Bellarmine on Papal Error

Ryan Grant has translated and published a booklet excerpted from Saint Robert Bellarmine’s larger work on the papacy. The title of this brief book is: “Papal Error?: A Defense of Popes said to have Erred in Faith

The book offers a defense of 40 past Popes, accused of errors against the faith. It also argues that no Pope can teach or commit heresy, not even privately, and certainly not as a teaching to be held by the whole Church.

‟It is probable and may piously be believed that not only as ‛Pope’ can the Supreme Pontiff not err, but he cannot be a heretic even as a particular person by pertinaciously believing something false against the faith.”

‟It is proved: 1) because it seems to require the sweet disposition of the providence of God. For, the Pope not only should not, but cannot preach heresy, but rather should always preach the truth. He will certainly do that, since the Lord commanded him to confirm his brethren, and for that reason added: ‛I have prayed for thee, that thy faith shall not fail,’ that is, that at least the preaching of the true faith shall not fail in thy throne. How, I ask, will a heretical Pope confirm the brethren in faith and always preach the true faith?

And then the second way that this probable opinion is proved is by the fact, after the careful examination of cases where Popes are so accused, none is found to be guilty of heresy. I will add that, in the present day, Fr. Iannuzzi has made the same argument, and has found that none of the popularly accused Popes is actually guilty of heresy.

Furthermore, both Bellarmine and Iannuzzi see the passage from Scripture — I have prayed for you, that your faith shall not fail — as indicating the protection of the Pope from any type of heresy, material or formal. And this is exactly what the First Vatican Council taught:

“This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this See so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine.”

If a Pope could teach heresy, even privately or materially, then he would not have the gift of truth. If a Pope could commit heresy, whether publicly or hidden in his heart and mind, then he would not have a never-failing faith.

This is a matter of faith for us. Jesus’ prayer will not fail. The prevenient grace of God cannot be refused by anyone, Saint or sinner. The providence of God also protects the faith of the Pope. Providence brings the right advisors and the right words to his ears and eyes. Providence makes certain that he has the right experiences to dispose him to continue in faith. And grace prevent the sin of heresy absolutely, since prevenient grace does not require cooperation.

Is this fair to the free will of each Pope? Yes, because he freely accepts his office, and he can freely resign. So free will is not harmed by violence.

The souls in Purgatory cannot sin at all, by the prevenient grace of God. The Virgin Mary in this life could not sin, by the same type of grace, to a most full extent. So it is not unthinkable that the Roman Pontiff would have this gift, so as to keep the Church indefectible, and to prevent the Ark of Salvation from becoming a shipwreck — which is certainly what would happen if the Church and her Head did not have the grace and providence of God.

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

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49 Responses to Bellarmine on Papal Error

  1. Rodney Ford says:

    Ron,
    I think you are making a false assumption that in principle, the Pope should be infallible in faith and morals. But this assumes the Church is not going through some testing or judgement from Christ himself. Remember what the Lord said to the Church at Ephesus, “…repent and do the works you did at first. If not I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place,”(Apocalypse 2:5, RSV) The Catholic Church is in full apostasy, and the papacy??? Since Vatican II, Novus Ordo Misse, and Amoris Laetitia, I think papal infallibility is definitely in question.

    • Ron Conte says:

      The Pope is not infallible in all that he says and does. Infallibility is limited. However, his errors cannot reach to the extent of heresy.

    • Rodney Ford says:

      Ron,
      lets just take one example: Ecumenism ? “It firmly believes, professes and preaches that all those who are outside the catholic church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life and will go into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless they are joined to the catholic church before the end of their lives;”{Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Cantate Domino, 1441, ex cathedra}

      How do you reconcile this ex cathedra statements with the current post-conciliar church that is basically teaching religious indifferentism. Ecumenism and interfaith dialogue always implies or at least encourages this heresy. Until the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958, the Catholic Church always opposed the ecumenical movement and offered as her own alternative the conversion of all non-Catholics to the only true Church, which has been instituted by God as the sole means of salvation. When Popes contradict their own Church dogma, and change things that are to be immutable teachings; well, I think it can at least be said of these men, they are in material heresy.

    • Ron Conte says:

      It is objectively a mortal sin to possess sufficient accurate knowledge about Christianity or the Catholic Church, and to not convert. This justifies the expression of the Council of Florence; it was speaking about the objective mortal sin. The modern teaching takes into account invincible ignorance, while not at all denying that the Church is the sole ark of salvation.
      http://catechism.cc/articles/All-Salvation-Comes-through-Christ.htm

    • Rodney Ford says:

      I will grant you that the teaching of the Church on invincible ignorance is an exception to the doctrine “outside the Church there is no salvation”, but this doctrine seems to be a hypothetical one which neither saves nor condemns; it only commits people to God’s mercy–And I don’t pretend to know the mind of God. These modernists are changing, and have changed, the Church into a new religion (sect) with a new gospel.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Invincible ignorance does not save, in itself. They still need to enter the state of grace, and remain in it, or return to it. It is not a pure hypothetical, since God’s grace never fails to bear fruit. So the billions of non-Christians cannot be said to be possibly all condemned. There certainly are many saved by a baptism of desire or of blood. To say otherwise is to accuse God of not being all-powerful and infinitely merciful.

    • Rodney Ford says:

      This is why Pope Francis is wrong in saying we should not proselytize Jews. People of other faiths cannot be encouraged to stay where they are if their religion is diametrically opposed to the truth. Also, I would not say that many will be saved by the baptism of desire. This would be giving false assurance to persons which have a wrong view of Jesus and who he was. As far as God not being all-powerful and infinitely merciful, I do believe that he is. However, you forget to include a very important aspect. He is also Sovereign. While every one likes to quote (2 Peter 3:9) ” The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” This verse is obviously speaking of God’s benevolence and not a Universalist doctrine that all souls will be saved. Jesus even said that, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”(Matt. 7:14)

    • “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18. “And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” Matthew 28:20. You are calling Jesus a liar. You are saying that God has been abandoning his Church in the hands of heretic antipopes for 50+ years. Which means that there is no Church at all, and without the Church, there is no salvation (Extra ecclesiam nulla salus); but if there is no Church, then God is leaving humanity without ANY means of salvation. Which means that nobody will be saved, according to your view. As you can see, we don’t have this contradiction. The Church had become tainted with traditions of men, and the Holy Ghost is repairing the damage, in the same way that St. Francis of Assisi hoped for. Yours is the great apostasy of denying that God is always there for us.
      Why did the Church change so much? Why are we abandoning some customs and traditions that were previously believed to be constants? St. Paul has the answer:
      “8 Charity never falleth away: whether prophecies shall be made void, or tongues shall cease, or knowledge shall be destroyed. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
      10 But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of a child. 12 We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I am known.”

    • Rodney Ford says:

      St. Paul is speaking of the second coming of Christ and the eternal state. But as for St. Francis or Assisi, I have another quote, ” for in those days Jesus Christ will send them not a true Pastor, but a destroyer.”
      When God disciplined Israel he always left a remnant. I don’t to pretend to know God’s whole plan, but there are other groups of Catholics trying to keep the traditions of the Church pure: ie. The SSPX and others who are resisting the current apostasy. But to limit God to a certain structure, and say that he is not able to remove his providence or grace or whatever, is like putting your faith in a systematic theology and not in the personal awesome God which we serve.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Jesus chose to use the Church, His body, as the means of salvation. So it is not limiting God to expect Him to do as He said He would do. The Church is the body of Christ, so it cannot betray its head. The providence and grace of God does not permit it. Thus, the destroyer is the Antichrist, who pretends to be a pastor, a savior, etc. But he is not a Pope or antipope.

    • Rodney Ford says:

      Ron,
      the head (Francis) has betrayed us. Papal Dogma: “Pope Paul IV and his Bull Cum Ex Apostolates Officio which clearly authorizes the faithful to withdraw their obedience from a Pope who becomes known as a heretic from prior to his elevation.” I don’t know how, or if we could have known about Bergolio??? But for what it’s worth, I think he was probably a liberal maniac back then too.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Here is my reply on the Ex Officio document: https://ronconte.wordpress.com/2016/08/16/did-pope-paul-iv-say-that-a-pope-can-teach-heresy-or-be-a-heretic/
      I’m not going to permit an extended discussion in which people propose that Pope Francis and/or other Popes are heretics or invalid. If you have an argument to make on that point, then write and publish. But be aware that formal heresy and formal schism are grave sins which carry the penalty of automatic excommunication.

    • Rodney, you contradict yourself. IF the Church has fallen into heresy since the Second Vatican Council, as you claim, than the statement of Saint Francis of Assisi may not be applied to Pope Francis. In fact, St. Francis speaks of THE destroyer, meaning that the Antichrist is ONE INDIVIDUAL; but in this case, there have been 6 popes from John XXIII to Francis, which in your opinion would be six antichrists. Which means that either your argument fails, and St. Francis is not talking about the post-V2 (anti)Popes, or he is speaking solely about Pope Francis. Now, if we take for valid the second statement, ie. Pope Francis is the destroyer and antipope Francis spoke of, than you cannot accuse the post-V2 and pre-Francis Church of being heretic and you must accept V2 as a valid Council, in all of its statements on the relationship with modernity, the non-Christians etc. An extreme consequence of this is that the SSPX is in heresy for denying the authority of legitimate Popes, which means also that they do not represent the “true Church”, despite the fact that they celebrate according to the old-fashioned pre-V2 rite. As such, they are in the same situation as the Eastern Orthodox, ie. schismatics and heretics who celebrate valid sacraments but do not represent the true Catholic Church, ie. the only Church where the Faith subsists in fulness. Which means, once again, that Jesus abandoned his Church and the world, and so He was a liar.

      I am sorry, but accusing Pope Francis of falling into heresy based on the accusation that the post-V2 popes are heretic is, as you can see, an ontological suicide.

    • Rodney Ford says:

      Alessandro,
      It seems you are out to win an argument, but I am just trying to search for truth. My personal opinion about Pope Francis being a material heretic has only to do with his religious indifferentism, and his lack of moral judgement as to Church dogma in Amoris Laetitia. These past Popes may or may not be anti-popes, only time will tell. All I say is there a lot of compromising going on. You could definitely say the Church is in apostasy and under the influence of the “mystery of iniquity”. I think your wrong about SSPX, they just became regularized with Rome Dec. 2017.

    • Ron Conte says:

      SSPX is still an heretical and schismatic group. The door is open to them, if they wish to return. They only have to give up their heresies and their schismatic rejection of all the Popes from John 23 to Francis.

  2. Francisco says:

    This is a matter of faith and here is the profession of faith from the Vatican for the faithful:
    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_1998_professio-fidei_en.html

    • Rodney Ford says:

      Francisco,
      In regard to: “Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, ” There have been bad and heretical Popes throughout history as Church father can attest: St. Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, II, 30: “A pope who is a manifest heretic automatically (per se) ceases to be pope and head, just as he ceases automatically to be a Christian and a member of the Church. Wherefore, he can be judged and punished by the Church. This is the teaching of all the ancient Fathers who teach that manifest heretics immediately lose all jurisdiction.”

    • Ron Conte says:

      You are misrepresenting Bellarmine. He opines on the counter-factual hypothetical, if a Pope were guilty of heresy, he would automatically not be Pope. But he also says that God does not permit this hypothetical, so that the Church will remain indefectible. Also, the more recent magisterial teaching, contrary to that erroneous opinion of Bellarmine, is that a heretic does not, in every sense, cease to be a Christian and a member. For example, a heretical priest can still validly dispense the Sacraments, as long as the usual conditions are met. But if he were not a Christian at all, then he would not be a priest at all, and that would not be true.

    • Rodney Ford says:

      St. Bellarmine is representing other positions held according to Cajetan and the other Thomists, This is the opinion of all the ancient Fathers, who teach that manifest heretics soon [mox] lose all jurisdiction, and namely St. Cyprian who speaks on Novation, who was a Pope in schism with Cornelius: “He cannot hold the Episcopacy, although he was a bishop first, he fell from the body of his fellow bishops and from the unity of the Church” So, even though St. Bellarmine did not support this position, other Fathers of the Church did.

    • Ron Conte says:

      It doesn’t matter. The First Vatican Council decided the question.

    • Francisco says:

      Rodney –
      [Luke]
      {2:52} And Jesus advanced in wisdom, and in age, and in grace, with God and men.

      The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27), and just as His humanity, the Church also advances in wisdom through the ages.

      Her teachings do not change but the understanding and the depth of those same teachings develop throughout time. The teaching “Outside the Church there is no Salvation” remains true, however the understanding of this teaching develops so that all those who are not explicitly members of His Church (due to different circumstances), but remain the in state of sanctifying grace are also members of the Church, though not in a perfect way, but in a mystical way because they remain in fellowship with God and thus with His Body.

      A person as he grows learns and understands gradually, it is not like he knows nothing one day and the next he knows all, so the Body of Christ, learns and grows in wisdom regarding the same doctrine. Jesus Himself said:

      [John]
      {16:12} I still have many things to say to you, but you are not able to bear them now.
      {16:13} But when the Spirit of truth has arrived, he will teach the whole truth to you. For he will not be speaking from himself. Instead, whatever he will hear, he will speak. And he will announce to you the things that are to come.

      The Holy Spirit guards and guides His Church through time, this we know by the very lips of Christ, and Jesus gave the Keys of His Kingdom to Peter, not to anyone else so our trust is in Jesus.

      We all are going to be judged on day, and that day we can say, Jesus I trusted in You, in Your Word, rather than myself, rather than my own limited understanding of Thy Word.

      And the Bible itself says that the Church is the Pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim 3:15). Of TRUTH. That’s why since the start Christians were preserving and subject to the teachings of the Apostles (Acts 2:42), not anyone else, and that Jesus was going to be with His Church until the end of time (Matt 28:20), Jesus did not say that He will be with His Church as long as Her members are holy, or that He will abandon His Bride if She behaves bad, otherwise that will make Him a bad husband but that is impossible because He is God and He is not a liar.

      Jesus loves His Bride and will never abandon Her and will keep Her Holy and Immaculate, that is prone to errors to the extent of heresy.

      [Ephesians]
      {5:25} Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church and handed himself over for her,
      {5:26} so that he might sanctify her, washing her clean by water and the Word of life,
      {5:27} so that he might offer her to himself as a glorious Church, not having any spot or wrinkle or any such thing, so that she would be holy and immaculate.

    • Francisco says:

      … that is NOT prone to errors to the extent of heresy

  3. Rodney Ford says:

    Here I have included more Information from St. Bellarmine:

    St. Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, II, 30: “For, in the first place, it is proven with arguments from authority and from reason that the manifest heretic is ‘ipso facto’ deposed. The argument from authority is based on St. Paul (Titus 3:10), who orders that the heretic be avoided after two warnings, that is, after showing himself to be manifestly obstinate – which means before any excommunication or judicial sentence. And this is what St. Jerome writes, adding that the other sinners are excluded from the Church by sentence of excommunication, but the heretics exile themselves and separate themselves by their own act from the body of Christ.”

    St. Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, II, 30: “This principle is most certain. The non-Christian cannot in any way be Pope, as Cajetan himself admits (ib. c. 26). The reason for this is that he cannot be head of what he is not a member; now he who is not a Christian is not a member of the Church, and a manifest heretic is not a Christian, as is clearly taught by St. Cyprian (lib. 4, epist. 2), St. Athanasius (Scr. 2 cont. Arian.), St. Augustine (lib. De great. Christ. Cap. 20), St. Jerome (contra Lucifer.) and others; therefore the manifest heretic cannot be Pope.

    St. Robert Bellarmine was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1930, and declared a Doctor of the Universal Church in 1931.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Those quotes in no way contradict Bellarmine’s other assertions that God does not permit a Pope to be a heretic.

    • Rodney Ford says:

      I think these two are obviously in contradiction. One thing I notice was the aspect of ” disposition of the providence of God.” What if God had decided to remove his providence?

      But honestly, Ron, I need to read more of these two documents to give me an idea of their historical context.

    • Marco says:

      “What if God had decided to remove his providence?”

      He would be a liar, since He promised that he would have always be with His Church and this His Church would have never been led astray.

      But God can’t be a liar.

  4. Tom Mazanec says:

    Rodney Ford, if the Papacy is to be held by Anti-popes for six decades or more, why was such a singularity not foretold in Prophecy?

  5. Mark P. says:

    Since Vatican II and especially Pope Francis, the faithful Catholic laity are being encouraged to learn the faith and spread the Gospel. Pre-Vatican II Catholicism was admittedly more externally pious, but how many pre-Vatican II Catholics actively evangelized? I sometimes attend the Latin Mass and many of the folks seem very insular, that is, they may be devout and profess many devotions, but are they actually interested in spreading their faith? I am not saying one way or the other, but the perception is just as the Holy Father states, that many of them treat the faith like a museum to be preserved rather than good news to be spread. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly appreciate traditional art, music, and devotions. I think many of those things are making a resurgence and will continue to do so. But many traditional Catholics just assume that secular society will somehow just be so enamored by the Latin Mass or such-and-such devotion that they will be drawn to the Church. But it doesn’t work that way. As messy as some implementations and interpretations of Vatican II may seem, it is now necessary to engage the culture where it is at.

  6. Guest says:

    Rodney, who do you believe has the role of interpreting what is Catholic? The Magisterium. What happens if you disagree with it? You’re the one in error. So now the Magisterium teaches something you disagree with. What does a faithful Catholic do? Submit. Why? The Church is indefectible and God promised to protect it. This takes supernatural faith to believe.

    If we took it the other way, that each individual Catholic can discern what is Catholic we no longer need teaching authority in the Church. In fact it’s impossible for such an authority to practically exist. Any bishop who dares to disagree with you can be dismissed as a modernist. The teacher can no longer correct you, but you correct the teacher. If he teaches something that disagrees with your interpretation of the faith then you’ll just assume that he’s in error rather than yourself. And this is not Catholic.

    • Don’t you get it, the Magisterium has been hijacked! If this Pope is illegitimate, then the whole system is infected with error. At least after 1958 when Pope Pius XII died. I don’t Know for sure; there could be more factors at work here,ie. masonry, culture change of the 1960s, but you can bet it’s diabolical and Satanic in origin. You guys have to start thinking outside the box!

  7. Guest says:

    When did Jesus abandon the Church? Catholic teaching doesn’t say that at the end of time it will lose the faith. It says that the Church will never lose the faith.

    Also, the visibility of the Church is intimately connected to its mission. It can no longer become invisible.

    All you are saying is that the Church has failed somehow. You just don’t realize it yet. I’m an ex-sedevacantist. Traditionalists do not seem to be concerned with what the Church teaches about herself. They quote writings selectively, not understanding in what danger they are of dying schismatics. If you’re really concerned about your salvation, read these articles and thoroughly think about their implications:

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15006b.htm
    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03744a.htm
    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12260a.htm

    The fundamental error of tradcon schismatics is they make themselves the magisterium and/or don’t believe that God is still guiding the Church and won’t abandon it.

  8. Rico says:

    Rodney,
    Just wondering here… what does this teaching by the Magisterium mean to you?

    “This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this See so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine.” (First Vatican Council)

    This teaching preceded Vatican II by 100 years. Is there anywhere in that dogma that indicates that the successors of Peter (currently Pope Francis) can mislead the Church and make the flock eat poisonous food? I can’t see anything of that sort. Perhaps you’re seeing something I cannot. So please point it out.

    I hope Ron will still be gracious enough to let Rodney explain the above teaching to us. In the many words he has said, he has never addressed that dogma nor explained what it means. So, I wonder whether he believes it himself, and whether he is willing to submit himself to it.

  9. Maurilio Piazza says:

    To whom it may concern.
    The gift of truth does not pertain to a pope’s private opinions and non-infallible magisterial teachings, as these are not required to be true: it is enough for them not to be in direct contradiction with any definitive truths whatsoever – whether they be doctrinal or factual (dogmatic facts) – within the collection contemporary to such opinions or non-infallible teachings.
    Rather, the gift of truth pertains to a pope’s NEW ex cathedra doctrinal definitions and judgments on dogmatic facts, as these are required to be true. But in order for these to be true, they must first be consistent with the collection of definitive truths contemporary to them. This power of consistency (in the case of infallible statements) and freedom from direct contradiction (in the case of private opinions and non-infallible magisterial teachings) with any contemporary collection of definitive truths is what the gift of never-failing faith consists of.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I think that the gift of truth does not extend to make everything a pope says be true, but it does protect everything he says and believes from material heresy. As for the gift of never-failing faith, that is just as stated, his own personal faith cannot fail to the extent of apostasy, heresy, or schism. The limitations you suggest for these gifts are too extensive, making the gifts too limited to serve their intended purpose, stated by Vatican I, to protect the faithful and the Church from error.

    • Rico says:

      Maurilio,
      Thanks for your comment. Two questions were asked of Rodney:
      1. What does this teaching by the Magisterium mean to you?
      2. Is there anywhere in that dogma that indicates that the successors of Peter (currently Pope Francis) can mislead the Church and make the flock eat poisonous food?

      Although the questions were not for you, you did answer the first question. But what would be your answer on the second one?

      Concerning your definition of the “gift of truth and unfailing faith,” this is my layman’s comment:

      Faith is an assent of the mind to a proposed truth. Divine faith is to assent to the divine truths that God himself has revealed (e.g. the doctrine of the Trinity, the Incarnation, etc.). Therefore, to have an “unfailing faith” is to steadfastly assent to all divine truths against all temptations. The Pope himself is subject to the temptations of doubt like all human beings. He is subject to the temptations of heresy. But the gift that Christ gave him protects him from succumbing to such temptations.

      Now that protection only applies to divine truths. On human truths that are fallible, there is only limited protection. The Pope might be tempted to believe in the global warming theory and surrender to it even as Rome is buried in snow.

  10. Maurilio Piazza says:

    Mr. Conte,
    the limitations I suggest for the gift of never-failing faith do secure full protection from heresy, and therefore from apostasy; in what sense, then, do they not serve the gift’s intended purpose? Clearly, not all error is heresy: a pope can, admittedly and historically (see Paschal II and John XXII), err to a lesser degree, i.e. to the extent of directly contradicting a non-infallible magisterial doctrine, even one that would soon afterwards become infallible; this means that the gift of never-failing faith has the same extent as the collection of the Church’s definitive truths at any given time – in other words, the gift extends to an ever wider domain of truths over time, so that papal errors that were formerly possible are made impossible by the gift as soon as the opposite non-infallible magisterial doctrines become infallible. Now, dogmatic development, as well as the necessary hierarchical harmony of truths, aka the analogy of the faith, imply that new definitive doctrines are inferred from premises, at least some of which are themselves already definitive doctrines (and btw, a good example that not all premises of a given definitive doctrine must needs be themselves definitive doctrines is this very doctrine of papal never-failing faith, which the 1st Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution clearly places as one necessary premise of the dogma of papal ex cathedra infallibility); therefore, when a pope directly contradicts non-definitive magisterial doctrines which will later become definitive, his opinion is in some way inconsistent with one or more definitive doctrines: in such cases, the contradiction is indirect, i.e. mediated by a direct contradiction to a non-definitive doctrine, and indirect contradiction to a definitive doctrine does not constitute heresy – to state the opposite would be to nullify the real distinction between heretical and non-heretical errors.
    As for the gift of truth, if it did nothing more than fully protecting a pope from material heresy, then what gift accounts for a pope’s ability to believe and establish new definitive truths infallibly? Also, full protection from material heresy still leaves the door open for lesser errors or un-truths, as you admit, so how can this suit a gift called “gift of truth”? Wouldn’t this rather suit the gift of never-failing faith, assuming “faith” as meaning “defined faith”?

    • Ron Conte says:

      We are not so far apart in our descriptions (i think). I’m saying that the Pope personally cannot commit heresy, because then the Ark of Salvation would be piloted by a heretic. The gifts of truth and never failing faith are separate from the gift of the Magisterium itself, which cannot err gravely in non-infallible teachings, and cannot err at all in infallible teachings. The gift of truth to the person of the Pope keeps him from material heresy. Of course, a Pope can adhere to an idea which will later become dogmatically defined as heresy (e.g. John 22). There are limits to these gifts because we have free will and are fallen sinners.

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