Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hanse on Error

Today marks the anniversary of the martyrdom of the Bd. Everard Hanse (d. 1581). Under the name Evans Duckett this Jesuit entered the mission field of England to strengthen and confirm his persecuted Catholic brethren in the Faith. He worked for a mere three months before he was imprisoned and subjected to great cruelty. During his interrogation he was asked if the Pope could err. Bd. Hanse gave a thoroughly Catholic and correct response: “In life and manners he might offend, as also err in his private doctrine or writing; but in judicial definitions for deciding matters of controversy he cannot err.” This statement sums up what papal infallibility is and is not in a nutshell.
Yet the dogma of papal infallibility was not formally defined until the First Vatican Council (1869-1870) – i.e. "When, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, (the Bishop of Rome) defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church."
Just as a word is added to the dictionary only after it is already in common use, a dogmatic definition is rendered only regarding a matter of Faith or morals that has been in place for 2,000 years. The definition comes after; the thing itself already exists and is not made by the definition.
Thus it is incorrect to say that the dogma of papal infallibility did not exist until the late 19th century. Rather, it existed from the time of Christ and the apostles, and it merely received its solemn definition in the late 19th century.
Thus, too, it is incorrect to say that all that the Pope says is infallible, or presumed to be infallible. The Pope’s pronouncements must be in accord with what has been universally believed and practiced by Christians for 2,000 years.

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