An example against private interpretation from Acts of the Apostles:
“Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying: Arise, go towards the south, to the way that goeth down from Jerusalem into Gaza: this is desert. And rising up, he went. And behold a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch, of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge over all her treasures, had come to Jerusalem to adore. And he was returning, sitting in his chariot, and reading Isaias the prophet. And the Spirit said to Philip: Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip running thither, heard him reading the prophet Isaias. And he said: Thinkest thou that thou understandest what thou readest? Who said: And how can I, unless some man shew me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.”
“Further, by divine and Catholic faith, all those things must be believed at which are contained in the written Word of God and in tradition, and those which are proposed by the church, either in a solemn pronouncement [ex cathedra, extraordinary Magisterium ], or in her ordinary and universal teaching power [a.v., “what has always and everywhere been taught,” ordinary Magisterium ], to be believed as a divinely revealed.”
Vatican Council, Session III Dogmatic Constitution Concerning the Catholic Faith (April 24, 1870) in Denzinger, Enchiridion Symbolorum, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, §1792
In Protestantism every dyslexic with a censored/abridged/bowdlerized “bible” who neither has at hand nor understands the original texts, who fails to understand what is literal, what is rhetorical, and what is allegorical, imagines himself his own little pope.
“Neglect not the grace that is in thee, which was given thee by prophesy, with imposition of the hands of the priesthood.”1 Timothy 4:14
“ For which cause I admonish thee, that thou stir up the grace of God which is in thee, by the imposition of my hands.” 2 Timothy 1:6
“And when they had ordained to them priests in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, in whom they believed.” Acts 14:22
“Take heed to yourselves, and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops, to rule the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Acts 20:28
“For this cause I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and shouldest ordain priests in every city, as I also appointed thee:…” Titus 1:5
“These they set before the apostles; and they praying, imposed hands upon them.” Acts 6:6
“He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When He had said this, He breathed on them; and He said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” John 20:21-23
As for the papacy and the hierarchy, Jesus founded one Church (singular, not plural, in Matthew 16:18), a visible Church with Divine Rights to govern (Matthew 16:19 & 18:18), teach (Matthew 28:19-20), and sanctify (Matthew 28:18-19; John 20:23). Divinely and logically consistent with His commissions, Jesus founded one Church, singular, with one central authority (Matthew 16:19 & 18:18), a visible society (Mark 4:11), with oneness of doctrine without dissent or heresy (Matthew 12:25, 16:1; John 10:16, 17:20-23; Acts 4:32; Romans 12:5, 16:17; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 10:17, 11:18-19, 12:12-27, 14:33; 2 Corinthians 12:20; Ephesians 4:3-6; Philippians 1:27, 2:2-3; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; Titus 3:9-10; James 3:16; 2 Peter 2:1) and an organized hierarchy (Acts 1:20, 15:2-6, 20:28, 21:18; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1-2, 5:17; Titus 1:7; Hebrews 11:2; 1 Peter 2:25, 5:1), not some do-it-yourself “spirituality” or invisible every-man-for-himself “church.”
Jesus did not found an anarchy of churches having mutually exclusive doctrines like the 35,000+ sects of Protestantism in which every dyslexic with an interrupted grammar school education and an expurgated Protestant “Bible” gets to make up his own doctrine and be his own little “pope.”
Jesus compared His Church to a number of very visible objects: a body, a kingdom, a sheepfold, a net (Matthew 13:47), a city, a field. Jesus Christ, true God and True Man, Messiah, Second Person of the Holy Trinity, God did not compare His Church with a disorganized rabble of conflicting doctrines and morality.
No, the disparagement of His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church and the anti-biblical promotion of private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20) is based in the Original Sin of Adam and Eve, that men “might be as gods” (Genesis 3:5). Emulating Lucifer, many men declare “Non serviam.” They will not serve God, but their own traditions. Remember, that was the key judgment against the Pharisees: “…you make void the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition.” (Mark 7:8-9).
St. John the Apostle submitted to 4 popes in his life (St. Peter, St. Linus, St. Anacletus, St. Clement I) without one word against them.
The Church hierarchy was established while the Apostles were still alive. The Apostles who walked and talked face-to-face with Jesus formed and participated in the hierarchy and teaching authority, “the Magisterium.” The Apostles neither rebelled nor spoke against the hierarchy or teaching authority. Roman Emperor Constantine is a favorite shibboleth of anti-Catholics. They spread baseless lies about him corrupting Christ’s one Church with paganism and centralized authority. The hierarchy, sacraments, and dogma were directly from Jesus, continued faithfully by St. Peter heading the Apostles, and preceded Constantine by almost 4 centuries. Constantine only legalized Christianity and defended the Church. God bless him for that!
The hierarchy and Magisterium are apostolic, not ‘pagan.’ The phony claims of heretics then and now are contradicted by mountains of evidence. St. John the Apostle submitted to 4 popes in his life (St. Peter, St. Linus, St. Anacletus, St. Clement I) without one word against them. St. Clement’s letter in about 95 A.D. exercised his papal authority against a troublesome faction in Corinth. The Corinthian Christians, like the Apostles, respected and obeyed papal authority then and after.
Just as St. Mathias was elected to succeed Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:26), Linus, Anacletus, Clement, Evaristus, and many others have been elected to succeed Peter.
“Take heed to yourselves, and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops, to rule the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Acts 20:28
There is considerable scriptural evidence that St. Peter had primacy over the other Apostles.
A side issue — Despite the historical evidence (scroll down to “Activity and death in Rome”), many deluded Protestants deny that St. Peter was ever in Rome at all.
History of the Catholic Church,
Vol. 1 (of 8) Period of Early Expansion
by Rev. Fernand Mourret (translator: Rev. Newton Thompson)
The full 8-volume set can be read or downloaded here.
“Bible Believers” use two stratagems to deny the papacy:
“And he brought him to Jesus. And Jesus looking upon him, said: Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is interpreted Peter.” John 1:42
“[T]he Catholic Church is modeled on the Davidic Kingdom in the Old Testament. That’s why Jesus is called the “Son of David” so many times in the New Testament.…
“[T[he Catholic Church is the Kingdom of God on earth, the new Israel (Jesus said in Matthew 21:43 that he was taking the Kingdom away from Israel, and giving it to a nation that will produce the fruits of it - namely, the Catholic Church), and is modeled after David's Kingdom, with a huge temple (the Vatican), a prime minister (our Pope), a sacred tabernacle containing the Ark of the Covenant (our tabernacle containing the Eucharist), officers who take care of the kingdom (our Cardinals and bishops), high priests (our priests), a Passover Meal (our Eucharist), and a Queen Mother (The Blessed Virgin Mary).
“There are so many parallels between King David and Jesus that it is impossible for the astute Bible scholar to miss them:
“And when Jesus was in Bethania, in the house of Simon the leper, There came to him a woman having an alabaster box of precious ointment, and poured it on his head as he was at table. And the disciples seeing it, had indignation, saying: To what purpose is this waste? For this might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. And Jesus knowing it, said to them: Why do you trouble this woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For the poor you have always with you: but me you have not always. For she in pouring this ointment upon my body, hath done it for my burial. Amen I say to you, wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, that also which she hath done, shall be told for a memory of her.”
Like Judas Iscariot who complained about how the Apostles’ money was spent, Protestants complain about how the Apostolic successors have spent money so that “this gospel shall be preached in the whole world.”
Are there heinous examples of greedy Churchmen? Yes, but like the woman who anointed Jesus’ head with precious oil from an expensive alabaster box, the Church’s resources have ensured that “this gospel shall be preached in the whole world.” That is precisely why the whole world, including over one 1 BILLION Catholics, has heard that gospel.
“And he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he may hold the primacy:…” Colossians 1:18
“And he said to them: Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned.” Mark 16:15-16
“Being subject one to another, in the fear of Christ. Let women be subject to their husbands, as to the Lord: Because the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church. He is the saviour of his body. Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, so also let the wives be to their husbands in all things. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it: That he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life: That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish. So also ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife, loveth himself. For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, as also Christ doth the church: Because we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” Ephesians 5:21-30
“But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” 1 Timothy 3:15
“And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.” Matthew 16:18-19
“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give glory to him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife [The Church is the Bride of Christ] hath prepared herself.” Apocalypse (Revelation) 19:7
“He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me.” Luke 10:16
“Not forsaking our assembly, as some are accustomed; but comforting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching. For if we sin willfully after having the knowledge of the truth, there is now left no sacrifice for sins, But a certain dreadful expectation of judgment, and the rage of a fire which shall consume the adversaries.” Hebrews 10:25-27 [Commentary from the Douay-Rheims translation: “If we sin willfully”: He speaks of the sin of willful apostasy from the known truth; after which, as we can not be baptized again, we can not expect to have that abundant remission of sins, which Christ purchased by his death, applied to our souls in that ample manner as it is in baptism: but we have rather all manner of reason to look for a dreadful judgment; the more because apostates from the known truth, seldom or never have the grace to return to it.”]
“Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you [a marker for a teaching that must be understood literally]: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.” John 6:54-55 His Body and Blood is available only in His Church.
“And taking bread, he gave thanks, and brake; and gave to them, saying: This is my body, which is given for you. Do this for a commemoration of me. In like manner the chalice also, after he had supped, saying: This is the chalice, the new testament in my blood, which shall be shed for you.” Luke 22:19-20 His Body and Blood is available only in His Church. [Commentary from the Douay-Rheims translation: “Do this for a commemoration of me”: This sacrifice and sacrament is to be continued in the church, to the end of the world, to shew forth the death of Christ, until he cometh. But this commemoration, or remembrance, is by no means inconsistent with the real presence of his body and blood, under these sacramental veils, which represent his death; on the contrary, it is the manner that he himself hath commanded, of commemorating and celebrating his death, by offering in sacrifice, and receiving in the sacrament, that body and blood by which we were redeemed.]
“And Saul, as yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, And asked of him letters to Damascus, to the synagogues: that if he found any men and women of this way, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. And as he went on his journey, it came to pass that he drew nigh to Damascus; and suddenly a light from heaven shined round about him. And falling on the ground, he heard a voice saying to him: Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” Acts 9:1-4
We Catholics are as free as St. Paul (Galatians 2:11) to publicly resist even a legitimate Pope that is manifestly in error. A Pope is not protected in all his statements or actions. Papal infallibility is quite circumscribed to certain conditions on matters of dogma and morality. A fortiari, we Catholics are bound to resist an anti-Pope, but we do not have the juridical authority to formally declare or depose one. The man who “subsists in” the Chair of Peter today bears at least three marks of an anti-Pope: (1) his manifest heresies, including Marxist liberation theology, homosexualism, conciliarism, collegiality, ecumenism, religious indifferentism, attacking the indissolubility of marriage, and his neo-Judaizing, (2) his Team Bergoglio lobbying before the conclave canonically disqualified him from the papacy, and (3) his “ordination” to the priesthood and “consecration” to the episcopate in a dubious rite. If he is not a priest, or even a Catholic in belief, he cannot be a true Pope. No matter how gross his manifest transgressions, only a future true Pope or Council can make the pertinent formal declarations. The laity have no authority to formally depose a Pope, but we may recognize his manifest heresies, automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication, and automatic loss of offices.
Pope Paul IV, Cum ex Apostolatus Officio, Feb. 15, 1559, §6 (Roman Bullarium Vol. IV. Sec. I, pp. 354-357)
Similarly the laity have no canonical authority to discipline abortion “Catholics” (cf. Pelosi and Kaine) or notorious perverts, but we should recognize and expose their manifest errors.
It is a huge irony that Bergoglio chose the name “Francis.” It was St. Francis of Assisi who prophesied that in the End Times, “A Man, not Canonically Elected, will be raised to the Pontificate… In those days Jesus Christ will send them not a true Pastor, but a Destroyer.” http://novusordowatch.org/saint-francis-assisi-prophecy-destroyer/
According to Church doctrine, Papal Infallibility is circumscribed and applicable in only two situations:
1. “Ordinary Magisterium” • when a true Pope teaches what has always and everywhere been taught by the Church
2. “Extraordinary Magisterium” • when a true Pope,
(a) invokes his privilege as the Shepherd and Teacher of all Christians,
(b) defines a doctrine
(c) concerning a matter of faith or morals,
(d) traceable to Apostolic times,
(e) to which he binds all Christians,
he cannot err.
It should not be necessary to point out the obvious: an anti-pope has no claim to infallibility.
It is well to begin by stating the ecclesiological truths that are assumed to be established before the question of infallibility arises. It is assumed:
And this being assumed, the question that concerns us is whether, and in what way, and to what extent, Christ has made His Church to be infallible in the exercise of her doctrinal authority.
It is only in connection with doctrinal authority as such that, practically speaking, this question of infallibility arises; that is to say, when we speak of the Church's infallibility we mean, at least primarily and principally, what is sometimes called active as distinguished from passive infallibility. We mean in other words that the Church is infallible in her objective definitive teaching regarding faith and morals, not that believers are infallible in their subjective interpretation of her teaching. This is obvious in the case of individuals, any one of whom may err in his understanding of the Church's teaching; nor is the general or even unanimous consent of the faithful in believing a distinct and independent organ of infallibility. Such consent indeed, when it can be verified as apart, is of the highest value as a proof of what has been, or may be, defined by the teaching authority, but, except in so far as it is thus the subjective counterpart and complement of objective authoritative teaching, it cannot be said to possess an absolutely decisive dogmatic value. It will be best therefore to confine our attention to active infallibility as such, as by so doing we shall avoid the confusion which is the sole basis of many of the objections that are most persistently and most plausibly urged against the doctrine of ecclesiastical infallibility.
Infallibility must be carefully distinguished both from Inspiration and from Revelation.
Inspiration signifies a special positive Divine influence and assistance by reason of which the human agent is not merely preserved from liability to error but is so guided and controlled that what he says or writes is truly the word of God, that God Himself is the principal author of the inspired utterance; but infallibility merely implies exemption from liability to error. God is not the author of a merely infallible, as He is of an inspired, utterance; the former remains a merely human document.
Revelation, on the other hand, means the making known by God, supernaturally of some truth hitherto unknown, or at least not vouched for by Divine authority; whereas infallibility is concerned with the interpretation and effective safeguarding of truths already revealed. Hence when we say, for example, that some doctrine defined by the pope or by an ecumenical council is infallible, we mean merely that its inerrancy is Divinely guaranteed according to the terms of Christ's promise to His Church, not that either the pope or the Fathers of the Council are inspired as were the writers of the Bible or that any new revelation is embodied in their teaching.
It is well further to explain:
that infallibility means more than exemption from actual error; it means exemption from the possibility of error;
If God bestowed the gift of prophecy on Caiphas who condemned Christ (John 11:49-52; 18:14), surely He may bestow the lesser gift of infallibility even on unworthy human agents. It is, therefore, a mere waste of time for opponents of infallibility to try to create a prejudice against the Catholic claim by pointing out the moral or intellectual shortcomings of popes or councils that have pronounced definitive doctrinal decisions, or to try to show historically that such decisions in certain cases were the seemingly natural and inevitable outcome of existing conditions, moral, intellectual, and political. All that history may be fairly claimed as witnessing to under either of these heads may freely be granted without the substance of the Catholic claim being affected.
That the Church is infallible in her definitions on faith and morals is itself a Catholic dogma, which, although it was formulated ecumenically for the first time in the Vatican Council, had been explicitly taught long before and had been assumed from the very beginning without question down to the time of the Protestant Reformation. The teaching of the Vatican Council is to be found in Session III, cap. 4, where it is declared that “the doctrine of faith, which God has revealed, has not been proposed as a philosophical discovery to be improved upon by human talent, but has been committed as a Divine deposit to the spouse of Christ, to be faithfully guarded and infallibly interpreted by her”; and in Session IV, cap. 4, where it is defined that the Roman pontiff when he teaches ex cathedra “enjoys, by reason of the Divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer wished His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith and morals”. Even the Vatican Council, it will be seen, only introduces the general dogma of the Church's infallibility as distinct from that of the pope obliquely and indirectly, following in this respect the traditional usage according to which the dogma is assumed as an implicate of ecumenical magisterial authority. Instances of this will be given below and from these it will appear that, though the word infallibility as a technical term hardly occurs at all in the early councils or in the Fathers, the thing signified by it was understood and believed in and acted upon from the beginning. We shall confine our attention in this section to the general question, reserving the doctrine of papal infallibility for special treatment. This arrangement is adopted not because it is the best or most logical, but because it enables us to travel a certain distance in the friendly company of those who cling to the general doctrine of ecclesiastical infallibility while rejecting the papal claims. Taking the evidence both scriptural and traditional as it actually stands, one may fairly maintain that it proves papal infallibility in a simpler, more direct, and more cogent way than it proves the general doctrine independently; and there can be no doubt but that this is so if we accept as the alternative to papal infallibility the vague and unworkable theory of ecumenical infallibility which most High-Church Anglicans would substitute for Catholic teaching. Nor are the Eastern schismatical Churches much better off than the Anglican in this respect, except that each has retained a sort of virtual belief in its own infallibility, and that in practice they have been more faithful in guarding the doctrines infallibly defined by the early ecumenical councils. Yet certain Anglicans and all the Eastern Orthodox agree with Catholics in maintaining that Christ promised infallibility to the true Church, and we welcome their support as against the general Protestant denial of this truth.
In order to prevent misconception and thereby to anticipate a common popular objection which is wholly based on a misconception it should be premised that when we appeal to the Scriptures for proof of the Church's infallible authority we appeal to them merely as reliable historical sources, and abstract altogether from their inspiration. Even considered as purely human documents they furnish us, we maintain, with a trustworthy report of Christ's sayings and promises; and, taking it to be a fact that Christ said what is attributed to Him in the Gospels, we further maintain that Christ's promises to the Apostles and their successors in the teaching office include the promise of such guidance and assistance as clearly implies infallibility. Having thus used the Scriptures as mere historical sources to prove that Christ endowed the Church with infallible teaching authority it is no vicious circle, but a perfectly legitimate logical procedure, to rely on the Church's authority for proof of what writings are inspired.
Merely remarking for the present that the texts in which Christ promised infallible guidance especially to Peter and his successors in the primacy might be appealed to here as possessing an a fortiori value, it will suffice to consider the classical texts usually employed in the general proof of the Church's infallibility; and of these the principal are:
I Timothy 3:14-15; and
Acts 15:28 sq.
In Matthew 28:18-20, we have Christ's solemn commission to the Apostles delivered shortly before His Ascension: “All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” In Mark 16:15-16, the same commission is given more briefly with the added promise of salvation to believers and the threat of damnation for unbelievers; “Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned.”
Now it cannot be denied by anyone who admits that Christ established a visible Church at all, and endowed it with any kind of effective teaching authority, that this commission, with all it implies, was given not only to the Apostles personally for their own lifetime, but to their successors to the end of time, “even to the consummation of the world”. And assuming that it was the omniscient Son of God Who spoke these words, with a full and clear realization of the import which, in conjunction with His other promises, they were calculated to convey to the Apostles and to all simple and sincere believers to the end of time, the only reasonable interpretation to put upon them is that they contain the promise of infallible guidance in doctrinal teaching made to the Apostolic College in the first instance and then to the hierarchical college that was to succeed it.
In the first place it was not without reason that Christ prefaced His commission by appealing to the fullness of power He Himself had received: “All power is given to me”, etc. This is evidently intended to emphasize the extraordinary character and extent of the authority He is communicating to His Church — an authority, it is implied, which He could not personally communicate were not He Himself omnipotent. Hence the promise that follows cannot reasonably be understood of ordinary natural providential guidance, but must refer to a very special supernatural assistance.
In the next place there is question particularly in this passage of doctrinal authority — of authority to teach the Gospel to all men — if Christ's promise to be with the Apostles and their successors to the end of time in carrying out this commission means that those whom they are to teach in His name and according to the plenitude of the power He has given them are bound to receive that teaching as if it were His own; in other words they are bound to accept it as infallible. Otherwise the perennial assistance promised would not really be efficacious for its purpose, and efficacious Divine assistance is what the expression used is clearly intended to signify. Supposing, as we do, that Christ actually delivered a definite body of revealed truth, to be taught to all men in all ages, and to be guarded from change or corruption by the living voice of His visible Church, it is idle to contend that this result could be accomplished effectively — in other words that His promise could be effectively fulfilled unless that living voice can speak infallibly to every generation on any question that may arise affecting the substance of Christ's teaching.
Without infallibility there could be no finality regarding any one of the great truths which have been identified historically with the very essence of Christianity; and it is only with those who believe in historical Christianity that the question need be discussed. Take, for instance, the mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation. If the early Church was not infallible in her definitions regarding these truths, what compelling reason can be alleged today against the right to revive the Sabellian, or the Arian, or the Macedonian, or the Apollinarian, or the Nestorian, or the Eutychian controversies, and to defend some interpretation of these mysteries which the Church has condemned as heretical?
One may not appeal to the inspired authority of the Scriptures, since for the fact of their inspiration the authority of the Church must be invoked, and unless she be infallible in deciding this one would be free to question the inspiration of any of the New Testament writings. Nor, abstracting from the question of inspiration, can it be fairly maintained, in face of the facts of history, that the work of interpreting scriptural teaching regarding these mysteries and several other points of doctrine that have been identified with the substance of historical Christianity is so easy as to do away with the need of a living voice to which, as to the voice of Christ Himself, all are bound to submit.
Unity of Faith was intended by Christ to be one of the distinctive notes of His Church, and the doctrinal authority He set up was intended by His Divine guidance and assistance to be really effective in maintaining this unity; but the history of the early heresies and of the Protestant sects proves clearly, what might indeed have been anticipated a priori, that nothing less than an infallible public authority capable of acting decisively whenever the need should rise and pronouncing an absolutely final and irreformable judgment, is really efficient for this purpose. Practically speaking the only alternative to infallibility is private judgment, and this after some centuries of trial has been found to lead inevitably to utter rationalism. If the early definitions of the Church were fallible, and therefore reformable, perhaps those are right who say today that they ought to be discarded as being actually erroneous or even pernicious, or at least that they ought to be re-interpreted in a way that substantially changes their original meaning; perhaps, indeed, there is no such thing as absolute truth in matters religious! How, for example, is a Modernist who takes up this position to be met except by insisting that definitive teaching is irreversible and unchangeable; that it remains true in its original sense for all time; in other words that it is infallible? For no one can reasonably hold that fallible doctrinal teaching is irreformable or deny the right of later generations to question the correctness of earlier fallible definitions and call for their revision or correction, or even for their total abandonment.
From these considerations we are justified in concluding that if Christ really intended His promise to be with His Church to be taken seriously, and if He was truly the Son of God, omniscient and omnipotent, knowing history in advance and able to control its course, then the Church is entitled to claim infallible doctrinal authority. This conclusion is confirmed by considering the awful sanction by which the Church's authority is supported: all who refuse to assent to her teaching are threatened with eternal damnation. This proves the value Christ Himself set upon His own teaching and upon the teaching of the Church commissioned to teach in His name; religious indifferentism is here reprobated in unmistakable terms.
Nor does such a sanction lose its significance in this connection because the same penalty is threatened for disobedience to fallible disciplinary laws or even in some cases for refusing to assent to doctrinal teaching that is admittedly fallible. Indeed, every mortal sin, according to Christ's teaching, is punishable with eternal damnation. But if one believes in the objectivity of eternal and immutable truth, he will find it difficult to reconcile with a worthy conception of the Divine attributes a command under penalty of damnation to give unqualified and irrevocable internal assent to a large body of professedly Divine doctrine the whole of which is possibly false. Nor is this difficulty satisfactorily met, as some have attempted to meet it, by calling attention to the fact that in the Catholic system internal assent is sometimes demanded, under pain of grievous sin, to doctrinal decisions that do not profess to be infallible. For, in the first place, the assent to be given in such cases is recognized as being not irrevocable and irreversible, like the assent required in the case of definitive and infallible teaching, but merely provisional; and in the next place, internal assent is obligatory only on those who can give it consistently with the claims of objective truth on their conscience — this conscience, it is assumed, being directed by a spirit of generous loyalty to genuine Catholic principles.
To take a particular example, if Galileo who happened to be right while the ecclesiastical tribunal which condemned him was wrong, had really possessed convincing scientific evidence in favour of the heliocentric theory, he would have been justified in refusing his internal assent to the opposite theory, provided that in doing so he observed with thorough loyalty all the conditions involved in the duty of external obedience. Finally it should be observed that fallible provisional teaching, as such, derives its binding force principally from the fact that it emanates from an authority which is competent, if need be, to convert it into infallible definitive teaching. Without infallibility in the background it would be difficult to establish theoretically the obligation of yielding internal assent to the Church's provisional decisions.
In Matthew 16:18, we have the promise that “the gates of hell shall not prevail” against the Church that is to be built on the rock; and this also, we maintain, implies the assurance of the Church's infallibility in the exercise of her teaching office. Such a promise, of course, must be understood with limitations according to the nature of the matter to which it is applied. As applied to sanctity, for example, which is essentially a personal and individual affair, it does not mean that every member of the Church or of her hierarchy is necessarily a saint, but merely that the Church, as whole, will be conspicuous among other things for the holiness of life of her members. As applied to doctrine, however — always assuming, as we do, that Christ delivered a body of doctrine the preservation of which in its literal truth was to be one of the chief duties of the Church — it would be a mockery to contend that such a promise is compatible with the supposition that the Church has possibly erred in perhaps the bulk of her dogmatic definitions, and that throughout the whole of her history she has been threatening men with eternal damnation in Christ's name for refusing to believe doctrines that are probably false and were never taught by Christ Himself. Could this be the case, would it not be clear that the gates of hell can prevail and probably have prevailed most signally against the Church?
In Christ's discourse to the Apostles at the Last Supper several passages occur which clearly imply the promise of infallibility: “I will ask the Father, and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you forever. The spirit of truth . . . he shall abide with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:16, 17). “But the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you” (ibid. 26). “But when he, the spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth (John 16:13). And the same promise is renewed immediately before the Ascension (Acts 1:8). Now what does the promise of this perennial and efficacious presence and assistance of the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of truth, mean in connection with doctrinal authority, except that the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity is made responsible for what the Apostles and their successors may define to be part of Christ's teaching? But insofar as the Holy Ghost is responsible for Church teaching, that teaching is necessarily infallible: what the Spirit of truth guarantees cannot be false.
In 1 Timothy 3:15, St. Paul speaks of “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth”; and this description would be something worse than mere exaggeration if it had been intended to apply to a fallible Church; it would be a false and misleading description. That St. Paul, however, meant it to be taken for sober and literal truth is abundantly proved by what he insists upon so strongly elsewhere, namely, the strictly Divine authority of the Gospel which he and the other Apostles preached, and which it was the mission of their successors to go on preaching without change or corruption to the end of time. “When you had received of us”, he writes to the Thessalonians, “the word of the hearing of God, you received it not as the word of men, but (as it is indeed) the word of God, who worketh in you that have believed” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). The Gospel, he tells the Corinthians, is intended to bring “into captivity every understanding unto the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Indeed, so fixed and irreformable is the doctrine that has been taught that the Galatians (1:8) are warned to anathematize any one, even an angel from heaven, who should preach to them a Gospel other than that which St. Paul had preached. Nor was this attitude — which is intelligible only on the supposition that the Apostolic College was infallible — peculiar to St. Paul. The other Apostles and apostolic writers were equally strong in anathematizing those who preached another Christianity than that which the Apostles had preached (cf. 2 Peter 2:1 sqq.; 1 John 4:1 sqq.; 2 John 7 sqq.; Jude 4); and St. Paul makes it clear that it was not to any personal or private views of his own that he claimed to make every understanding captive, but to the Gospel which Christ had delivered to the Apostolic body. When his own authority as an Apostle was challenged, his defense was that he had seen the risen Saviour and received his mission directly from Him, and that his Gospel was in complete agreement with that of the other Apostles (see, v.g., Galatians 2:2-9).
Finally, the consciousness of corporate infallibility is clearly signified in the expression used by the assembled Apostles in the decree of the Council of Jerusalem: “It hath seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us, to lay no further burden upon you”, etc. (Acts 15:28). It is true that the specific points here dealt with are chiefly disciplinary rather than dogmatic, and that no claim to infallibility is made in regard to purely disciplinary questions as such; but behind, and independent of, disciplinary details there was the broad and most important dogmatic question to be decided, whether Christians, according to Christ's teaching, were bound to observe the Old Law in its integrity, as orthodox Jews of the time observed it. This was the main issue at stake, and in deciding it the Apostles claimed to speak in the name and with the authority of the Holy Ghost. Would men who did not believe that Christ's promises assured them of an infallible Divine guidance have presumed to speak in this way? And could they, in so believing, have misunderstood the Master's meaning?
If, during the early centuries, there was no explicit and formal discussion regarding ecclesiastical infallibility as such, yet the Church, in her corporate capacity, after the example of the Apostles at Jerusalem, always acted on the assumption that she was infallible in doctrinal matters and all the great orthodox teachers believed that she was so. Those who presumed, on whatever grounds, to contradict the Church's teaching were treated as representatives of Antichrist (cf. 1 John 2:18 sq.), and were excommunicated and anathematized.
It is clear from the letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch how intolerant he was of error, and how firmly convinced that the episcopal body was the Divinely ordained and Divinely guided organ of truth; nor can any student of early Christian literature deny that, where Divine guidance is claimed in doctrinal matters, infallibility is implied.
So intolerant of error was St. Polycarp that, as the story goes, when he met Marcion on the street in Rome, he did not hesitate to denounce the heretic to his face as “the firstborn of Satan”. This incident, whether it be true or not, is at any rate thoroughly in keeping with the spirit of the age and such a spirit is incompatible with belief in a fallible Church.
St. Irenaeus, who in the disciplinary Paschal question favoured compromise for the sake of peace, took an altogether different attitude in the doctrinal controversy with the Gnostics; and the great principle on which he mainly relies in refuting the heretics is the principle of a living ecclesiastical authority for which he virtually claims infallibility. For example he says: “Where the Church is, there also is the Spirit of God, and where the Spirit of God is there is the Church, and every grace: for the Spirit is truth” (Adv. Haer. III, xxiv, 1); and again, Where the charismata of the Lord are given, there must we seek the truth, i.e. with those to whom belongs the ecclesiastical succession from the Apostles, and the unadulterated and incorruptible word. It is they who . . . are the guardians of our faith . . . and securely [sine periculo] expound the Scriptures to us” (op. cit., IV xxvi, 5).
Tertullian, writing from the Catholic standpoint, ridicules the suggestion that the universal teaching of the Church can be wrong: “Suppose now that all [the Churches] have erred . . . [This would mean that] the Holy Spirit has not watched over any of them so as to guide it into the truth, although He was sent by Christ, and asked from the Father for this very purpose — that He might be the teacher of truth” (doctor veritatis — “De Praescript”, xxxvi, in P.L., II, 49).
St. Cyprian compares the Church to an incorruptible virgin: Adulterari non potest sponsa Christi, incorrupta est et pudica (De unitate eccl.).
It is needless to go on multiplying citations, since the broad fact is indisputable that in the ante-Nicene, no less than in the post-Nicene, period all orthodox Christians attributed to the corporate voice of the Church, speaking through the body of bishops in union with their head and centre, all the fullness of doctrinal authority which the Apostles themselves had possessed; and to question the infallibility of that authority would have been considered equivalent to questioning God's veracity and fidelity. It was for this reason that during the first three centuries the concurrent action of the bishops dispersed throughout the world proved to be effective in securing the condemnation and exclusion of certain heresies and maintaining Gospel truth in its purity; and when from the fourth century onwards it was found expedient to assemble ecumenical councils, after the example of the Apostles at Jerusalem, it was for the same reason that the doctrinal decision of these councils were held to be absolutely final and irreformable. Even the heretics, for the most part recognized this principle in theory; and if in fact they often refused to submit, they did so as a rule on the ground that this or that council was not really ecumenical, that it did not truly express the corporate voice of the Church, and was not, therefore, infallible. This will not be denied by anyone who is familiar with the history of the doctrinal controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries, and within the limits of this article we cannot do more than call attention to the broad conclusion in proof of which it would be easy to cite a great number of particular facts and testimonies.
Several of the objections usually urged against ecclesiastical infallibility have been anticipated in the preceding sections; but some others deserve a passing notice here.
It has been urged that neither a fallible individual nor a collection of fallible individuals can constitute an infallible organ. This is quite true in reference to natural knowledge and would be also true as applied to Church authority if Christianity were assumed to be a mere product of natural reason. But we set out from an entirely different standpoint. We assume as antecedently and independently established that God can supernaturally guide and enlighten men, individually or collectively, in such a way that, notwithstanding the natural fallibility of human intelligence, they may speak and may be known with certainty to speak in His name and with His authority, so that their utterance may be not merely infallible but inspired. And it is only with those who accept this standpoint that the question of the Church's infallibility can be profitably discussed.
Again, it is said that even those who accept the supernatural viewpoint must ultimately fall back on fallible human reasoning in attempting to prove infallibility; that behind any conclusion that is proposed on so-called infallible authority there always lurks a premise which cannot claim for itself more than a merely human and fallible certainty; and that, since the strength of a conclusion is no greater than that of its weaker premise, the principle of infallibility is a useless as well as an illogical importation into Christian theology. In reply it is to be observed that this argument, if valid, would prove very much more than it is here introduced to prove; that it would indeed undermine the very foundations of Christian faith. For example, on purely rational grounds I have only moral certainty that God Himself is infallible or that Christ was the infallible mediator of a Divine Revelation; yet if I am to give a rational defense of my faith, even in mysteries which I do not comprehend, I must do so by appealing to the infallibility of God and of Christ. But according to the logic of the objection this appeal would be futile and the assent of faith considered as a rational act would be no firmer or more secure than natural human knowledge. The truth is that the inferential process here and in the case of ecclesiastical infallibility transcends the rule of formal logic that is alleged. Assent is given not to the logical force of the syllogism, but directly to the authority which the inference serves to introduce; and this holds good in a measure even when there is question of mere fallible authority. Once we come to believe in and rely upon authority we can afford to overlook the means by which we were brought to accept it, just as a man who has reached a solid standing place where he wishes to remain no longer relies on the frail ladder by which he mounted. It cannot be said that there is any essential difference in this respect between Divine and ecclesiastical infallibility. The latter of course is only a means by which we are put under subjection to the former in regard to a body of truth once revealed and to be believed by all men to the end of time, and no one can fairly deny that it is useful, not to say necessary, for that purpose. Its alternative is private judgment, and history has shown to what results this alternative inevitably leads.
Again, it is urged that the kind of submission demanded by infallible authority is incompatible with the rights of reason and of legitimate inquiry and speculation, and tends to give to one's faith in his Creed a dry, formal, proud, and intolerant character which contrasts unfavourably with the warmhearted, humble, and tolerant faith of the man who believes on conviction after free personal inquiry. In reply it is sufficient to say that submission to infallible authority implies no abdication of reason, nor does it impose any undue check on the believer's freedom to pursue inquiry and speculation. Were it so, how could one believe in revealed doctrine at all without being accused, as unbelievers do accuse Christians, of committing intellectual suicide? If one believes in revelation at all one does so in deference to God's authority an authority that is surely infallible; and so far as the principle of the objection is concerned there is no difference between ecclesiastical and Divine infallibility. It is somewhat surprising, therefore, that professing Christians should recur to such an argument, which, if consistently urged, would be fatal to their own position. And as regards freedom of inquiry and speculation in reference to revealed doctrines themselves, it should be observed that true freedom in this as in other matters does not mean unbridled licence. Really effective authoritative control is always necessary to prevent liberty from degenerating into anarchy, and in the sphere of Christian doctrine — we are arguing only with those who admit that Christ delivered a body of doctrine that was to be held as eternally true — from the very nature of the case, the only effective barrier against Rationalism — the equivalent of political anarchy — is an infallible ecclesiastical authority. This authority therefore, by its decisions merely curtails personal freedom of inquiry in religious matters in the same way, and by an equally valid title, as the supreme authority in the State, restricts the liberty of private citizens.
Moreover, as in a well ordered state there remains within the law a large margin for the exercise of personal freedom, so in the Church there is a very extensive domain which is given over to theological speculation; and even in regard to doctrines that have been infallibly defined there is always room for further inquiry so as the better to understand, explain, defend, and expand them. The only thing one may not do is to deny or change them. Then, in reply to the charge of intolerance, it may be said that if this be taken to mean an honest and sincere repudiation of Liberalism and Rationalism, infallibilists must plead guilty to the charge; but in doing so they are in good company. Christ Himself was intolerant in this sense; so were His Apostles; and so were all the great champions of historical Christianity in every age. Finally it is altogether untrue, as every Catholic knows and feels, that faith which allows itself to be guided by infallible ecclesiastical authority is less intimately personal or less genuine in any way than faith based on private judgment. If this docile loyalty to Divine authority which true faith implies means anything, it means that one must listen to the voice of those whom God has expressly appointed to teach in His name, rather than to one's own private judgment deciding what God's teaching ought to be. For to this, in final analysis, the issue is reduced; and he who chooses to make himself, instead of the authority which God has instituted, the final arbiter in matters of faith is far from possessing the true spirit of faith, which is the foundation of charity and of the whole supernatural life.
Again it is urged by our opponents that infallibility as exercised by the Catholic Church has shown itself to be a failure, since, in the first place, it has not prevented schisms and heresies in the Christian body, and, in the second place, has not attempted to settle for Catholics themselves many important questions, the final settlement of which would be a great relief to believers by freeing them from anxious and distressing doubts. In reply to the first point it is enough to say that the purpose for which Christ endowed the Church with infallibility was not to prevent the occurrence of schisms and heresies, which He foresaw and foretold, but to take away all justification for their occurrence; men were left free to disrupt the unity of Faith inculcated by Christ in the same way as they were left free to disobey any other commandment, but heresy was intended to be no more justifiable objectively than homicide or adultery. To reply to the second point we would observe that it seems highly inconsistent for the same objector to blame Catholics in one breath for having too much defined doctrine in their Creed and, in the next breath, to find fault with them for having too little. Either part of the accusation, in so far as it is founded, is a sufficient answer to the other. Catholics as a matter of fact do not feel in any way distressed either by the restrictions, on the one hand, which infallible definitions impose or, on the other hand, by the liberty as to non-defined matters which they enjoy, and they can afford to decline the services of an opponent who is determined at all costs to invent a grievance for them. The objection is based on a mechanical conception of the function of infallible authority, as if this were fairly comparable, for example, to a clock which is supposed to tell us unerringly not only the large divisions of time such as the hours, but also, if it is to be useful as a timekeeper, the minutes and even the seconds. Even if we admit the propriety of the illustration, it is obvious that a clock which records the hours correctly, without indicating the smaller fractions of time, is a very useful instrument, and that it would be foolish to refuse to follow it because it is not provided with a minute or a second hand on the dial. But it is perhaps best to avoid such mechanical illustrations altogether. The Catholic believer who has real faith in the efficiency of Christ's promises will not doubt but that the Holy Ghost Who abides in the Church, and Whose assistance guarantees the infallibility of her definitions, will also provide that any definition that may be necessary or expedient for the safeguarding of Christ's teaching will be given at the opportune moment, and that such definable questions as are left undefined may, for the time being at least, be allowed to remain so without detriment to the faith or morals of the faithful.
Finally, it is objected that the acceptance of ecclesiastical infallibility is incompatible with the theory of doctrinal development which Catholics commonly admit. But so far is this from being true that it is impossible to frame any theory of development, consistent with Catholic principles, in which authority is not recognized as a guiding and controlling factor. For development in the Catholic sense does not mean that the Church ever changes her definitive teaching, but merely that as time goes on and human science advances, her teaching is more deeply analyzed, more fully comprehended, and more perfectly coordinated and explained in itself and in its bearings on other departments of knowledge. It is only on the false supposition that development means change in definitive teaching that the objection has any real force. We have confined our attention to what we may describe as the rational objections against the Catholic doctrine of infallibility, omitting all mention of the interminable exegetical difficulties which Protestant theologians have raised against the Catholic interpretation of Christ's promises to His Church. The necessity for noticing these latter has been done away with by the growth of Rationalism, the logical successor of old-time Protestantism. If the infallible Divine authority of Christ, and the historicity of His promises to which we have appealed be admitted, there is no reasonable escape from the conclusion which the Catholic Church has drawn from those promises.
Toner, P. (1910). “Infallibility” in The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved September 28, 2021 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07790a.htm
“I look upon God no better than a scoundrel”
Weimar, Vol. 1, Pg. 487. Cf. Table Talk, No. 963.
“Christ committed adultery first of all with the women at the well about whom St. John tell’s us. Was not everybody about Him saying: ‘Whatever has He been doing with her?’ Secondly, with Mary Magdalen, and thirdly with the women taken in adultery whom He dismissed so lightly. Thus even, Christ who was so righteous, must have been guilty of fornication before He died.”
Trishreden, Weimer Edition, Vol. 2, Pg. 107.
“I have greater confidence in my wife and my pupils than I have in Christ”
Table Talk, 2397b.
“If we allow them – the [Ten] Commandments – any influence in our conscience, they become the cloak of all evil, heresies and blasphemies”
Comm. ad Galat, p.310.
“If the husband is unwilling, there is another who is; if the wife is unwilling, then let the maid come.”
Of Married Life.
“Suppose I should counsel the wife of an impotent man, with his consent, to giver herself to another, say her husband’s brother, but to keep this marriage secret and to ascribe the children to the so-called putative father. The question is: Is such a women in a saved state? I answer, certainly.”
“It is not in opposition to the Holy Scriptures for a man to have several wives.”
De Wette, Vol. 2, p. 459.
“If I had to baptize a Jew, I would take him to the bridge of the Elbe, hang a stone round his neck and push him over with the words I baptize thee in the name of Abraham”
Luther by Hartmann Grisar, Vol. V (of VI). pg. 413.
“The Jews deserve to be hanged on gallows seven times higher than ordinary thieves.”
Weimar, Vol. 53, Pg. 502.
Luther and His Progeny: 500 Years of Protestantism and Its Consequences for Church, State, and Society
by John C. Rao, ISBN 978-1621382546, https://www.amazon.com/Luther-His-Progeny-Protestantism-Consequences/dp/1621382540/
What you don't know about Martin Luther!
Martin Luther, the Devil and Denominations
Martin Luther also had a preoccupation with the Devil, with the bathroom, and with matters one can only call disgusting. Even Protestant scholars have noted that Luther’s fascination with crude subjects is disquieting. He admittedly had much interaction with the Devil. “These [demons] would haunt the imagination of Martin Luther who had visions, which he believed to be actual physical occurrences, of the devil hurling [excrement] at him and his hurling it back. Indeed, in one of his many anal combats with the devil – in which Luther would challenge the devil to ‘lick’ his posterior – Luther thought the best tactic might be to ‘throw him into my anus, where he belongs.’” (H.W. Crocker, Triumph, Roseville, CA: Prima Publishing, 2001, p. 237.) After he had come to his position against the Papacy, Luther called the “Papal decretals the Devil’s excretals.” He also said that the pope and cardinals should be killed, and that he and his supporters should wash their “hands in their blood.” (Pastor, History of the Popes, Vol. 7, p. 393.)
Luther claims that he came up with justification by faith alone while on the toilet. He claims that it came as “knowledge the Holy Spirit gave me on the privy in the tower.” (Quoted in William Manchester, A World Lit only By Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance Little Brown & Co., 1993, p. 140.) In fact, Luther’s idea that people need to commit real and “honest” sins seems to have originated from a conversation with the Devil. This is from Luther’s Table Talk.
"[Luther said:] When I awoke last night, the Devil came and wanted to debate with me; he rebuked and reproached me, arguing that I was a sinner. To this I replied: Tell me something new, Devil! I already know that perfectly well; I have committed many a solid and real sin. Indeed there must be good honest sins - not fabricated and invented ones - for God to forgive for God's beloved Son's sake, who took all of my sins upon Him so that now the sins I have committed are no longer mine but belong to Christ. This wonderful gift of God I am not prepared to deny, but want to acknowledge and confess."
With these facts in mind, it should be quite clear how those who followed Luther’s eventual conclusions (the core of which are faith alone and Scripture alone) are simply following the machinations, inventions and discoveries of a man. They are following the inventions of a man who was guided and used by the Devil to create a false version of “Christianity” which would lead countless people astray.
excerpted from: Some Facts about Martin Luther, The Originator of Protestant “Christianity”
by Brother Peter Dimond, May 12, 2009 https://vaticancatholic.com/martin-luther/
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