19 September 2006

The infallibility of the stupidity of being a pope

Generally speaking, all religions have resorted to violence and oppression to introduce and continue their dominance and will do so again if and when need and opportunity arise. It is the nature of their dogmatism.

Having made my point on that issue, I will now look into a current BBC article that discusses the issue of the fallibility of papal statements and asks the question "How infallible is the Pope?"

Before a pope, or any other person for that matter, can make an infallible statement, he or she must have an infallible notion. And once a person has an infallible notion, it doesn’t matter whether or not it is spoken; an infallible notion is an infallible notion. Keeping an infallible notion a secret doesn’t make it a fallible notion.

The BBC reports that "According to [papal historian Michael] Walsh, it is thought Pope John Paul II wanted to speak infallibly in 1994 when he ruled out the possibility of women ever being ordained, but was advised against it."

This means, assuming things did happen that way, two things:

1. Pope John Paul II thought he had an infallible notion. Since he was the Pope and he thought he had an infallible notion, then he must have had an infallible notion.

2. Because his advisors stopped him from revealing his infallible notion, either they thought the Pope’s notion wasn’t infallible, which, however, couldn’t have been the case, or they figured it was best that the Pope kept his infallible notion to himself.

But, whenever a pope, any pope, has an infallible notion, doesn’t that imply that God, in a sense, has revealed this infallible notion to him? And if he is prevented from proclaiming that infallible notion to the rest of the Catholics, isn’t he acting against God’s wishes? But since John Paul II wasn’t turned into a salt pillar as far as we know, does that mean he thought he had an infallible notion when, in reality, he was mistaken?

Let us leave the resolution of such delicate issues to Catholics who are on low-salt diets. I will instead ponder upon a much more important question. When a pope says “This is not an infallible statement” is he lying or telling the truth?


deniz said...

there is some room in here for "humans". Ideally, of course, the Pope acts entirely with God, through God, etc. However, as mentioned in your first paragraph, this hasn't prevented any number of bloodshed and oppression. So it's always hard to tell when someone is actually acting as Pope, or just being human and messing around.
The above being a *very* simple/simplified statement on your question.

Marcus said...

Slate's take: http://www.slate.com/id/2149887/?nav=fix

Anonymous said...

Hi guys,
On behalf of us mindless Catholics, I'm not sure how to respond, which is typical of us. No man is infallible, only God. What often strikes me as amusing is that we are very much aware of our own fallibility as men and women, and yet if we were to believe that a God existed (even if our God is the highest form of reason) would we not come to the conclusion that his/its/hers words/actions/tenets were infallible? So us being fallible, would we not expect these words/actions/tenets to be incompatible with our perspectives at times? Yet despite our fallibility we cannot have God contradicting our wavering outlooks. In other words, we can come close enough to knowing what is Good and Right, but we can never be sure, and hence we are justifiably cautious in making 'infallible' claims in the name of God. The Pope, the symbolic head of the church, is no exception. Although papal infallibility is part of the doctrine, it is, as Deniz said, in the hands of mortals, and we become fools, Catholics and Protestants alike, when we make it the basis of our argument. Revelation is skewed along the way, but it gets the point across. The rest is up to our 'superior' intellects to negotiate within its confines. Hence Christ speaking in parables, giving us images to guide us to a close enough parallel which we can reference and reflect upon. Reflection really is the key, for we have a matter of two extremes here. One, the refusal to reflect upon matters of the divine in our laughable war against the metaphysical, and two, the refusal to reflect upon human affairs objectively lest any pathway that leads us to universals brings us back to the divine nature of their universality. I think it's really a 'from the outside looking in' sort of thing. Although doctrines are central, they are not the guiding force of (our) faith. The guiding force is intangible, and if it is not felt or believed from detractors, than we are doomed to argue in circles. However, this is not to say that you can't argue against someone on the inside because you 'just don't understand'. It's just that reflection from the outside is hardly reflection at all. Our conditioning has narrowed our point of reference so much that it's all blood, guts and nihilism, even among the 'religious'. But not all of us read about pillars of salt and end there. There are inner issues that demand dialogical reflections, such as looking back on a former life, in this case. But if we can't set our feet on objective foundations to accumulate and modify our interpretations of the divine, we are doomed to the subjective isolation that has become our Lot (pun intended). Also, my diet is high in salt, by the way...and beer and pork chops.

John said...

One thing that the BBC article does not make clear is that Catholic theology recognizes two types of infallibility: ordinary and extraordinary. Ordinary infallibility results from all bishops teaching the same doctrine in unity; this underlies the authority of ecumenical councils and does not require a papal statement to invoke it. An infallible notion that is not specifically invoked as such may fall under ordinary infallibility anyway. Extraordinary infallibility belongs to the pope ex officio and must be invoked according to the standards laid out in the BBC article. Because this belongs to the office and not the person, informal remarks and statements made before the pope was elected do not fall under extraordinary infallibility. Recent popes might not have exercised extraordinary infallibility, but they still make statements they consider infallible every time they recite the creed, for example.

I am not sure what John Paul II's intentions were regarding women's ordination. At the time, then-Cardinal Ratzinger suggested that even though extraordinary infallibility was not invoked, that the teaching was still infallible under ordinary magisterium. I am not sure that all theologians or even all bishops accept that explanation.

Anonymous said...

If one is to believe the scriptures that "God created man in its own image",
and we know that man is fallible,
doesn't this make God fallible, and
de facto eliminate the potential claim of infallibility?


A fallible god? Makes sense to me.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the proper translation is in 'our own image', which theologians take as a reference to the Trinity. The image is then the spirit of father, son, holy ghost, which in our (human) terms means the holiness of the family; the bond that exists based on love between family members that we find indescribable. As to the fallibility of God, or a god, or the God, or gods, believe what you want to believe. Free will, it is a bitch sometimes, but it gets the job done.