Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 15, 1953
NUMBER 23, PAGE 10-12a

Papal Infallibility

Luther W. Martin, Rolla, Missouri

class, which comprises the immense majority of the Catholic people, have formed no personal opinion either for or against the doctrine, but confidently leave everything to the infallible guidance of the Holy Spirit, who they believe will guard the Council from falling into any doctrinal error. The fifth class have thus far been unable to convince themselves of the truth of the Infallibility doctrine, but they are ready to accept submissively and cheerfully any decision of the Council whatever it may be. The sixth comprises those opponents of Infallibility who regard their view as so irrefutable that they would be tempted to doubt the ecumenical character of a council which should promulgate such a doctrine and to repudiate its decisions. Dollinger, it is thought, must be put in this class, and with him many of the prominent scholars who have signed congratulatory and sympathetic addresses to him. Lastly, a seventh class goes so far in opposing the infallibility of the Pope, that indirectly it throws overboard with it the infallibility of the church itself. The famous work of "Janus" on The Pope and the Council" is considered a representative work of this shade of opinion.

This classification, made by a careful and thoughtful observer, well portrays the condition of the Catholic Church, so far as its scholars, priests, and a small number of eminent laymen are concerned. To complete the picture it should, however, be added that both in the New and in the Old Worlds many millions are only nominally connected with the church, and are altogether indifferent to the proceedings of the Council. A look at the Parliaments of countries like Italy, Spain, Austria, France, Belgium, and many others, which by name are wholly Catholic, while they choose deliberately representatives of the people who are sworn enemies of the church, can leave no doubt as to this point. It should also be added that a very large number of these prominent laymen who have been in the European Parliaments or the highest positions of State or of society, the leading champions of the interests of the church, have publicly come out as earnest opponents of Infallibility. As regards theological scholars and prominent members of the priesthood it suffices to mention such names as Gratry and Father Hyscinthe in France, John H. Newman in England, Dollinger and those more than one-half of all the theological professors of Catholic Germany, to furnish conclusive proof that the opposition to the proposed doctrine has developed a much greater force than was commonly anticipated. The great phalanx in defense and promotion of the doctrine has been the order of the Jesuits. Though comparatively small in the number of its members, this order has from the beginning taken the front rank in the defense of the doctrine, and has published more works in its favor than all the other religious orders taken together. It is natural enough, therefore, that the Jesuits should be charged by the opponents of Infallibility with being prime movers of this whole scheme and responsible for all the calamity which many liberal Catholics expect will befall the church in case the scheme is carried. But though less active, the immense majority of the religious orders sympathize in this question with the Jesuits. Men like Father Hyscinthe are rare exceptions, and the Generals of several orders, or, for instance, recently the General of the Lazarists,

(Note: The following article is copied in its entirety from a New York City newspaper, dated May 10, 1870 .... said date being some two months previous to the passage of the Dogma of Papal Infallibility, by the Vatican Council. Luther W. Martin.)

The question of Papal Infallibility, which is at present under discussion in the Vatican Council, has secured the attention of the civilized world to an almost unparalleled degree. Not only do many million copies of daily newspapers carry intelligence concerning it to every town and village of the civilized nations, but hundreds of thousands of leading articles and many thousands of pamphlets and books have discussed the question in all its aspects. It was to be expected that a vast number of false rumors and misrepresentations concerning such a question would find their way into the press. It could not otherwise be with any question that is the subject of so violent a controversy, and the discussion of which is partly to be shrouded in an official secrecy. Whoever has any acquaintance with the history and present condition of the Catholic Church will easily recognize thousands of reports — including quite a number of our daily dispatches — which are circulated concerning the Infallibility question as absurd and impossible. Many other reports, not so palpably false, and purporting to come from the most trusted authorities, have been declared by members of the Council to be base inventions. Many others, again, asserted by some and denied by others, test the ingenuity of those who are anxious to discern the false from the true. In the face of so much that is obviously false or very doubtful, it is not an easy task to evolve the real and incontestable facts of the case.

Parties In The Church

The difficulty is considerably less with regard to the state of public opinion in the Roman Catholic world at large than with regard to the position and prospects of the question within the Council. One of the best literary papers of Catholic Germany which defends the truth of Papal Infallibility, but doubts the opportuneness of defining it as a dogma, and which is distinguished no less for the moderation of its language than for its learning, says that at the present time there are within the church seven parties as concerns the question of Infallibility. First: Those who regard the belief in Papal Infallibility as a necessity, treat the contrary view as heretical, demand a dogmatical promulgation, and seek to promote the latter by all just and many unjust means. Many writers of the Jesuit order, especially those who write for the chief organ of the Ultramontane party, the Civilta Cattalica of Rome, are counted in this class. Second: Those who desire the promulgation of the doctrine, but who respect, all who oppose it up to the time of dogmatical definition as good Catholics. The Bishops who have signed the postulatum for the doctrine, belong partly to this party, partly to the preceding class. Third: Those who personally accept the truth of the doctrine, but deny 'or doubt the opportuneness of declaring it as an article of faith. It is claimed that the majority of the Bishops who belong to the Opposition of the Council, especially the German, Austrian and French Bishops, share this view. The fourthhave been able to assure the Pope that the members of the order are a unit in favor of Infallibility.

The Party Of Infallibilists In The Council

Long before the Council met it was the general opinion that a majority of the Bishops were not only personally favorable to the new doctrine, but would favor its promulgation. A large portion of the Roman Catholic Bishops of the present day were, before the elevation to the episcopal dignity, prominent men of distinctly pronounced theological views; and their views on questions like Infallibility, especially when they favored the doctrine, were generally known. A large number of them, moreover, hastened to put themselves publicly on record, as soon as the Pope had convoked the Council. Thus, when the Bishops met in Rome, the leaders of the party of Infallibilists were known by all; and, as the Infallibility question was the one prominent subject on which it was known that a division of opinion would conspicuously manifest itself, the election of the twenty-four Bishops, composing the important Commission on dogmatical questions, naturally became a test of the strength of the two parties. The result of this election was significant. It contains the name of every Bishop who, by writings, influence, or otherwise, had gained a prominent position in the party of Infallibilists; in particular, Archbishop Manning of Westminster, Archbishop Dechamps of Malines, Archbishop Spalding of Baltimore, Bishop Martin (No relation., LWM.) of Paderborn, Bishop Pie of Poitiers, the Armenian Patriarch, Hassoun of Constantinople. On the other hand, the minority was not represented in it by a single member, and the Commission was an entire unit in favor of the new doctrine.

It was consequently one of the first acts of the Infallibilists to draw up a postulatum to ask the Council to declare Infallibility as a doctrine of the church. The first reports from Rome stated that about two hunderd members of the Council had signed the postulatum. This number was soon increased to over 500, or a large majority of the Council, which at the close of the year (1869, LWM.) consisted of 744 members.

The Pope's View Of The Subject

The party has been greatly strengthened by the open and very emphatic sympathy of the Pope, who missed no opportunity to censure the opponents and thank and encourage the defenders of the doctrine. The Catholic papers have mentioned many facts of this kind. He has thanked the author of every literary work in favor of the doctrine; and, at the audience given to bishops, priests, and laymen, frequently declared it as his opinion that the present state of the church required the promulgation of the doctrine.

The Opponents Of Infallibility

But, overwhelming as was the majority of the Bishops who favored the Infallibility doctrine, and emphatic as was the support given to them by the Pope, many were surprised at the large number of Bishops who openly declared their dissent. Of these, only a few had made known their opinion before the meeting of the Council--foremost among them the veteran champion of church interests in France, Bishop Dupanloup of Orleans. Most declared themselves for the first time after their arrival in Rome. The most compact opposition came from the Germans, Austrians, and Hungarians, who united for a petition against bringing the Infallibility of the Pope before the Council. It created particular surprise that the three German Cardinals, Archbishop Rauscher of Vienna, Archbishop Prince Schwarzenberg of Prague, and Prince Hohenlohe of Rome, did not hesitate to join the opposition as well as all the Archbishops. The Bishops of Hungary were said to be a unit against Infallibility, the only one doubtful being the Primate. England, Ireland, the United States, and France, also furnished a considerable contingent to the remonstrances against the doctrine. On the other hand, Italy, Spain, South America, and the Missions, appeared almost as a unit in favor of Infallibility.

Among the opponents two parties were clearly discernible — those who personally are believers in the doctrine and merely doubt the opportuneness, and those who are opposed to the doctrine itself. Of the latter class, Bishop Dupanloup was best known before the meeting of the Council; but after the opening, his fame was eclipsed by that of Bishop Srtossmayer, representative of the Slavic population in Hungary, and, if the almost unanimous reports from Rome may be believed, one of the greatest orators of the Council. Bishop Hefele, the learned Bishop of Rottenburg and famous historian of the former Councils, also proved an influential though a very cautious member of this party. Nearly all the Bishops of this party have, however, brought forth only such arguments as impugn the opportuneness of establishing the new doctrine. Only one Bishop, Maret of France, had before the meeting of the Council issued an elaborate work, specially intended to show the proposed doctrines as a deviation from the true constitution of the church, and to warn the church against its adoption.

The Middle Party And The Proposed Compromise

The unexpected strength developed by the opposition induced a number of prelates sympathizing with the majority to attempt a compromise, and to seek to establish the doctrine in the way least offensive to the minority. The chief spokesman of this party has been Archbishop Spalding of Baltimore, who proposed to introduce the new doctrine less by its clear and emphatic declarations as a doctrine of the Catholic Church than by an enforcement of what has been for centuries the universal practice in the church — the duty of every Catholic to accept the decisions of the Supreme pontiff, not only with unconditional obedience, but with unreserved mental assent.

The Secular Governments

We do not enter into a detailed account of the movements of the three parties. The newspaper reports on this subject are generally untrustworthy, and lack confirmation. But it cannot be doubted that the large majority of the bishops are now as fully determined as ever to promulgate the doctrine. We do not believe that the efforts of secular governments will induce any considerable number of them to change their minds. But the bishops, in view of the continuing opposition, will naturally be anxious to find for the wording of the new doctrine the least objectionable expression.

As regards, finally, the consequences which the promulgations of Papal Infallibility as a doctrine of the church will have, we think it almost certain that all the bishops of the church, with at most one or two exceptions, will declare their unequivocal submission to the decision of the Council. The infallibility of an Ecumenical Council has always been so fundamental a doctrine of the Catholic church, that no bishop will be easily induced to protest against it.

(NOTE: At a secret session of the Vatican Council on July 13, 1870, the doctrine of Papal Infallibility was voted upon. Although there had been as many as 744 Council Members, only 601 were present when the matter was brought to a vote. Four hundred fifty-one voted YES. Eighty-eight voted NO. Sixty-two voted YES, with amendments (placet juxta modum). On July 16, 1870, an amendment was added to state that the Pope's infallibility did not rest upon nor issue from the consent of the church. (`non autem ex consensu ecclessiae.') On July 17, 1870, 56 bishops sent a written protest to the Pope. The evening of that day, a total of 116 bishops left Rome, rather than vote upon the question. On July 18, 1870, the final session of the Vatican Council met and voted upon the issue. Only 535 were then present. Five hundred thirty-three voted YES. Two voted NO. And, as it had occurred at the opening session of the Council, there was a violent storm, it became so dark that the Pontiff had to have a candle held near his shoulder in order that he could see to read the decree of his own supposed infallibility. L.W.M.)