Cardinal Manning on the infallible faith of the Pope

In defense of the dogma of the First Vatican Council that the Pope has the “charism of truth and a never-failing faith” as well as the ability to teach ex cathedra (to teach under Papal Infallibility), Cardinal Manning wrote a letter to the clergy:

Cardinal Henry Edward Manning
The Vatican Council and Its Definitions: A Pastoral Letter to the Clergy

In the Letter, Cardinal Manning defends Honorius against charges of heresy.

“(1) That Honorius defined no doctrine whatsoever.
“(2) That he forbade the making of any new definition.
“(3) That his fault was precisely in this omission of Apostolic authority, for which he was justly censured.
“(4) That his two Epistles are entirely orthodox; though, in the use of language, he wrote as was usual before the condemnation of Monothelitism, and not as it became necessary afterwards. It is an anachronism and an injustice to censure his language, used before that condemnation, as it might be just to censure it after the condemnation had been made.”
[Cardinal Manning, “The Vatican Council and Its Definitions: A Pastoral Letter to the Clergy”, p. 223]

Manning goes on to discuss the case of Honorius and to assert that he has many defenders, that is, many who defend him against the claim of heresy. So one cannot cite Honorius as a way to contradict the dogma of the First Vatican Council that Peter and his successors have the charism of truth and a never-failing faith.

As for the condemnation of Honorius by the Sixth Ecumenical Council, one view is that Pope Leo II, in the very document that approved of the Council’s works, changed the accusation from heresy to negligence. Nothing is of a Council unless approved by the Pope, so the accusation of heresy is not formally of the Council; it is reduced to negligence. The other view is that Leo II was merely clarifying what the Council itself meant, that is, not that Honorius joined in the heresy, but that his negligence permitted it to spread. In either case, Honorius is not a heretic, and the dogma of the First Vatican Council is not contradicted by history.

Catholic encyclopedia article on Honorius: “Pennacchi, followed by Grisar, taught that by these words Leo II explicitly abrogated the condemnation for heresy by the council, and substituted a condemnation for negligence. Nothing, however, could be less explicit. Hefele, with many others before and after him, held that Leo II by the same words explained the sense in which the sentence of Honorius was to be understood.” [Article here]

In his Letter to the Clergy, Manning next goes on to state that the passage of the First Vatican Council, which I will quote below, is in agreement with an unbroken tradition among Saints, Doctors, Popes, and Ecumenical Councils of interpreting the promise and prayer of Jesus in Luke 22:32 as granting to each Roman Pontiff the charism of an infallible or never-failing faith.

{22:32} ego autem rogavi pro te ut non deficiat fides tua: et tu aliquando conversus confirma fratres tuos.
{22:32} But I have prayed for you, so that your faith may not fail, and so that you, once converted, may confirm your brothers.”

First Vatican Council: “This gift [or charism] 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…”

Manning: “The application of the promise ‘Ego rogavi pro te,’ [“I have prayed for you”] etc. to the infallible faith of Peter and his successors, is made by St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Leo, St. Gelasius, Pelagius II., St. Gregory the Great, Stephen Bishop of Dori in a Lateran Council, St. Vitalian, the Bishops of the IV Ecumenical Council AD 451, St. Agatho in the VI. AD 680, St. Bernard AD 1153, St. Thomas Aquinas AD 1274, St. Bonaventure AD 1274: that is, this interpretation is given by three out of the four Doctors of the Church, by six Pontiffs down to the seventh century. It was recognized in two Ecumenical Councils. It is expressly declared by the Angelic Doctor, who may be taken as the exponent of the Dominican school, and by the Seraphic Doctor, who is likewise the witness of the Franciscan; and by a multitude of Saints.”

“The interpretation by the Fathers of the words ‘On this rock,’ etc. is fourfold, but all four interpretations are not more than four aspects of one and the same truth, and all are necessary to complete its full meaning. They all implicitly or explicitly contain the perpetual stability of Peter’s faith….”

“In these two promises [i.e. Lk 22:32, Mt 16:18] a divine assistance is pledged to Peter and to his successors, and that divine assistance is promised to secure the stability and indefectibility of the Faith in the supreme Doctor and Head of the Church, for the general good of the Church itself.”
[Cardinal Manning, “The Vatican Council and Its Definitions: A Pastoral Letter to the Clergy”, p. 83-84.]

Jesus told Peter that his faith will not fail. The Saints, Doctors, Popes, and the First Vatican Council, as well as two prior Ecumenical Councils, have interpreted this verse of Sacred Scripture as meaning that each Roman Pontiff, by the grace of God, is ever preserved in the true orthodox faith. His personal virtue of faith cannot fail, and his decisions on doctrine and discipline cannot err gravely. And this dogma is in addition to the dogma subsequently defined by the First Vatican Council, that of Papal Infallibility.

And this dogma of the never-failing faith of the Roman Pontiff, I have many times stated in my blog posts and in my book, The Indefectibility of the Pope. I have explained that this dogma of the First Vatican Council necessarily implies that, by the prevenient grace of God, the Pope cannot err gravely on doctrine or discipline, nor can he ever commit apostasy, heresy, or schism, nor commit idolatry, sacrilege, or blasphemy. This understanding is not a misinterpretation, nor a novelty. It is the meaning intended by the Vatican Council, and this is confirmed by Cardinal Manning, who participated in the Council. Manning also states that this never-failing faith or “infallible faith” has always been the teaching of the Saints, Doctors, and Popes, as well as the teaching of two prior Councils. Thus, the teachings is infallible under both Conciliar Infallibility and the ordinary and universal Magisterium.

Now some papal critics object, on the basis of their claim that Pope Francis is not the valid Roman Pontiff. They propose that Benedict is still Pope — in contradiction to Benedict’s own words. Or they propose that the see is vacant. But their error is easily proven by the dogma of the indefectibility of the Church, which was taught by the First Vatican Council in Pastor Aeternus, chapter 4, n. 2 and previously taught by the Fourth Council of Constantinople, the Second of Lyons, and the Council of Florence. Since the Church cannot go astray, the body of Bishops can never accept as their Head a false Pope (an antipope or invalid pope). For if the body followed a false head, the Church would have defected, which is made impossible by the grace of God. Since Pope Francis has been accepted by the body of Bishops, he must be the true valid Roman Pontiff, and therefore he must have the gifts discussed above, and taught dogmatically by the First Vatican Council.

It is therefore a dogmatic fact that Pope Francis is innocent of all accusations that he erred gravely in doctrine or discipline, or that he failed in faith by apostasy, heresy, or schism, or by idolatry, sacrilege, or blasphemy. Pope Francis is innocent, and therefore his accusers are guilty of bearing false witness, of heresy (for denying the dogmas of Vatican I), and of schism, for rejecting the true Head of the Church.

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

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2 Responses to Cardinal Manning on the infallible faith of the Pope

  1. a says:

    Sorry, but here is what Cardinal Manning actually says:

    “The definition, therefore, carefully excludes all ordinary and common acts of the Pontiff as a private person, and also all acts of the Pontiff as a private theologian, and again all his acts which are not in matters of faith and morals; and further, all acts in which he does not define a doctrine, that is, in which he does not act as the supreme Doctor of the Church in defining doctrines to be held by the whole Church. The definition includes, and includes only, the solemn acts of the Pontiff as supreme Doctor of all Christians, defining doctrines of faith and morals, to be held by the whole Church.” (Petri Privilegium: Three Pastoral Letters to the Clergy of the Diocese, p. 86-87).

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