When the Pope is Not Speaking under Infallibility

I am so tired of reading ignorant near-heretical articles like Do You Have to Believe Everything the Pope Says? which asserts the condemned error that you only have to believe what is infallible. The article claims:

“In short: If you’re a Catholic you should treat the pope with respect. You have to believe in infallible church teaching. You don’t have to believe, agree with, or even pay attention to everything a pope says.”

Wrong. The Church has many non-infallible teachings and many non-infallible decisions of discipline. These are binding on the faithful. What is left, after you remove what is infallible, are non-infallible teachings and decisions that certainly bind the faithful beyond mere “respect”.

Vatican II: “For bishops are preachers of the faith, who lead new disciples to Christ, and they are authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach to the people committed to them the faith they must believe and put into practice, and by the light of the Holy Spirit illustrate that faith. They bring forth from the treasury of Revelation new things and old, making it bear fruit and vigilantly warding off any errors that threaten their flock. Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will.” [Lumen Gentium 25]

What Catholic does not know the above passage? What Catholic who presumes to teach their fellow Catholics on the obligations due to the teachings of the Church and the Roman Pontiff does not know that passage?

The teaching of Vatican II clearly states that the ordinary non-infallible Magisterium of the Church requires religious submission of will and intellect. You have to submit your mind and will to the ordinary non-infallible teachings of the Roman Pontiff. And that is beyond merely respecting the Pope.

As for the possibility of error, infallible teachings and dogmatic facts as well, have no possibility of error. But it is not true, as so many persons assume without checking to see what the Church teaches, it is not true that the non-infallible teachings can err to any extent. To the contrary, the Roman Pontiff has the charism of truth and of never-failing faith at all times, and so the Apostolic See remains always unblemished, unsullied, unstained, and never wanders from the path of Apostolic tradition. That the Apostolic See is unblemished was taught infallibly by the First Vatican Council, using the very words of Pope Saint Agatho in his defense of Pope Honorius I to the Sixth Ecumenical Council. And that Council accepted Agatho’s teaching into its acts, making his teaching the teaching of an Ecumenical Council.

What this means is that the Roman Pontiff, in exercising the Keys of Saint Peter over doctrine or discipline is always free from grave error. This is necessarily true or the Church Herself would not be indefectible. For if the Roman Pontiff goes gravely astray, the Church has defected. As for the claim of heresy against Honorius, it is a false claim, as Saint Robert Bellarmine and many others have asserted. The never-failing faith of Peter and his successors necessarily preserves every Roman Pontiff from teaching or committing heresy and from grave errors in both doctrine and discipline.

The condemned errors:

Condemned Error: “22. The obligation by which Catholic teachers and authors are strictly bound is confined to those things only which are proposed to universal belief as dogmas of faith by the infallible judgment of the Church.” [Blessed Pope Pius IX, Syllabus of Errors.]

Condemned Error: “23. Roman pontiffs and ecumenical councils have wandered outside the limits of their powers, have usurped the rights of princes, and have even erred in defining matters of faith and morals.” [Blessed Pope Pius IX, Syllabus of Errors.]

Condemned Error: “19. An ecclesiastic, even the Roman Pontiff, can legitimately be corrected, and even accused, by subjects and lay persons.” [Pope Gregory XI, Errors of John Wycliffe, n. 19, Condemned in the Letter Super periculosis to the Bishops of Canterbury and London, May 22, 1377; Denzinger 1139]

Catholics are strictly required to give religious submission to the non-infallible decisions of the Roman Pontiff. If the Pope decides to approve of the Novus Ordo Mass, you may not claim this is a grave error. If the Pope decides to teach any doctrine under the ordinary non-infallible papal Magisterium, you cannot claim he has erred gravely. Only errors that are less than grave are permitted in non-infallible teachings and non-infallible decisions of discipline.

This is explained and proven at length in my new book, Reply to the Papal Accusers: Volume One, available in print and in Kindle formats.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

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2 Responses to When the Pope is Not Speaking under Infallibility

  1. Anonymous says:

    “What Catholic does not know the above passage?

    Ron, I’m not trying to be smug or anything like that, but, In my experience after talking and questioning some people in my parish and in my family I believe the answer is very many.

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