Monday, May 30, 2011

Lucia Papal Infallibility

I've just been talking about the infallibility the Church (through the Pope) to my children. It's a poorly understood concept, whereby people think that it supposed to make the Pope like God. But no, the Pope can still sin, can still make mistakes, except when teaching on faith and morals.

8 comment(s):

Glenn said...

Unless he's Honorius I. Then he can be clarifying correct Catholic doctrine for the Bishops to teach, and yet still get anathematised for it without putting a scratch on the doctrine of papal infallibility.

Taught by the Pope? Check.

On faith and morals? Check.

Making a declaration on what the church teaches? Check.

Heretical? Check.

A problem for infallibility? OH no, of course not, see, we're just misconstruing the doctrine....


Lucia Maria said...

Glen, what exactly did Honorius say that was heretical?

Glenn said...

Lucia, he taught monothelitism (the view that Christ had only one will). When bishops approached him because they were not certain where the church stood, his response was that "we affirm one will in Christ."

For this, he was anathematised by the third council of Constantinople (680-1). This anathema was re-affirmed by later Councils as well, the second council of Nicea (787) and the fourth council of Constantinople (869-70).

Lucia Maria said...


Fortunately the Church acted in order than any error not take hold. It seems there is some controversy over whether he was clear enough in his position, or whether he was teaching authoritatively or whether he actually understood the question. Whatever the case, monothelitism is not part of our beliefs, the system whereby the Holy Spirit prevents error is still working.

I can see why in this instance, it may appear that papal infallibility has a problem, but I'm not too worried. It would take a lot more than this to shake my faith.

Lucia Maria said...

I checked to see if any of our apologists have handled the Honorius issue, and yes, Dave Armstrong has dealt with it in great detail. His position (if I understand it right) is that monothelitism was never defined as a dogma of faith by Honorius, therefore the issue of Papal Infallibility as defined is not broken.

see Dialogue on supposedly fallible Pope

Glenn said...

Yes, I understand that apologists have claimed that Honorious wasn't actually defining a doctrine of the faith for the church to believe. Some response like this is necessary, otherwise papal infallibility is false.

The trouble the rest of us have is that in its historical context, it looks rather clear that this is exactly what Honorious was doing. But I also know that no matter what actually took place, the events simply must be interpreted in a way that leaves infallibility unscathed, so the fact that the apologists' explanation may seem strained isn't really important to those who believe in papal infallibility. An explanation is offered, so believers breathe easy.

ZenTiger said...

I had a quick look, and it looks quite clear he was writing a private letter as opposed to declaring something ex cathedra.

It's almost as if you are suggesting the ability to look at the known facts, and make a deliberation other than your own is to be suspected.

When you say things like "no matter what took place, the events must simply be interpreted ..." could apply to much of the reading of the bible with the varied opinions out there.

One moment it's literal, then it's metaphorical. No, Jesus did not suggest transubstantiation you insist, it was a metaphor...Oh, Jesus means this, no he means that. People will review and argue the case on the facts with the weighting of the facts as they genuinely see.

On this matter, there is no squirming. There is your interpretation, which you insist is the only way to interpret the events, and then there is the rather reasonable proposition that Honorius was not making an infallible pronouncement; the conditions of which were defined well after his time, and create no conflict as they don't include writing private letters and whatever other points were made about the situation.

The only thing you have in your favour is you are not declaring your opinion infallible and therefore must admit to the possibility of being wrong.

As you well know, the doctrine of infallibility does not say that anything the Pope utters at any time is infallible.

You only have to look at Honorius to see what I mean.

ZenTiger said...

Pope Honorius, always the last resort for those attempting to attack papal infallibility. Pope Honorius lived at the time the Monothelite heresy was gaining adherents. As Pope it was his duty to speak out forcefully against this false doctrine. He failed to do so. In addition, he wrote a poorly worded, rather ambiguous letter to the Patriarch of Constantinople, attempting to respond to an equally ambiguous letter received from the Patriarch concerning the heresy, which the Patriarch endorsed.

The ambiguity and lack of forcefulness of Honorius' letter was unfortunately used by the Monothelites to strengthen their movement by suggesting that the Pope was a supporter. Honorius was not very careful in accurately and fully expressing the position of the Church, and not very straightforward in his condemnation of the heresy.

However, none of the above could categorize him personally as a heretic - a categorical impossibility since he was the Vicar of Christ. Failure to speak out forcefully in condemnation of a heresy does not make one a heretic. Personally holding a view that is objectively heretical does not make a prelate a heretic until his view is externally and publicly expressed, and anyway there is no evidence that Pope Honorius held such a view.

And nothing expressed in a personal letter, whether misinterpreted by enemies of the Church or even accurately interpreted, could make one a heretic. Pope Honorius would have been a heretic if he had officially endorsed Monothelitism. He didn't even come close. It is true that after his death he was among those declared anathema by the Council of Constantinople the Third in its condemnation of Monothelitism; however, the decrees of that council, like any council, are not valid until confirmed by the Pope. Before Pope Leo II confirmed the findings of the Council, he modified the references to Pope Honorius, specifically to make it clear that Honorius had not supported the heresy of Monothelitism, but was only negligent in his duty to actively suppress it. Negligence, yes. Heresy? Not even close.

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