In this lengthy argument, which we have split into three parts, US lay writer, Edgar Davie, looks at the history of the notion of infallibility and a couple of instances where the institution has seemingly broken the founding principle on which the entire notion is based. Today we present the second part of his argument.
On the History and Consequences of Papal Infallibility
The Pagan Origin of Siricius' Law...
In the Deposit of Faith St. Paul describes the importance of our unchangeable traditions, "hold fast to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistles" [2 Thess. 2:15]. So, holding fast to our traditions we discover the Apostles selected married men and their wives, such as Aquila and Prisca, to establish house-churches and jointly spread the Gospel [1 Corinthians 16:19]; St. Peter too reminds us of this tradition, "They went to the Temple every day but met in their houses for the breaking of bread" [Acts 2:46]. The Sacerdotal priesthood of today first appeared in the second century and no Christian Bible would exist until the fourth century. But thoroughly instructed in the faith of Christ by Apostles and disciples, these early husband and wife teams spread the faith with preaching and teaching. This then was our first tradition during the Deposit of Faith. Today, as one considers changes from these first traditions, the historical origin of Siricius' law becomes paramount.
The non-Christian belief of celibacy's superiority first appeared among pagan converts during the second century, a time of persecution and dislocation following the destruction of Jerusalem. Christians were forced to flee across the Roman Empire c.136AD, a Christian exodus into the pagan world that resulted in chaos, igniting a century of confusion and conflict within the Church when a new generation of Christian leaders, all of whom were converts, began to hold differing views of Jesus: Was He a God in human form or merely a prophet who spoke for God? Others believed Jesus was the son of a benevolent and loving God, certainly not the one evil God of tribal Judaism.
The Apostles and the first generation of disciples were gone, and the generation of husbands and wives whom they had instructed were also gone, along with their understanding of Old Testament traditions. The modern belief that popes in Rome exercised teaching authority over these unorganized and dispersed Christians groups is woefully incorrect. Eminent Catholic historian Anthony Gilles explains in his book, People of God, "At first not all bishops believed the bishops of Rome, or even the popes, were superior to other bishops in authority." Across the Empire bishops exercised independent teaching authority over their followers, and many became imbued with the pagan superiority of priestly celibacy.
Early on however celibacy apologists were challenged. The Gnostic belief of celibacy's superiority among pagan converts was condemned as early as 108AD by Apostolic Father Bishop St. Ignatius of Antioch, a student of Apostle St. John. In his letter to younger bishop St. Polycarp, Ignatius was firm; "If anyone is able to remain celibate in honor of Christ let him remain so without boasting. If he boasts about it he is undone, and if he seeks to be more esteemed than the bishop he is corrupted." Tragically, after the death of Apostolic students such as Ignatius and Pope Callistus (c. 217) who ordained married men, Gnostic teachers faced little opposition. Only in the third century, 200 years after Christ, did new literature composed by unknown authors (most notably the Didascalia, c. 230AD) appear, alleging for the first time the Apostles abandoned marital sex in order to 'act in the place of Jesus'. While the number of Christian sects requiring celibate priests increased, they exerted little effect across the Empire prior to Siricius because no law of celibacy existed, and the majority of priests remained men "who must manage his family well and bring up his children to obey him." [1Timothy 3:4].
Papal Doctrine -vs- Inflallible Dogma...
Ultimately, Siricius' law proved impossible to implement universally during the Dark Ages, and had only moderate effect until the Middle Ages and Pope Gregory VII in 1074AD. Emerging from the Dark Ages many priests and bishops under the authority of European rulers were married men who owned their Churches and land, which they then willed to family members or sold outright to other clerics as a business transaction, thus depriving the Church of vast wealth. As Gregory saw it, "The Church cannot escape from the laity unless priests first escape the clutches of their wives.". Desperate after the failure of three Papal Synods in the ninth century to end marriage by selling wives into slavery, Gregory began a movement to reestablish Siricius' law. Eventually, in 1139AD, Siricius' law of mandatory celibacy was reinstituted and universally enforced by Pope Innocent II during the Lateran Council. Today the Church officially denies this law is a Papal Doctrine that nullifies Christ's Infallible Doctrine of priestly matrimony, asserting: "Celibacy for priests is not a dogma or doctrine; it is a discipline and can therefore be changed." This modern explanation is fraught with duplicity.
Unfortunately, most Catholics will acknowledge they do not understand the important difference between Dogma and Doctrine. Dogma is divine revelation of faith or morals, such as the sacraments of Baptism, Holy Orders and Matrimony, all divinely revealed by Christ and infallibly transmitted by the Apostles in Scripture and tradition. A Doctrine is merely the human expression of a Church belief, either written or oral. So, what was Siricius' law of celibacy intended to be, Dogma, Doctrine or simply a discipline? Did Siricius intend to issue an infallible papal declaration from the Chair of Peter?
Siricius' doctrine was issued as a Decretal, an authorative papal teaching to be held by the whole Church. Describing his papal authority to issue this definitive document in the name of St. Peter, Siricius begins "with the affirmation of the permanent presence and action of the Apostle Peter on the Roman See in the person of his successors [Siricius]." Presented as an ex cathedra declaration, Siricius asserts clerical celibacy and sexual abstinence originated among the Apostles and must therefore be continually observed. However, while claiming to speak for St. Peter, Siricius relies only on third century traditions of Gnostic-Christian bishops who first demanded sexual abstinence, and from that apocrypha asserted: Christ Himself "…wanted the beauty of the Church to shine with the splendor of chastity... [Therefore] what the Apostles taught and what antiquity itself observed, let us also endeavor to keep."
With this statement Siricius asserts it was the Apostles who first taught sexual abstinence, and in doing so placed his Decretal on the level of infallible dogma. That Siricius intended to infallibly speak for St. Peter while inserting his new doctrine into the Deposit of Faith is beyond debate. As required by Catholic theological definition of 'Infallible Doctrine' it was clearly a "manifestly evident" infallible papal doctrine nullifying Christ's teaching of Sacramental Matrimony (Canon Law 749.3). And most importantly, while denied by the Church today, it was an illicit change disproving the concept of papal infallibility.
"Some New Doctrine" and a Chance of Terms...
The modern Church denials that mandatory celibacy is a doctrine appeared only after the highly contentious Vatican Council I of 1870, when ex cathedra Papal infallibility was formally proclaimed. Reacting to Protestant ascendency following the Reformation, and loss of papal authority across Europe, Pope Pius IX summoned the First Vatican Council solely for the purpose of declaring infallible papal teaching to be the final word between God and man. During this repressive council Cardinals were isolated and sternly threatened with reprisals should they fail to support Pius' infallibility vote. In his book Infallibility? An Inquiry, renowned theologian Fr. Hans Küng wrote: "As painful and embarrassing as it may be to admit, this Council resembled a well organized and manipulated totalitarian congress." The Holy Spirit played no part in that totalitarian council.
Concerned with historical abuse of papal authority 60 Cardinals left Rome and refused to vote, but fortunately the remaining members were concerned with historically unchecked infallible papal edicts and agreed to an important limitation of papal infallibility, declaring that successors of Peter may not add "some new doctrine" into the Deposit of Faith. This Dogmatic Church limitation of papal infallibility was the coupe de grace. It established that it matters not whether Siricius' law is termed a dogma, a doctrine, or a discipline, it is an infallible papal declaration that changed a Doctrine of Christ and once more disproves the concept of papal infallibility.
At this point any reasonable person would ask, if such a change came about how could it exist and go unnoticed for centuries? The answer is actually quite simple: realizing mandatory celibacy could no longer be defended as a doctrine, modern Church teaching merely denies the Law of mandatory celibacy was ever believed to be a Doctrine, a cover-up no different than the modern cover-up of sexually abusive priests for which voluminous evidence is available. Today mandatory celibacy is falsely termed an ancient discipline, instituted by the Apostles when they freely chose to reject marital sex. But this defense is of no help. Had the Apostles abandoned their wives (which history belies) it would have been their free choice, and the Apostles well knew they had no authority to deny the Sacrament of Matrimony to other married men such as themselves. This illicit law would today deny St. Peter himself admission to the priesthood.
What are your thoughts on this commentary?