Sunday, August 9, 2009

What is sound Catholic theology?

For those who rightly believe that the Catholic Faith is the true Faith, there are four levels of Catholic teaching that a person must assent to, each having a different level of authority.

1) Solemn Magisterium
2) Ordinary and Universal Magisterium
3) Teachings of the Fathers, Saints, Doctors, etc.

First, the Solemn or Extraordinary Magisterium is any infallibly defined (divinely revealed) dogma. Here are the criteria for infallibility, there are four of them.

Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council, 1870 Session 4, Chapter 4, Paragraph 9: "Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians (number 3 below), in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority (number 2 below), he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church (number 1 below), he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable."

To paraphrase, what this means is that the pope cannot err when:

1) Teaching on faith and morals
2) In virtue of his apostolic authority
3) With the intent of binding all Christians to belief/obedience

There is one more thing that pertains to infallibility, from the same Council:

Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council, 1870 Session 4, Chapter 4, Paragraph 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."

4) Something that is already contained in the deposit of faith handed down by the Apostles and not a new doctrine, or some fact that is intrinsically linked thereto.

Any Papal statement that meets the previous 4 points is infallible and God the Holy Ghost has spoken through the lips of the Pontiff. To willingly deny any such teaching severs one immediately from the Body of Christ; such a person is a heretic. Any Catholic who unwittingly believes a material heresy, that is accidentally and unknowingly believes contrary to such a teaching is generally understood to be still Catholic, unless their heretical understanding has led them into the bosom of a sect or into subjection to a heretical religious superior, or unless they reject the truth when they are presented with evidence of it (ie, the relevant Papal decree, etc...), or unless the heretical belief they hold is contrary to a necessary dogma of the Catholic Faith contained in the basic Christian Creed (such as the Trinity or the Incarnation). Such teachings are Ecumenical Councils, any papal teaching with an anathema attached, some encyclicals or portions of encyclicals, canonizations, and some Papal bulls.

Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council, Session 3, Chapter 4, ex cathedra: "Hence, too, that meaning of the sacred dogmas is ever to be maintained which has once been declared by Holy mother Church, and there must never be any abandonment of this sense under the pretext or in the name of a more profound understanding."

As is clear, the meaning of a dogma is to be maintained as it has been declared by the pope.

Second, adhere to all the teachings of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium.

Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council, Session 3, Chapter 3, ex cathedra: "Wherefore, by divine and Catholic faith all those things are to be believed which are contained in the word of God as found in Scripture and tradition, and which are proposed by the Church as matters to be believed as divinely revealed, whether by her solemn judgment or in her Ordinary and Universal Magisterium."

Theologians teach that the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium is the everyday teaching of the whole episcopal college united with its head, the pope. When this group is morally unanimous in teaching a point of revealed doctrine that Catholics must hold, it is infallible.

The Ordinary and Universal Magisterium can and will never be contrary to the Extraordinary (Solemn) Magisterium, and vice versa.

Pope Leo X, Apostolici Regiminis, 1513: "As truth cannot contradict truth, we declare every assertion contrary to the truth of Divine faith to be absolutely false, and strictly forbid any one to teach differently; we command that those who adhere to such assertions shall be avoided and punished, as men who seek to disseminate damnable heresies."

To willfully reject a teaching of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium is the mortal sin of heresy.

Third, follow the examples and teachings of our great Church Fathers, Doctors, and Saints, realizing too that while these great men and women led extraordinary lives, they are not protected by infallibility either, and often taught on matters that the Church would not solemnly define until years or centuries later, and in some cases, may even have appeared to err greatly in matters that were already defined. Since the Ordinary Magisterium, Fathers, Doctors and Saints are able to and have erred, the faithful should, when deciding whether or not to adhere to one of their teachings, always cross-reference the higher authorities of Church, the dogmas, to make sure that it does not contradict them.

Pope Benedict XIV, Apostolica Constitutio, (# 6), June 26, 1749: "The Church’s judgment is preferable even to that of a Doctor renowned for his holiness and teaching."

Outside of the Solemn or Ordinary and Universal Magisterium, only where the Fathers were unanimous in their interpretation of Scripture can a point of doctrine be taken as infallible, though it seems to be up to the judgment of the Church through Her teaching office to make this determination.

Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session 4, ex cathedra: "Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, It decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall,--in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, --wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church,--whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures,--hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers;"

Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council, Session 2, #1, #3, ex cathedra: "I, Pius, bishop of the Catholic Church, with firm faith... accept Sacred Scripture according to that sense which Holy mother Church held and holds, since it is her right to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures; nor will I ever receive and interpret them except according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers."

If it is forbidden even for the pope, the one who is given the power, by God Himself, of defining the dogmas of faith, to interpret Scripture in a sense contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers, then it logically follows that such interpretations of the Scriptures are indeed infallible.  To willfully contradict such teachings, if forbidden to popes, then, is most certainly forbidden to everyone else. An example of such a teaching is the geocentric understanding of the motions of the heavens.

What Must You Do To Get to Heaven?

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