Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fallibly Infallible

The following two quotations appear in the same document (The Interpretation of Dogma, penned by the wonderfully titled The International Theological Commission), so they can obviously peacefully co-exist. I am unsure exactly how that is the case, however, so if someone could tell me that would be great!

...the Church condemns anyone who sets that meaning aside under the pretext and in the name of superior knowledge or because of advances in science, or because of some alleged more profound interpretation of the existing formula, or a refinement in the scientific approach to the matter (DS 3020, 3043). Such an irreversible stance and the denial of the possibility of fundamental change is implied in the doctrine of the infallibility of the Church as guided by the Holy Spirit, with particular reference to the role of the Pope in matters of faith and morals (DS 3074). This is based on the fact that the Church, through the Holy Spirit, shares in Gods truthfulness, which cannot deceive us any more than it can be self-deceptive in God himself ("qui nee falli nec fallere potest", DS 3008).

The Church is holy, but at the same time a Church of sinners, and for that reason human traditions can slip in which diminish the one apostolic tradition in the case where the nucleus is violated by a certain exaggeration of certain aspects. And that is why the Church always feels the need for purification, penance and renewal with regard to the traditions in her (LG 8). The criteria for judging such a "discernment of spirits" flow from the very nature of Tradition.


  1. I'm pretty sure the answer lies in things which have been dogmatically defined which cannot by the church self-understanding be change. Some of these things are explicitly contained within the deposit of faith e.g. the divinity of Christ; others are contingent on these explicit acts of faith and whilst similarly to be held definitively are of a different class. The two classes are de fide credenda
    and de fide tenenda. All of what i have said falls under the category of extraordinary magisterium. These cannot change. Things belonging to the ordinary magisterium can change cf limbo. The big idea to lay hold of is the idea that church has the "charism of infallibilty" that guides it on matters of the deposit of faith. This does not preclude that it is a church of sinners who bollox things up from time to time...or all of the time since round 312 if Yoder is right ;)

  2. i really should have spell-checked that comment..

  3. Very helpful, Richie. Regarding limbo, "The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Baptism" by the International Theological Commission says that limbo "never entered into the dogmatic definitions of the Magisterium, even if that same Magisterium did at times mention the theory in its ordinary teaching up until the Second Vatican Council. It remains therefore a possible theological hypothesis."

    Are they saying that limbo never belonged to the Magisterium at all (either extraordinary or ordinary)? Moreover, what is the status of this 2007 document?