Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council, Session 4, Chapter 4, #6: “For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.”
The Dimonds try to use the encyclical of Pope Gregory XVI, Quo Graviora, as a way to prove that the Church's infallibility extends to disciplines as well, and while they are indeed on the right track, they leave out a crucial piece of the quotation:
Pope Gregory XVI, Quo Graviora, Oct 4 1833: “While they contend that the entire exterior form of the Church can be changed indiscriminately, do they not subject to change even those items of discipline which have their basis in Divine law and which are linked with the doctrine of faith in a close bond? Does not the law of the believer thus produce the law of the doer? Moreover, do they not try to make the Church human by taking away from the infallible and Divine authority, by which Divine will it is governed? And does it not produce the same effect to think that the present discipline of the Church rests on failures, obscurities, and other inconveniences of this kind? And to feign that this discipline contains many things which are not useless but which are against the safety of the Catholic religion? Why is it that private individuals appropriate for themselves the right which is proper only for the pope?”
First of all, what are the rights proper only for the pope? These rights are settling doctrinal and disciplinary disputes with an authoritative ruling and defining dogmas. No other earthly power has the right to make a binding decision in these matters, since it is by Divine institution that the pope has these rights.
Now what is pope Gregory referring to in this quote, when he says: “…do they not try to make the Church human by taking away from the infallible and Divine authority, by which Divine will it is governed?”
He is saying that those who would deny the supreme authority of the sovereign pontiff over the Church, not only in matter of faith and morals, but in matters of discipline as well are taking away from the infallible and Divine authority, the Divine will, by which the Church is governed. This does not mean that pope Gregory is defining that the Church is infallible in ALL matters of discipline, but that he is merely reiterating the fact that the pope, though he may err in certain matters, is the representative of Jesus Christ, and that his authority and power come not from himself, but from God, and as such, disciplines instituted by the pope are to be obeyed as though they have come from God Himself.
Furthermore, Pope Gregory XVI is talking here about disciplines, which are bound up with faith and morals, when he says: “do they not subject to change even those items of discipline which have their basis in Divine law and which are linked with the doctrine of faith in a close bond?”
When a pope exercises his authority in a solemn manner for the purpose defining, and thus of binding all of the faithful to obedience in a matter of faith or morals, that is on a point of Divine revelation, then it is a dogma that this exercise is carried out infallibly. It is God the Holy Ghost Himself, who speaks through the lips of the Pontiff.
But is a canonization a point of Divine revelation? Canonizations are certainly bound up with faith and morals in the sense that the pope decides whether or not a person is to be canonized based upon whether or not the evidence shows that they held the Catholic Faith and lived a life of Catholic morality. But the problem here is that they are relying on evidence, which itself is fallible. In order to assert that canonizations are infallible, one would have to assert that the evidence the pope bases his judgment on is also infallible, in much the same way that his judgments on faith and morals are based on the infallible Word of God contained in Scripture and Tradition. Unfortunately for the Dimonds' false position, it is the testimony of men that the pope uses to canonize a person, not the testimony of God.
So, is it heresy to say that canonizations are an exercise of the pope in his fallible capacity? Certainly not. If it was heresy, then it would have been condemned as heresy, by Pope Benedict XIV when he made the following pronouncement:
Pope Benedict XIV: “If anyone dared to assert that the Pontiff had erred in this or that canonization, we shall say that he is, if not a heretic, at least temerarious, a giver of scandal to the whole Church, an insulter of the saints, a favorer of those heretics who deny the Church’s authority in canonizing saints, savoring of heresy by giving unbelievers an occasion to mock the faithful, the assertor of an erroneous opinion and liable to very grave penalties.” - [Quoted by Tanquerey, Synopsis Theologiae Dogmaticae Fundamentalis (Paris, Tournai, Rome: Desclee, 1937), new edition ed. by J.B. Bord, Vol. I. p. 624, footnote 2.]
The pope explicitly states that to assert that the Pontiff had erred in a particular canonization MAY NOT BE HERESY! Why would the pope say this? If it is a dogma that canonizations are infallible, then would this not be a heretical statement on his part?
Consider a comparison, using a hypothetical quotation: “If anyone dared to assert that Jesus Christ is a man only and not also God, we shall say that he is, if not a heretic, at least temerarious…”
This hypothetical statement is a heretical denial that Jesus Christ’s nature as the God-man is an infallible, Divinely revealed truth, in that it allows for the possibility that one who denies the Divinity of Christ may not be a heretic. Heresy, remember is any belief or proposition that contradicts an infallible, Divinely revealed truth of the Catholic Faith.
The next objection that a person might make is that at the time of Benedict XIV, it was not yet defined as a dogma that canonizations are infallible. They might propose a different hypothetical, such as: “If anyone dared to assert that the Blessed Virgin Mary was not conceived wholly free from original sin, we shall say that he is, if not a heretic, at least temerarious…”
This statement, so long as it was not uttered after Pope Pius IX declared the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, would not be heresy at all, since although it was piously believed by most Christians, yet it was not infallibly defined as being a Divinely reveal dogma.
If this is the argument that the Dimonds wish to pursue in the case for the infallibility of canonizations, then the burden rests upon them to produce the dogmatic decree, whereby this infallibility was defined. But they cannot, since the Church has never made this definition, but has in fact dogmatically declared the opposite:
Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council, Session 4, Chapter 4, #6, ex cathedra: “For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.”
The Dimonds assert that a canonization is not a “new doctrine” since this would mean a point of Divine revelation, but in saying this, they must admit that it is only in matters intrinsically bound up with Divine revelation concerning faith and morals that infallibility applies, and which is attested to by the above quotation of Pope Gregory XVI, when he says: “…do they not subject to change even those items of discipline which have their basis in Divine law and which are linked with the doctrine of faith in a close bond?”
The word "doctrine" comes from the Latin doctrina, which means "teaching, body of teachings, learning," from doctor "teacher". Simply put, a doctrine is something that is to be believed, and a discipline is something that is to be obeyed. An example of a discipline would be the law of fasting, or of receiving the Eucharist. A canonization is a doctrine and a discipline. It is a discipline insofar as one must profess obedience to the Church’s declaration that the saint is worthy of veneration, and it is a doctrine, which is to be believed with assent of intellect and will (though not of assent of faith), that the saint is in heaven.
The Dimonds also present a quote from Pope Pius VI, in another attempt to defend their heretical position.
Pope Pius VI, Auctorem Fidei, #78: "The prescription of the synod about the order of transacting business in the conferences, in which, after it prefaced "in every article that which pertains to faith and to the essence of religion must be distinguished from that which is proper to discipline," it adds, "in this itself (discipline) there is to be distinguished what is necessary or useful to retain the faithful in spirit, from that which is useless or too burden-some for the liberty of the sons of the new Covenant to endure, but more so, from that which is dangerous or harmful, namely, leading to superstition and materialism"; in so far as by the generality of the words it includes and submits to a prescribed examination even the discipline established and approved by the Church, as if the Church which is ruled by the Spirit of God could have established discipline which is not only useless and burdensome for Christian liberty to endure, but which is even dangerous and harmful and leading to superstition and materialism,—false, rash, scandalous, dangerous, offensive to pious ears, injurious to the Church and to the Spirit of God by whom it is guided, at least erroneous."
First of all, this in no way means that canonizations are infallible, nor does Pope Pius dogmatically condemn the above proposition. If this were a dogmatic condemnation of a heretical proposition, then it would be condemned as HERETICAL, plain and simple, with no need for "false, rash", etc. And again, this decree from Auctorem Fidei deals with disciplines not doctrines, and proposes that it is false to say that a discipline of the Church could lead one into superstition and materialism. The Dimonds are truly grasping at straws here.
Canonizations are NOT dogmatic definitions, are not doctrines to be believed de fide Divina et catholica. To assert otherwise is to deny the Vatican Council, as quoted at the beginning of this article.
Pope Gregory IX, in Bull of Canonization of St. Francis of Assisi Mira Circa Nos, July 16, 1228 states: "Plainly a life such as his, so holy, so passionate, so brilliant, was enough to win him a place in the Church Triumphant. Yet, because the Church Militant, which can only observe the outer appearances, does not presume to judge on its own authority those not sharing its actual state, it proposes for veneration as Saints only those whose lives on earth merited such, especially because an angel of satan sometimes transforms himself into an angel of light (II Cor 11:14). In his generosity the omnipotent and merciful God has provided that the aforementioned Servant of Christ did come and serve Him worthily and commendably. Not permitting so great a light to remain hidden under a bushel, but wishing to put it on a lampstand to console those dwelling in the house of light (Mt 5:15), God declared through many brilliant miracles that his life has been acceptable to God and his memory should be honored by the Church Militant."
Pope Gregory stated that the Church Militant can only observe the outer appearances, and does not "presume to judge on it's own authority those not sharing in it's state (i.e. the Church Militant). He specifically states that a canonization's purpose is to show forth the external life and works of the person canonized as a model of imitation for the faithful, while making clear that the Church Militant cannot judge the interior disposition of a soul who is no longer sharing the state of the same; that is to say any soul who has departed from the Church Militant and out of this life.
But as with any disciplinary teaching, the canonization needs to be firmly held to by the Catholic Faithful unless the discipline is evil or contradicting some other dogmatic teaching of the Church.
And herein lies the error of Richard Ibranyi, another person the Dimonds have attempted to refute on various issues (with varying levels of success or failure, depending on the issue). While a saint may appear to have made a heretical statement or two in his lifetime, canonizations, themselves, do not contradict any dogma since the Church provides for four subjective excuses for objectively heretical statements:
(1) loss of the use of reason (e.g. senility, insanity),
(2) ignorance (material heresy),
(3) retraction prior to death, and
(4) mistranslation or tampering.
These are sufficient for a saint to be excused from the sin of heresy, thereby allowing the saints entrance into heaven and allowing Catholic faithful to petition the saint for intercessory prayers.
Make no mistake, a declaration of canonization is not a papal decree stating that every TRANSLATED WRITTEN WORK attributed to the saint is free from all objective error. On the contrary, it is simply a statement that the Church believes the deceased to have lived a holy life and died free from the guilt of any unforgiven mortal sins, including heresy. Again, the saint is believed to have never willfully opposed the teachings of the Church.
Moreover, since lay people do not have access to the papers of the canonization process, it is impossible for any lay person to know for certain that an error was made in the canonization process and that the saint really did die with the subjective guilt of mortal sin on his soul.
Condemnations of heretics are infallible, as the Dimonds assert, but only in the sense that the Church infallibly declares the heresies attributed to them to be contrary to Divinely revealed dogma. There is always the possibility that a person may have been framed, and while the works attributed to him are rightly condemned as contrary to Divine revelation, the person himself may very well have been a saint, who wrote or taught no such heresy, EXCEPT when the Church anathematizes a person by
Catholic Encyclopedia, Excommunication, Effects of Invalid or Unjust Excommunication: "An excommunication is said to be null when it is invalid because of some intrinsic or essential defect, e.g. when the person inflicting it has no jurisdiction, when the motive of the excommunication is manifestly incorrect and inconsistent, or when the excommunication is essentially defective in form. Excommunication is said to be unjust when, though valid, it is wrongfully applied to a person really innocent but believed to be guilty. Here, of course, it is not a question of excommunication latæ sententiæ and in foro interno, but only of one imposed or declared by judicial sentence. It is admitted by all that a null excommunication produces no effect whatever, and may be ignored without sin (cap. ii, de const., in VI). But a case of unjust excommunication brings out in a much more general way the possibility of conflict between the forum internum and the forum externum, between legal justice and the real facts. In chapter xxviii, de sent. excomm. (Lib. V, tit. xxxix), Innocent III formally admits the possibility of this conflict. Some persons, he says, may be free in the eyes of God but bound in the eyes of the Church; vice versa, some may be free in the eyes of the Church but bound in the eyes of God: for God's judgment is based on the very truth itself, whereas that of the Church is based on arguments and presumptions which are sometimes erroneous. He concludes that the chain by which the sinner is bound in the sight of God is loosed by remission of the fault committed, whereas that which binds him in the sight of the Church is severed only by removal of the sentence. Consequently, a person unjustly excommunicated is in the same state as the justly excommunicated sinner who has repented and recovered the grace of God; he has not forfeited internal communion with the Church, and God can bestow upon him all necessary spiritual help. However, while seeking to prove his innocence, the censured person is meanwhile bound to obey legitimate authority and to behave as one under the ban of excommunication, until he is rehabilitated or absolved."
The Church is indeed the pillar and ground of the Truth. Just because canonizations of saints are not dogmas does in no way take away from this fact. In matters Divinely revealed, the Church always proclaims, preaches and defines the infallible truth by God the Holy Ghost, and even though canonizations are not Divinely revealed dogmas, we must be entirely subject to the pope who declared them, giving them the assent of intellect and will.
Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam, Nov. 18, 1302, ex cathedra: "Furthermore, we declare, say, define, and proclaim to every human creature that they by absolute necessity for salvation are entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff."
This article is one in an important series on The Dimonds' soul damning errors.
What Must You Do To Get to Heaven?