Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 16, 1953

Papal Infallibility

Luther W. Martin, Rolla, Missouri

(Note: This article is copied in its entirety from the New York Evening Post, of July 15, 1870 .... only three days before the doctrine of Papal Infallibility was passed by the Vatican Council. — Luther W. Martin.)

The Roman correspondent of the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung writes: "Clemens Schrader (since the secession of Passaglia the most esteemed of Jesuit theologians, who, on account of the especial confidence placed in him by the Pope, has been consulted as to the preparations of the schemata for the Council), shows in his great work on Roman unity (Vienna, 1866, II. 444) how important are the results which must follow on the acceptance of Papal Infallibility as a dogma of the Church. He there proves that, as this power can only depend on the guidance and inspiration of God, it must of necessity extend to all regulations, decrees, and decisions of the Pope, as these are indissolubly connected with his office as teacher, and, whatever their contents may be, each contains doctrina veritatis either of a moral or a religious character. The infallibility of the Pope is not an official robe which can be put on while a certain act is performed, and then taken off again, for the Pope cannot err, because he is, in the fullest sense of the word, the Vicegerent of Christ upon earth, and like our Lord, he proclaims the truth by his acts as well as his words. In brief, it is impossible to imagine a public action, or decree, which does not partake of his character as a teacher. Accordingly, the new dogma will introduce into the Catholic system of belief and ethics a large number of new articles of faith, and each of these will be entitled to the same dignity and authority as those which have hitherto been universally received. In fact Papal decisions already exist which, when once their absolute truth is guaranteed by the proclamation of the dogmas of infallibility, will cover all the constitutions of all the Popes with the wide mantle of their own freedom from error.

"One of these is the declaration of Leo X., in his bull against Luther, of the year 1520: 'It is as clear as day that the Popes, my predecessors, have never erred either in their canons or constitutions.' Another is the assertion of Pope Pius IX., in his syllabus: 'The Popes have never exceeded the limits of their power.' This sentence itself will now become a dogma, which cannot mislead, and history must bow her head and submit.

"I. According to the doctrine of the Church, the power and virtue of the sacraments, and especially of ordination, depend on the substance and form of the sacrament being employed. The whole church for a thousand years, considered the imposition of hands by a Bishop as the divinity appointed substance of ordination. Eugene IV., however, in his dogmatical decree, decided that the vessels were the substance of this sacrament, and the words of the bishop on touching them through the candidate for ordination, the form. This decree was issued with great solemnity and ex cathedra, nay, even in the name of the Council of Florence, which no longer existed, and yet, if it be true, the whole of the Western Church had no properly ordained priest for a thousand years, and the Greek Church has none even down to our own days. Nay, more, there is not at present a single regularly ordained priest or bishop in the church, as there can have been no apostolic succession.

The definition of penance and confirmation by Eugene IV., is equally untenable.

"II. According to the teaching of Innocent in the decretal Novit, and of various of his successors, the Pope has a right as soon as he believes he has discovered sin, to proceed against it, first by warning, and then by punishments. By this means he can overthrow every legal decision, bring every dispute before his bar, and merely on the ground of a sin, which either is great or appears so to the Pope, he can call a monarch to account, annul his decrees, and in due course excommunicate and dethrone him.

"III. God has given the Pope supreme power over all Kings and Princes, not only of Christendom, but the whole earth. The Pope has the fullness of power over nations and kingdoms; he judges all and can be judged by none in this world. (Paul IV., in the bull, Cum ex apostolatus officio. Sextus V., in the bull, Inserutabilis.) The theory that the world is subject to the Pope, in temporal and political matters, is an article of faith which must be accepted on pain of the loss of eternal life. (Boniface VIII., in the bull, Unam Sanctam.) Again, the Pope bears all rights in his breast. (Boniface VIII.)

"IV. According to the Papal theory it is the will of God that the Pope should have authority not only in the church but in all temporal matters; literally that they shall rule and govern the whole world. Thus Innocent III., says: — Dominus Petro non solum universam ecelesiasm sed etiam seculum reliquit gubernandum.

"V. According to the Papal doctrine as announced by Gregory VII., at the Roman Council of the year 1080, the Pope, in harmony with the fathers assembled in council under his presidency, has power to seize and to give away, not only empires, kingdoms and principalities, but the private property of all men. (Council ed Labbe X. 384.)

"VI. According to the Papal doctrine, as explained by Innocent III., in his letter to the Patriarch of Constantinople, the Pope alone has the power to forgive all crimes, as well as the crimes of all. (Epistoloe, libr. II. cap. 209, p 437, ed Paris.)

"VII. According to the Papal doctrine, the Pope, since God has given him full power over temporal and spiritual matters, has by divine right authority over the Empire of Germany and Italy, when the imperial throne is vacant. John XXII., declared this in his bull of the year 1317, and, from 1318 to 1348, millions of German and Italian Christians were placed under interdict, and robbed of divine service and sacraments, on account of this.

"VIII. The Pope has a divine right to condemn whole Christian nations to slavery, on account of measures adopted by their rulers. Clement V., and Julius II., did this to the subjects of Venice, on account of a dispute with respect to boundaries, and Gregory IV., used the same weapon against the Florentines. Paul III., too, doomed all Englishmen to vassalage because of the disobedience of Henry VIII.

"IX. The Pope has also a right to empower a monarch to enslave foreign nations, only because they are not Catholics. Thus, in 1554, Nicholas V., granted to King Alphonso of Portugal the right to seize the goods of all the heathens and Mohammedans of Western Africa, and to reduce their persons to slavery. (Bull, Romanus Pontifex,

confirmed by Calixtus III., in 1456, and Sixtus IV., in 1481.) Alexander VI., granted to the Queen of Spain similar powers over the inhabitants of America in the year 1493, when he made her a present of the New World and all the races which inhabited it. (See the Bull, Inter Coetera.)

"X. According to the Papal doctrine, it is just and Christian to withhold by means of an interdict the offices of religion, and the sacrament, from all the innocent inhabitants of towns, districts, or counties, with the exception of children and the dying, because their rulers have transgressed against a Papal command or an ecclesiastical law. We need only refer to Innocent III., Innocent IV., Martin IV., Clement V., John XXII., Clement VI., etc.

"X. As the Vicegerents of God upon the earth, the Popes can present whole countries inhabited by races which are not Christian, to any Christian Prince they please, and invest him with all the rights of a sovereign and owner. Alexander VI., acted thus in his bull to King Ferdinand the Catholic, and Isabella, and declares, moreover, that he does so, auctoritate omnipotentis dei novis in b. Petros coneessa ac vicariatus Jesu Christi, qua frangimur in terris. (It is an historical fact that the races of South and Central America fell a sacrifice to the theory of Papal infallibility. In Spain the Kings, the Church, and the nation readily accepted and supported the doctrine, on which their pretensions to Navarre as well as America rested, chiefly by the bulls of Alexander VI., and Julius II. The Galilean system would have voided their claims to both countries. Alexander gave the Spaniards a right to enslave the Indians. All that Spanish theologians, even Las Casas, appeal to el divino poder del Papa, as that writer calls it, as the principal support of the Spanish rule in America, and no one ventured to call in question the divine right of the infallible Vicegerent of God, by means of which he condemned millions of Indians to slavery, and thus to extermination, for in eighty years, whole districts were depopulated.)

"XII. It is just and Christian to threaten those who appeal from the decision of the Pope to a General Council with the pains and penalties of heresy, as Leo X., did in his bull. Pastor Oeternus (1517).

"XIII. The same Pope declared in the bull, Superna dispositionis, Promulgated at the Synod of the Lateran, that by divine right all clergymen are free from every temporal power, and therefore their consciences are not bound by the laws of their states.

"XIV. According to the teaching of the Church, God demands that every Christian shall do penance for his sins, by the ascetic exercises of abstinence, self-denial, and alms-giving, and no one can free him from this obligation, because it arises from a divine command. According to the Papal doctrine, on the other hand, these penances may be rendered less burdensome, or done away with altogether, by means of general or special indulgences. The Popes teach that to take part in a war under the Roman Chair, or in exterminating heretics, is an effective means of obtaining forgiveness for sin, and renders all works of penance superfluous. Thus, in the year 1102, Pascal II., informed Count Robert, of Flanders, that the most certain means by which he and his soldiers could obtain forgiveness of their sins and eternal felicity was by taking up arms against the clergy of Liege, and all the adherents of the German Emperor, Henry IV. Innocent III., advised King Philip Augustus of France to conquer England from King John, whom he had condemned to the loss of his throne as a means of obtaining pardon from sin. Martin IV., did the same when in 1283 he spurred on the French to a war with the Arragonese, by the promise of complete absolution. And as often as a war was carried on to defend or increase the Papal territories, or to exterminate those who held a different creed, the Pope proclaimed that a participation in it was the most effective and certain means of washing away all sin, and securing eternal blessedness.

"XV. The Inquisition, both in Spain and Italy, was so entirely the result of the Papal system of belief and morals, that there never was an inquisitor who did not hold his office by virtue of powers granted by the Pope, and in his name; not one whom the Pope could not at any moment have partially or entirely deprived of his power. All the most important laws and regulations of the tribunal, the unprotected position of the accused, whom no advocate was permitted to defend, the admission of infamous and perjured witnesses, the frequent use of torture, the influence brought to bear upon the temporal powers to compel them to execute the capital sentence of the Inquisition, the command to spare the life of none of the relapsed, even though they should repent — all these were enacted and afterwards confirmed by the Popes of their own free will alone.

"XVI. According to the doctrine of Gregory IX., Innocent IV., and Alexander IV., it is a moral and Christian act to condemn a man, who has held other opinions on religious matters, to imprisonment for life, even though he should return to the Catholic faith, when seized by the Inquisition.

"XVII. According to the doctrine of Alexander IV., the Pope has a right, by means of his Inquisitors, to seize the property of those who have been condemned for heresy, to sell their estates, and to appropriate the proceeds.

(Concluded next week)