His Church always, and to the consummation of the world.
* St. Matthew xxviii. 19, 20.
The doctrine of faith and the doctrine of morals are here explicitly described. The Church is infallible in this deposit of revelation.
And in this deposit are truths and morals both of the natural and of the supernatural order; for the religious truths and morals of the natural order are taken up into the revelation of the order of grace, and form a part of the object of infallibility.
1. The phrase, then, “faith and morals,” signifies the whole revelation of faith ; the whole way of salvation through faith; or the whole supernatural order, with all that is essential to the sanctification and salvation of man through Jesus Christ.
Now, this formula is variously expressed by the Church and by theologians; but it always means one and the same thing.
The Second Council of Lyons says, “If any questions arise concerning faith,” they are to be decided by the Roman Pontiff.*
The Council of Trent uses the formula “in things of faith and morals, pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine.”+
Bellarmine says, “in things which pertain to faith," and again, “ The Roman Pontiff cannot err in faith ;” and further he says, “Not only in decrees of faith the Supreme Pontiff cannot err, but neither (can he err) in moral precepts which are
* "Si quæ subortæ fuerint quæstiones de fide, suo (i. e. Rom. Pont.) debent judicio definiri.”—Labbe, Concil. tom. xiv. p. 512. Venice, 1731.
7" In rebus fidei et morum ad ædificationem doctrinæ Christianæ pertinentium.”—Labbe, Concil. tom. xx. p. 23.
enjoined on the whole Church, and which are conversant with things that are necessary to salvation, or with those which are in themselves good
Gregory of Valentia says, “Without any restriction it is to be said, that whatsoever the Pontiff determines in controverted matters which have respect to piety, he determines infallibly; when, as it has been stated, he obliges the whole Church ; " and again,
“ Whatsoever the Pontiff asserts in any controverted matter of religion, it is to be believed that he asserts infallibly by his Pontifical authority, that is, by Divine assistance," +
Bannez proposes the thesis in these words; "Can (the Roman Pontiff) err in defining matters of faith?”
S. Antoninus says, “It is necessary to admit one head in the Church, to whom it belongs to clear up
*“In his quæ ad fidem pertinent.” “ Pontifex Romanus non potest errare in file.” “ Non solum in. decretis fidei errare non potest Summus Pontifex, sed neque in præceptis morum, quæ
toti Ecclesiæ præscribuntur, et quæ in rebus necessariis ad salutem, vel in iis quæ per se bona vel maťa sunt, versantur.”—Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, lib. iv. capp. iii. v. pp. 795, 804. Venice, 1599.
“ Absque ulla restrictione dicendum est, quicquid Pontifex in rebus controversis ad pietatem spectantibus determinat, infallibiliter illum determinare, quando, ut expositum est, universam Ecclesiam obligat.” Greg. de Valentia, Opp. tom. iii. disp. i. qu. i. “De Objecto Fidei,” punct. vii. 8. 40, p. 312. Ingolstadt, 1595.
Quæcumque Pontifex in aliqua re de religione controversa sic asserit, certa fide credendum est illum infallibiliter, utpote ex auc. toritate Pontificia, i.e. ex Divina assistentia, asserere.”—Ibid. s. 39,
“An possit in rebus fidei definiendis errare ?"-In Sum. S. Th. Q. 2. q. 1. art. 10.
the traditionary expression of the object of the inbibility of the Chumain
It is dear that these phrases are all equivalent. They are more or less explicit, but they contain the amestimmte meaning, numely, that the Church
intaliile grudiane in treating of all matters of faith its pitty and the general good of the
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Suarez says, Pontiff defining cannot err, whens anything to be Church." +
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*“Oportet enim in E declarare illa quæ sunt sive sint speculativa sivo
+ “Veritas Catholica regulam fidei, quæ erri proponit toti Ecclesiæ, Fide, disp. v. sec. 8, tom
“Omnino infallibilen sit. Ratio est, quia sen pertinent, infallibilem co et permissione : 'Ego re fuisset Christi Domini pri dendis talibus quæstionib teret.”—Id. De Religione
is finendis sztonssyte exterminandas Spangua Deo pereista et credende er fide
Pisana sam semper audire tenetur Beclesia. Edisa arima Seriptum absolute predicat esse columnam et fra veritatis (1 Tim. i), ideoque nunquam errare tota po s dalam esse non debet quin in aliis quoque rebus omnibus as
gad pietatem xpectent, et Ecclesiam totam concernent,in-
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Biclesia in rebus religionis fallatur. Ibid 3. 40,