[ the actual title of this page:]
http://CatholicArrogance.Org/PopesvsChrist.html

 

The "Vicars of Christ"
Exposed

Christ Sections :
1,
2,
3,
[4].
a Pope

"The Hilarious History of Papal Infallibility",
by Peter De Rosa

How the pope became infallible is one of the funniest and most bizarre stories in the history of religion. It may jolt Catholics to hear it, but "the great Fathers of the Church saw no connection between the verse which Jesus addressed to Peter and the Bishops of Rome.  Not one of them applies "Thou art Peter" to anyone but Peter.  One after another analyze it: Cyprian, Origen, Cyril, Hilary, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine.  They're not exactly Protestants.  Not one of them calls the Bishop of Rome a Rock or applies to him specifically the promise of the keys. . .

The surprises do not stop there.  For the Fathers, it is Peter's faith – or the Lord in whom Peter has faith – which is called the Rock, not Peter.  All the Councils of the Church from Nicea in the fourth century to Constance in the 15th agree that Christ himself is the only foundation of the church, that is, a rock on which the church rests.

Perhaps this is why not one of the Fathers speaks of a transference of power from Peter to those who succeed him; not one speaks, as church documents do today, of an "inheritance".  There's no hint of an abiding Petrine office.  Insofar as the Fathers speak of an office, the reference is to the episcopate in general.  All bishops are successors to all the apostles.

What, then, becomes of the promises said to be made via Peter to his "successors", the popes?  Do not popes inherit infallibility and worldwide jurisdiction from Peter?

The first problem about infallibility is that the New Testament makes it plain that Peter himself made tremendous errors both before and after Jesus died.  When, for instance, Jesus insisted that he had to go up to Jerusalem where he would be crucified, Peter protested so much that Jesus called him a "satan" in his path.  Some Catholic theologians have suggested that these words, "Get thee behind me Satan", should be added to the Petrine text already inscribed around Michelangelo's dome (i.e."Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevailed against it.")

After Jesus' resurrection, Peter made an equally bad blunder.  "Heresy" is not too bad a word for it.  The church's greatest ever canon lawyer, Gratian, said in 1150: "Peter compelled the gentiles to live as Jews and to depart from gospel truths".

As to worldwide jurisdiction, did it ever cross Peter's mind when he preached to his little flock at Antioch or Rome that he had command over the whole church?  Such a idea had to wait until Christianity was integrated into the Roman Empire.  Even then it took time for the papacy to grow to the stature that made such a pretension possible.

The difficulties do not stop there.  Popes are only said to be infallible when they address the whole church.  When did they first do so?  Certainly not in the first millennium.  During that time, as everybody agrees, only General Councils expressed the mind of the church.  Was the pope's supreme power suspended all that while?  If the church managed to function without it for 1000 years, why should she need it at all?

So the early church did not look on Peter as Bishop of Rome, nor, therefore, did it think that each Bishop of Rome succeeded to Peter.  Rome was held in highest esteem for rather different reasons.  In the first place, it was where Peter and Paul had witnessed with their lives.  Secondly, Rome was a sacred spot because there the faithful, clergy and laity, kept the apostles' bodies and revered them.  Those bodies were a kind of pledge of orthodoxy throughout the ages. (pp. 24-25)

. . . In spite of this, in the first three centuries, only one of the Fathers, Irenaeus, connects Rome's primacy with doctrine.  Not even he relates this personally to the Bishop of Rome.

In all the Greek Fathers (of the Church) there is not one word about the prerogatives of the Bishop of Rome, no suggestion he had jurisdiction over them.  No one, Greek or Latin, appeals to the Bishop of Rome as final and universal arbiter in any single dispute about the faith.  As a point of fact, no bishop of Rome dared decide on his own a matter of faith for the church." (pp. 205)

Belief in the infallibility of Popes is itself
contrary to the orthodox Catholic teaching
of most of the church's history (i.e. "tradition").

This is what we might call a "latter day Roman Catholic" belief, but this belief is not just "heresy" in the eyes of every other body of Christian believers today,  it would have been considered heresy by most Catholic popes and theologians as well through most of that church's history!

"  'Many Roman Pontiffs were heretics.'  To Catholics this sounds like a quote from a bigoted Protestant.  A heretical pope seems as contradictory as a square circle.  The quote is not in fact from a Protestant but from Pope Adrian VI in 1523:

'If by the Roman church you mean its head or pontiff, it is beyond question that he can err even in matters touching the faith.  He does this when he teaches heresy by his own judgement or decretal.  In truth, many Roman Pontiffs were heretics.  The last of them was Pope John XXII.' [1316-1334].

"The themes of papal heretics and popes excommunicated by the church used to be common in theology but little has been heard of them since 1870.  Even the imperious Innocent III admitted: `I can be judged by the church for a sin concerning matters of faith.' Innocent IV, though he claimed that every creature was subject to him as Vicar of the Creator, none the less conceded that any papal utterance that is heretical or tends to divide the church is not to be obeyed

"Of course, a pope can err in matters of faith.  Therefore, no one ought to say, 'I believe that because the Pope believes it', but because the Church believes it.  If he follows the Church he will not err."  For some reason, these words which appeared in the original text of Innocent IV's Commentary on the Decalogue were expunged from later editions.  It is hard to know why, since any number of popes said more or less the same thing.

So great is the aura surrounding the papacy today that few Catholics realize that it is against faith and tradition to say a pope cannot fall into heresy." (p. 204)

The pope was fallible long before he was infallible.  From the earliest times it was taken for granted that Roman pontiffs not only can err but have erred in fundamental matters of Christian doctrine.  Nor did anyone hasten to add in those distant days: `Of course, he only erred as a private teacher or theologian.'  That suggests that in addition to his own convictions and his responses to his diocesans he also regulated the faith of the whole church.  There is no evidence for this.  What is known today as papal infallibility was not even hinted at in the early church, and any suggestion that a Bishop of Rome was himself infallible would have aroused at times a degree of mirth.  The church's faith belonged to the church and was regulated by the successors of all the apostles, namely, the bishops.  They testified to the faith of their communities, especially when they met together in a General Council.  A pope who stepped out of line in matters of faith was condemned as a heretic.  Peter made mistakes.  So did the Bishop of Rome.  When he did so, the church had the right and duty to correct or depose him.  After all, the pope, too, was a member of the church, not some sort of divine oracle separate from it."  (p. 205)


Peter DeRosa has since published this outstanding epigraph on :
The Myth of Papal Infallibility

Now, here's an interesting dilemma for believers in papal infallibility:   The legitimate pope, Benedict V  declared himself to be illegitimate:

" With one monster (pope) out of the way, the Romans chose Benedict V  as his replacement.  (The "Holy Roman Emperor) Otto,  outsmarted, was furious.  `No one can be pope without the emperor's consent,'  he declared.  `This is how it has always been.'  His choice rested on Leo VIII. 
        Cardinal Baronius, in his sixteenth-century Ecclesiastical Annals ~ which Lord Acton called `the greatest history of the Church ever written', ~ maintained that Benedict was true pope and Leo the antipope.  It is hard to dispute this.  Yet Benedict grovelled at Otto's feet and declared himself an imposter.  To prove it, he stripped himself of his regalia and confessed on his knees before Leo  that he (Leo) was the lawful successor of St. Peter.  It is not clear if a genuine pope's assertion that he is not genuine is an exercise in infallibility, though it must carry a message to the whole church concerning faith and morals."   (p. 52)

The Claims of the Papacy Revisited :

"It may jolt (Catholics ) to hear that the great Fathers of the Church saw no connection between it  (the verse which Jesus addressed to Peter)  and the pope.  Not one of them applies 'Thou art Peter' to anyone but Peter.  One after another they analyze it: Cyprian, Origen, Cyril, Hilary, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine.  They're not exactly Protestants.  Not one of them calls the Bishop of Rome a Rock or applies to him specifically the promise of the keys. . .  The great pun, the play on words, was applied exclusively to Peter.

The surprises do not stop there.  For the Fathers, it is Peter's faith – or the Lord in whom Peter has faith – which is called the Rock, not Peter.  All the Councils of the church from Nicea in the fourth century to Constance in the fifteenth agree that Christ himself is the only foundation of the church, that is, the rock on which the church rests." . . . (p. 24)

"Perhaps this is why not one of the Fathers speaks of a transference of power from Peter to those who succeed him; not one speaks, as church documents do today, of an 'inheritance'.  There's no hint of an abiding Petrine office.  Insofar as the Fathers speak of an office, the reference is to the episcopate in general.  All bishops are successors to all the apostles." . . .

"What, then, becomes of the promises said to be made via Peter to his 'successors', the popes?  Do not popes inherit infallibility and worldwide jurisdiction from Peter?

The first problem about infallibility is that the new Testament makes it plain that Peter himself made tremendous errors both before and after Jesus died.  When, for instance, Jesus insisted that he had to go up to Jerusalem where he would be crucified, Peter protested so much that Jesus called him a 'satan' in his path.  Some Catholic theologians have suggested that these words, 'Get thee behind me Satan', should be added to the Petrine text already inscribed around Michelangelo's dome (i.e.'Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevailed against it.'). . .

As to worldwide jurisdiction, did it ever cross Peter's mind when he preached to his little flock at Antioch or Rome that he had command over the whole church?  Such a idea had to wait until Christianity was integrated into the Roman Empire.  Even then it took time for the papacy to grow to the stature that made such a pretension possible.

The difficulties not stop there.  Popes are only said to be infallible when they address the whole church.  When did they first do so?  Certainly not in the first millennium.  During that time, as everybody agrees, only General Councils expressed the mind of the church.  Was the pope's supreme power suspended all that while?  If the church managed to function without it for 1000 years, why should she need it at all?  (p. 25)

Let's assume for the moment that Roman Catholics are right in believing that, as Bishops of Rome, their popes, and only their popes, are the authentic successors of Peter.  What they are saying is that no clergyman is a true representative of Jesus who can't trace his or her ordination to a long line of brutal torturers, tyrants, murders, adulterers and fornicators who sold spiritual benefits for financial gain, which they used for gluttony, sexual orgies and personal gain.

Wouldn't you think that Jesus might say to these people something along the lines of what, {according to Luke 3: 7-9: } "John (the Baptist) said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him,

'You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bear fruits worthy of repentance.  Do not begin to say to yourselves,  'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.  Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.'

Papal Conceit

"The Vicars of Christ" is full of fascinating and disturbing information that shows, in the words of its author, Peter De Rosa, that

. . . "all popes are fallible, that many made very bad mistakes, and that several were heretical.  They contradicted the teaching of the church, contradicted each other and, not infrequently, contradicted themselves on essential Christian doctrine.

As a result, the tradition was that any pope, including the reigning pontiff, can be as mistaken as anyone else.  He has no special grace to prevent him falling into heresy.

Further, there can be no question of a pope being right and the church wrong.  If the pope distances himself from the church – perhaps by not listening to it – the pope, not the church, has to change his mind.  If he refuses to listen and falls into heresy, he is pope no longer, for, having abandoned the faith, he is not even a Christian."   (p. 235)

One noteworthy example of such misguided policy:

"The discipline of celibacy now in place actually led to unchastity.  Proof of this comes in the writing of one of the great reforming saints, Bernard of Clairvaux.  In the year 1135 he was responding to the Albigensian claim that marriage is sordid.  Bernard said: 'Take from the Church an honourable marriage and an immaculate marriage bed, and do you not fill it with concubinage, incest, homosexuality and every kind of uncleanness?'  "   (p. 409)

How the pope became infallible :

When the First Vatican Council defined papal infallibility, it claimed it was the ancient and constant faith of the Church.  In fact, the first statement on personal infallibility came from Pope Leo the Great in 457: 'By the power of the Holy Spirit he needs no human instruction and is incapable of doctrinal error.' It is clear and precise.  But there's a snag. Leo was referring not to himself but to the new Roman Emperor.

In Origins of Papal Infallibility 1150-1350, Brian Tierney showed that the doctrine of papal infallibility was invented by enemies of the papacy between 1280 and 1320 in an attempt to limit the power of the reigning pontiff.  The more rebellious they became, the more they exaggerated the infallibility of past popes.

No pontiff ever claimed that he personally could propound dogmas, that is, irreformable doctrines to be held by all Catholics.  Popes were chiefly interested in their supremacy. Integral to this was ultimate authority in doctrine and discipline.

Why didn't they want infallibility as well?  Partly because history showed beyond question that many popes had been heretics and apostates.  There was also a more important political reason: it would limit their personal power.  How?  If they were infallible, so were their predecessors.  If a predecessor had spoken infallibly they would be bound by what he said.  Popes held that only Christ could not err.  This meant that they were only bound by scripture and definitions of Councils which interpreted scripture.

Incidentally, to suggest that the pope was above General Councils makes nonsense of the whole history of the early and medieval Church.  The pope had no choice but to accept the doctrinal decisions of the early Councils, especially the first four, for a Council is greater than a pope.  Popes could err; Councils could not.

When Pope John XXII (1316-34) heard that some upstart Franciscans had proposed papal infallibility, he was furious.  They were accusing him of being a heretic for denying his own infallibility when no pope had ever claimed it.  What John XXII's foes were implying was he had contradicted his infallible predecessors, therefore, he should be removed from office and handed over to his own Inquisition to be burnt.

In his Bull, Quia quorundam of 1324, John XXII quoted those who said, 'What the Roman Pontiffs have once defined in faith and morals stands so immutably that it is not permitted to a successor to revoke it.' This was a lie, he said, and inspired by the 'Father of lies'.  He was not infallible.  He, the Pope, retained the right, in principle, to be a heretic, like anyone else, but he didn't intend to exercise this right by espousing the new heresy of papal infallibility.

The first pope to hear of papal infallibility called it insane, the teaching of the devil.

Like all medieval popes, John XXII saw that papal infallibility would make him not the equal of his predecessors but their inferior, for he would only be able to teach some things with their consent.  This violated a basic legal principle that an equal cannot bind an equal.  Papal absolutism demanded that a pope be answerable to God and no one else. Far from his predecessors being necessarily free from error, every pope had a duty to say that popes had erred but their heresies had been corrected by Councils and popes after them.

"The utterances of medieval pontiffs created this oppressive climate.  It began, of course, with

Not until the 16th century did popes see the positive side of infallibility.  At one point, Innocent XI (1676-89) thought of infallibly defining his own infallibility.  The "devil's teaching" was on the way to becoming Catholic doctrine.  With good reason.  If a pope wasn't infallible and a Council was, a Council was superior to the pope.  Dissidents could appeal over the pope's head to a Council.  Such a right of appeal was reasonable for as long as the papacy kept to the Catholic teaching that popes can err while Councils cannot.

This is why the papacy in the end rejected traditional doctrine in favour of what John XXII called pernicious novelty.  They chose to be above Councils even if the price was making themselves subject to the teaching of their predecessors.

That was annoying, all right.  Each pontiff would always have to be looking over his shoulder at the ever-lengthening line of pontiffs behind him to make sure he didn't contradict them.  Even so, being subject to dead popes, having dried-mouthed conversations with skeletons, was less threatening than being subject to future Councils. 

Pius  IX

After Pius IX insisted on having himself declared infallible in 1870, Cardinal Newman wrote:  'We have come to a climax of tyranny.  It is not good for a pope to live twenty years.  He becomes a god, has no one to contradict him, does not know facts and does cruel things without meaning it.'

Many people don't realize how novel the idea of infallible popes is.  It was only proclaimed at the instigation of Pope Pius IX at the First Vatican Council in 1870, about whom his private secretary, Monsignor Talbot said: 

'Theology was not Pius' forte.' and 'As the Pope is no great theologian, I feel convinced that when he writes, his encyclicals are inspired by God.'  Complete ignorance was no bar to infallibility, he said,  since God can point out the right road even by the mouth of a talking ass.'  (regarding which De Rosa comments,  'Talbot, without meaning it, had reached the heights of Voltaire.' " (p. 133)


When the fathers of Vatican I defined the pope's infallibility, they showed a contempt for history, preferring their own fables and fantasies.  As if dogma is able to rise above the stone facts of history.  As if dogma can fashion its own history.  'The very first thing dictators do, ' said Gerald Stern, 'is to efface memory.'  Orwell wrote in Nineteen Eighty-Four, my choice of the most brilliant novel of the 20th century,  'The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth.'

Popes are experts in doublethink, the ability to hold two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously.  In this case, the past is what they say it is.  This is because they have changed their minds about it and forgotten that they have.  As Orwell put it, 'The past is whatever the Party (Church) chooses to make it.  It also follows that though the past is alterable, it never has been altered in any specific instance this new version is the past, and no different past can ever have existed At all times the Party (Church) is in possession of absolute truth, and clearly the absolute can never have been different from what it is now And if it is necessary to rearrange one's memories or to tamper with written records, then it is necessary to forget that one has done so.'

No wonder that Gary Wills entitled his book on the papacy Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit.


There are Catholics for whom reason is of no avail, because their idea of "faith" is to believe in spite of human reason and logic, as epitomized by this quote from this Saint and "Doctor of the Church, Robert Bellarmine,
        "Whatever the pope commands, however evil or ridiculous, has to be obeyed, as if it is virtue itself.  Whatever the pope does, even when he deposes an emperor ( or Prime Minister or President ?)  on the most frivolous pretext, has to be accepted by Catholics who henceforward have to obey the pope and not the emperor." In other words, "Render unto Peter that which is Caesar's and render unto Peter that which is God's."