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It would appear that the eager and astute body of ecclesiastics who were engaged in the concoction of the Decree were somewhat in this condition ; for assuredly it does seem that some spirit of mischief must have introduced himself into the conclave under the outward form of a bishop, for the purpose of producing confusion, and spoiling the work of these holy fathers. One would have thought that defining the Pope to be infallible would have been the simplest affair imaginable. A few words would have done it, such, for instance, as these :
Divine Revelation declares that the Roman Pontiff, when defining doctrine Ex Cathedra, is possessed of Infallibility, and that his Definition thus made needs no consent of the Church; but is infallıble in itself.
This would have been intelligible and distinct. It appears, however, that there must have been tempter present who represented that a definition like this would give offence to the Council, because it entirely ignored its authority and that of the entire episcopate ; and consequently, that something must be put in for the purpose of soothing the bishops, and disarming opposition. No sooner had this suggestion been made than the decree was forthwith amended by the insertion of a clause saving the rights of the Church, and it came out in the following form, which was at once passed, engrossed, voted, confirmed, and proclaimed in red hot haste. The decree as actually passed was this: and the insertion made in it to satisfy the Council is marked in italics. If this addition be omitted, there is a clear, consistent, and simple statement of Papal infallibility.
Docemus, et divinitus revelatum dogma definimus, Romanum Pontificem, cum ex cathedrâ loquitur, id est, cum omnium Christianorum Pastoris et Doctoris munus fungens, pro supremâ suâ Apostolicâ auctoritate doctrinam de fide vel moribus ab universâ Ecclesiâ tenendam definit, per assistentiam divinam, ipsi in beato Petro promissam, eâ infallibilitate pollere, quâ Divinus Redemptor. Ecclesiam suam in definienda doctrinâ de fide vel moribus instructam esse voluit : ideoque ejus Romani Pontificis definitiones ex sese non autem ex consensu Ecclesiæ irreformabiles esse.
Si quis autem huic nostræ definitioni contradicere. ... Anathema sit.
The Decree, as actually made, may be thus stated in substance:
1. Jesus Christ conferred on His Church, i.e. the whole body of the
Episcopate, the power of formally defining articles of faith, in
fallibly—(the Gallican doctrine). 2. But Revelation declares that this power belongs to the Roman
Pontiff, and needs no definition or consent of the Episcopato
(the Ultramontane doctrine). [3. Consequently, Jesus Christ and Divine Revelation are entirely at
variance; and the Ebionites and Socinus must have been right.] 4. Whoever dares to contradict this, is cut off from the Catholic
Church, and is doomed to eternal perdition.
We have here again, what we have already seen in the Roman communion, the struggle of two contradictory beliefs; one affirming that the Church is to be directed by the successors of the apostles or Episcopate (the Gallican principle); the other that the Church is to be directed by the sole Vicar of Christ. These two beliefs are utterly irreconcilable; consequently the attempt to unite them only produces nonsense. It was for this reason no doubt that M. Darboy, Archbishop of Paris, pronounced the decree not binding, because ineptum, for what is ineptum, or foolish, is also irritum, in vain, useless, invalid, null.
To suppose that Christ gave infallibility to one body in His Church, and that Revelation gives it to another would be an impiety, which no Council and no Pope could define. It falls dead of itself. Every Roman Catholic is exempt from the obligation of receiving a dogma of this kind. He would merely deny his faith if he were to do so. The principle so admirably laid down by Father Newman here applies : If the Pope should command anything against the articles of the faith,' “he ought not to be obeyed. If any such decree is made by the Pope or by a Council, it is to be regarded as of no obligation.
It seems therefore that the dogma of the Papal Infallibility still really remains to be defined by the Roman Catholic Church, and that those who are endeavouring to force the Vatican definition on the faithful are incurring the sin of imposing as a matter of faith, and under penalty of excommunication, what has not been defined. I do not dispute the right of a legitimate synod of their communion to make decrees for them: but I think that on the true principles of Minimism the present definition is, to say the least, so questionable in its meaning, that it
· Newman, Letter, &c., p. 52.
can have no obligation upon the Roman Catholic conscience.
Of course any objections, whatever they may be, that may happen to be contrary to the will of the Pope and his Ultramontane advisers, will be overborne and crushed down by the exercise of intimidation. Few Roman Catholics dare to encounter excommunication. Whether Papal Infallibility be really defined or not defined, is of little consequence to their leaders. They are determined at all events to compel its acceptance. Yet reason will perhaps eventually reassert its rights.
§ 9. EXAMINATION OF THE FOUR FAITHS
THE four faiths on which we have been commenting concur, as we have seen, in certain central principles. That is to say, the Gallican and the Gallico-Ultramontane accept what is really the Ultramontane doctrine, that the Pope is the Divinely appointed head of the Christian Church, and the Divinely appointed centre of unity. We have sufficiently examined the first part of this theory; and it now remains to consider the question of unity and its centre.
There is no reason to question that the Roman See, in virtue of its Primacy as before defined, may be a means at times of preserving Christian unity. If this Primacy be understood in the sense of the Council of 630 bishops at Chalcedon, it may have been, and it might still be conducive to unity both in faith and communion. It has formerly served, and it still might serve, as a centre and medium of Christian intercommunion between the East and the West. This is all most true; but when the Roman Primacy becomes elevated from the position of an ancient