Monday, March 08, 2010

APPENDIX D Papal Infallibility and Apostolic Succession

In order to promote the necessary blind faith in the pope's infallibility and in the dogma that salvation is obtainable only in the Roman Catholic Church, its hierarchy has hidden the facts and rewritten history. One example is the quote by Augustine on the facing page. If, as the argument goes, Augustine, the greatest theologian of the Church, was willing to submit to whatever Rome (i.e., the pope and hierarchy) decreed, then surely ordinary Catholics ought to do the same. Such submission, however, is not what Augustine proposed. In context, the quote means something else. Two synods had ruled on a disputed matter and the Bishop of Rome had concurred, which "appeared to him [Augustine] more than enough, and so the matter might be regarded as at an end. That a Roman judgment in itself was not conclusive, but that a `Concilium plenarium' was necessary for that purpose, he had himself maintained ...."

Nowhere else in his voluminous writings did Augustine even come close to suggesting that the Bishop of Rome had the final say on issues of faith or morals. In fact, Augustine said that the African Church had been correct in rejecting Roman Bishop Stephen's (254-7) opinion on settling a baptismal dispute.

Never once, in all the arguments he proposed on many issues, did Augustine suggest that the Bishop of Rome should be consulted as the final arbiter of orthodoxy, or even that he should be consulted at all.

Interestingly enough, though the Council of Nicea in 325 decreed that the three Bishops of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch (the concept of a "pope" was still unknown) be designated as "superior" to other bishops of less important Christian centers, the Bishop of Rome at the time refused to accept such a distinction for himself. Historian Lars Qualben comments further:

The General Council of Constantinople in 381 designated the bishop of that city a patriarch; and the General Council of Chalcedon in 451 gave the same title to the bishop of Jerusalem [leaving out the bishop of Rome] ... [and] the patriarch of Constantinople [not of Rome] was voted the chief bishop of the entire church.

After the Western empire was destroyed in 476, the emperor of Constantinople became the sole emperor of the world, and this new dignity naturally added some prestige to the patriarch of that city.... The bishop of Rome and the patriarch of Constantinople became leading rivals for church supremacy.

A Doctrine First Declared by Emperors

Emperors had, in fact, declared the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome over the Western Church (but not over the Church universal) and called him "the Roman Pope" as early as the fifth century. An edict of the Emperors Valentinian III and Theodosius II in 445 declared: "We decree by this perpetual Edict that it will not be lawful for the bishops of Gaul or of other provinces to attempt anything contrary to ancient custom without the authority of that venerable man the Pope of the Eternal City."

It must be noted that this recognition of papal authority comes from emperors, not from an ecumenical council representing the Church. The purpose on the part of the emperors was not to conform to Scripture but to maintain unity in the empire-and unity among the rival bishops and their followers was essential to that end. Rome, being the capital, had to be the center of ecclesiastical authority even as it was of civil.

Moreover, for a Catholic to take comfort in such declarations, he must also accept the fact that at the same time the emperors honored the Bishop of Rome's authority they made it clear that they were above him. The Emperor Justinian, for example, in his edict of April 17, 535, on the "Relations between Church and State," declared: "There is, indeed, a recognition of the distinction between the clerical and lay elements in Christian society; but, for all practical purposes, the Emperor is to be the controller of both, exercising, as he apparently is to do, a supervision over the `moral wellbeing' of the clergy."

It would be centuries before the popes would establish their authority over emperors and kings and even longer before papal infallibility and dominion over the entire Church would be thoroughly established. In fact, councils asserted their authority over popes. More than one council deposed rival claimants to Peter's throne, who were simultaneously insisting that each was the one true vicar of Christ. Though now and then the Bishop of Rome, for his own selfish reasons, attempted to assert his authority over the rest of the Church, it was not accepted by Christendom in general until near the second millennium, nor could he point either to tradition or to conciliar decrees to support the idea.

The claim was finally made to stick in the West 19 years after the Great Schism, when, in 1073, Pope Gregory VII forbade Catholics to call anyone pope except the Bishop of Rome. Before then, many bishops were fondly addressed as "pope" or "papa." Though the Roman Catholic Church lists "popes" going back to the very beginning, and all of the alleged Bishops of Rome are now commonly referred to as such, in actual fact this title was not commonly accepted in its present meaning prior to 1073.

Saving Infallibility by Denying It

We have shown that the manner in which many popes attained that office (through military might, the maneuverings of prostitutes, purchase, patronage of emperors, mob violence, etc.) disproves the claim that the papacy has come down from Peter by an unbroken line of apostolic succession. That more than one pope occupied "Peter's Chair" at one time, each claiming to be the one true, infallible pope, supreme head of the Church and each using his alleged power to excommunicate the others, also proves the theory of apostolic succession to be a fiction. The last time more than one aspirant made simultaneous claim to the papacy the issue was settled in a manner which in fact also pulls the rug out from under any valid claim by the popes to infallibility.

Early in the fifteenth century there were three men who each claimed to be pope. They were Gregory XII (1406-15), whose first pontifical act was to pawn his tiara for 6000 florins to pay his gambling debts; Benedict XIII (1394-1423) of Avignon (one of a number of popes who resided in Avignon's papal palace during a schism that lasted more than 100 years, with rivals in Rome and Avignon each claiming to be the true pope and excommunicating each other); and Alexander V (1409-10) whose chief pastime was feasting and who was attended in his regal palace by 400 servants, all females. The latter pope was poisoned by Baldassare Cossa, who took the pontificate in his place as John XXIII (1410-15).

These three were all deposed by the Council of Constance, until then the largest council in the West, with 300 bishops present, 300 doctors, and the deputies of 15 universities. Although he is now shown as an "antipope," it was Pope John XXIII who formally opened the Council on All Saints' Day 1414. Such was the intrigue surrounding this gathering of Church leaders that some 500 bodies ended up in nearby Lake Constance in the four-year course of that allegedly holy convocation. It was also reported that 1200 prostitutes had to be brought in to keep the bishops and cardinals and their assistants in good humor. Yet this same council condemned Jan Hus to the flames in 1415 for preaching that there was no higher authority than Holy Scripture, which all men, even priests and popes, ought to obey by living Christlike, holy lives.

Of the three above-named popes who each claimed to be the one true vicar of Christ, only Gregory XII is now shown on official lists as a legitimate pope (though he was deposed by this Council), the other two as antipopes. When in 1958 Pope Pius XII's successor took the name John XXIII, more than one Catholic cathedral, finding that its list of popes already contained a Pope John XXIII, had to make a hasty correction. The original Pope John XXIII has been described as a "former pirate, mass-murderer, mass-fornicator with a partiality for nuns, adulterer on a scale unknown outside fables, simoniac par excellence, blackmailer, pimp, master of dirty tricks."

In a twist worthy of a soap opera, Pope John XXIII, who opened the Council with great pomp, was condemned by it to prison. He was treated far more lightly than he deserved, the original 54 charges against him being reduced to a mere five. Edward Gibbon wrote sarcastically in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: "The most scandalous charges [against John XXIII] were suppressed; the Vicar of Christ was only accused [and found guilty] of piracy, murder, rape, sodomy and incest. Whereas incorruptible Jan Hus had been burned at the stake by the Council of Constance for pleading Church reform, John XXIII was given a mere three year prison sentence for his numerous and appalling crimes.

Cardinal Oddo Colonna was named the new pope by the Council of Constance and called himself Martin V (1417-31). Upon former Pope John XXIII's release from prison, Pope Martin V reinstated this master criminal and murderer as Bishop of Frascati and Cardinal of Tusculum. Thereafter, exercising the power of the Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Baldassare Cossa ordained priests and solemnly turned the wafer and wine into the body and blood of Christ-at least that was what the faithful believed. As a cardinal, the former Pope John XXIII, now an ex-convict, was qualified to cast votes for new popes along with fellow cardinals, many of whom were not far behind him in the list of their crimes as well.

Ironically, the Council of Constance saved the Church from three rival popes by asserting its authority over the papacy. The vote was unanimous in establishing the following principle:

Every lawfully convoked Ecumenical Council representing the Church derives its authority immediately from Christ, and every one, the Pope included, is subject to it in matters of faith, in the healing of schism, and the reformation of the Church.

Had papal infallibility as it is known today been accepted then, this solution to the dilemma of three rival popes would have been impossible. The very dogma of papal infallibity, which was established at the First Vatican Council in 1870, is a denial of the authority which a previous council, the Council of Constance, had asserted over popes in order to save the Church. Von Dollinger's comments are of interest, especially since his book came out a few weeks before Vatican I would contradict Constance on the important issue of conciliar versus papal power:

Gregory XII and Benedict XIII had been deserted by their Cardinals, and all that could be held to constitute the Roman Church took part in the Council [of Constance]. If a Pope is subject to a Council in matters of faith he is not infallible; the Church, and the Council which represents it, inherit the promises of Christ, and not the Pope, who may err apart from a Council, and can be judged by it for his error....

And they [the Council's decrees] deny the fundamental position of the Papal system, which is thereby tacitly but very eloquently signalized as an error and abuse. Yet that system had prevailed in the administration of the Church for centuries, had been taught in the canon law books and the schools of the Religious Orders, especially by Thomist divines, and assumed or expressly affirmed in all pronouncements and decision of the Popes, the new authorities for the laws of the Church. And now not a voice was raised in its favor; no one opposed the doctrines of Constance, no one protested!

No comments: