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Roman Catholic Church

this is a no copy page!


This section dedicated to Our Most Blessed Holy Mother Maria,

The Mother of God.


Chiesa Cattolica


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Take hold on instruction, leave it not:

keep it, because it is thy life.”



Catechism Explained

An Exhaustive Exposition of

The Catholic Religion



Rev Francis Spirago

Professor of Theology


Edited by Rev. Richard F Clarke, S.J.


Arthur J Scanlan, S.T.D.

Censor Librorum


Imprimatur +Patrick J Hayes D.D.

Archbishop of New York New York

October 18 1921


Library of Congress Catalog Card No: 93-61206

ISBN: 0-89555-497-6


Continued; Ninth article of the Creed:




Christ compared the Church to a grain of mustard-seed, which is the smallest of seeds, but grows into a tree in which the birds of the air build their nests (Matt. xiii. 31, 32).


1.                   Christ laid the foundation of the Church when, in the course of His teaching, He gathered a number of disciples, and chose twelve of these to preside over the rest and one to be Head of all.


2.   The Church first began its life on Pentecost, when some three thousand people were baptized.


Pentecost is the birthday of the Church.  After the miracle at the gate of the Temple some two thousand more were baptized.


3.  Soon after the descent of the Holy Ghost the apostles began to preach the gospel throughout the world, in accordance with the commands of Christ (Mark xvi. 15), and founded Christian communities in many places.


St. Paul, after his conversion in 34 A.D.  labored more abundantly than all the apostles (1 Cor. xv. 10); he traversed Asia Minor, the greater part of Southern Europe, and many islands of the Mediterranean.  After him St. Peter labored most.  After escaping by a miracle from his prison in Jerusalem, he founded his see at Rome where, in company with St. Paul, he suffered martyrdom, Saint John, the beloved disciple, lived at Ephesus with our blessed Lady, and governed the Church in Asia Minor.  His brother, St. James the Greater, traveled as far as Spain, and was beheaded in Jerusalem in 44 A.D.   His body rests at Compostella.  St. James the Less governed the Church at Jerusalem, and was cast down from a pinnacle of the Temple in A.D. 63.  St. Andrew preached to the people living along the lower Danube, and died on a cross in Achaia.  St. Thomas and St. Bartholomew made their way to the Euphrates and Tigris, and as far as India.  St. Simon evangelized Egypt and North Africa.


The apostles established their communities after the following plan: having converted and baptized a number of men in a place, they chose assistants, to whom they imparted a greater or less portion of their own powers; and before leaving the place they made choice of a successor, and gave him full powers (Acts xiv. 22).


Those who received only a small portion of the apostolic power were called deacons, and priests those who had ampler faculties'.  The representatives of the apostles were called bishops.  Christ gave the apostles power to chose successors when He gave to them the self-same power which He had received from the Father (John xx. 21); and it was His wish that they should choose successors, for He told the apostles that their mission should continue to the end of the world (Matt. xxviii. 20).


Among all the Christian communities that of Rome took the highest rank, because it was presided over by St. Peter, the chief of the apostles, and because to the Head of that community as successor of St. Peter the primacy of St. Peter was transferred.


St. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch (107 A.D.) in a letter to the Christians of Rome, begs them not to set him free and calls the Roman community the "chief community of the holy band of the faithful:" and Saint Irenćus, Bishop of Lyons (202 A.D. ) says "All the faithful over the whole world must conform to the Roman Church on account of its principality. "


All Christian communities which have been formed in the course of time professed the same faith, and acknowledged the same means of grace and the same Head.  Hence they formed one large community - the Catholic Church.


4. When the great persecution's broke out, the Church spread more rapidly over the earth.



During the first three centuries there were 10 persecutions, the severest being under Nero and Diocletian (284-385 A.D.), the latter monster condemning some 2,000,000 Christians.  They were martyred in various ways; they were beheaded like St. Paul, crucified like St. Peter, stoned like St. Stephen, thrown to the lions like St. Ignatius of Antioch, roasted on gridirons like St. Lawrence, drowned like St. Florian, flayed like Saint Bartholomew, cast over cliffs or from high places like St. James, burned at the scaffold like Saint Polycarp,  buried alive like St. Chrysanthus, etc.  The very means adopted to exterminate the Christian religion helped to propagate it.  The speeches of the Christians before their judges often converted the hearers.  The joy with which they faced death, their superhuman patients, and their love of their enemies, were powerful influences on the heathen.  Added to this were the miracles which often happened during the martyrdoms, as for instance in the case of St. Polycarp and Saint John at the Lateran Gate.  In the words of St. Rupert, the martyrs are like the seed which is buried in the earth.  And sprouts and brings forth much fruit; or of St. Leo the Great, if the storm scatters the seed this benefit results that instead of one, some fifty other trees grow up. "The blood of the martyrs, “ says Tertullian, "Is the seed of Christians." The life of the Christians was then a model, and they abounded in saints. At the risk of their life they prayed to God in the catacombs.  Two years of probation were demanded of the catechumens before reception.


When the Roman emperor, Constantine the Great, had permitted his subjects to become Christians and later made the Christian religion the State religion (324 A.D. ), the Church indeed flourished externally, but fervor and religious discipline soon began to suffer.


Constantine was led to this step by the appearance of the luminous cross in the heavens (312 A.D. ), and still more by his holy mother St. Helena.  The following were some of his ordnances: Sundays and feast days were to be observed with solemnity; the temples of the heathen were to be handed over to the bishops; the gladiatorial combats and the crucifixion of criminals were forbidden, and many churches were built.  By the miraculous drought of fishes related in the fifth chapter of St. Luke and the two boats almost sunk with the weight of fish, was prefigured the future of the Church, which should suffer schism with the increase of its members, while Christians should sink down to earthly things.  The heresy of Arius (318 A.D. ) began its deadly work in the time of Constantine, and had a great following.  At this time also ceased the test of the catechumens, so that it was easier to become a member of the Church.  St. Augustine had reason to say: "If the Church is harassed by external foes, there are many in her bosom who buy their unruly life make sad the hearts of the faithful."


 5. In the Middle Ages nearly all the heathen nations began to enter the church. 


  In Austria about 450 A.D., the monk Severinus preached the Gospel for thirty years all along the banks of the Danube.  St. Gregory the Great, in 600 A.D.   sent St. Augustine at the head of a number of missionaries to convert England; eighty years later the country was Christian and had twenty-six sees.  Germany owes most to St. Boniface, who preached the Gospel there for about 40 years (755 A.D.).  The Greek monks Saints Cyril and Methodius worked among the Slavs, mainly of Bohemia and Moravia, with great success.  The Hungarians were converted by their holy king Stephen (1083 A.D. )  "the apostolic king. " Christianity was gradually introduced into Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Russia and Poland after 1000 A.D.


The Church was hard pressed by Islam during the Middle ages.


Islamism or Mohammedanism was founded by Mohammed, a native of Mecca, who gave himself out to be a prophet of the one true God, promised sensual joy after death, allowed plurality of wives, imposed a pilgrimage to Mecca, taught fatalism, and after propagating his doctrines by fire and sword, was poisoned in 632 A.D., by a Jewess.  The Koran is the sacred book of the Mohammedans.  They keep the Friday with great solemnity, and pray five times a day turned towards Mecca.  Mohammed's successors where the caliphs, who undertook wars of conquest on a large scale, everywhere rooting out the Christian religion.  They overran a great part of Asia, and North Africa, Spain and the islands of the Mediterranean.  Charles Martel, in a series of victories (732-738 A.D.), arrested their advance into France, and ever since their failure in 1638 before Vienna, their progress in the West was arrested.


In addition the Church lost many adherents in the Middle Ages by the Greek schism.


The causes of the schism were as follows: the emperor of the East kept trying to make partriarchs of Constantinople independent of Rome, while these were often for their heresies is put under banned by the councils.  In time it came about that the ambitious Photius backed up by the emperor, held a council of the Eastern bishops, and broke away from Rome (867 A.D.) The succeeding emperor reestablished the old relations with Rome. Two hundred years later, however, the patriarch Michael Cerularius renewed the contest (1054 A.D.), and the schism affected by him lasts till the present day.  They call themselves Orthodox Greeks, while we call them the Schismatic Greeks, in opposition to the United Greek or Uniates, who preserved their allegiance to Rome. 


6.  In later times many nations of the newly discovered countries were converted.


The Spaniards and Portuguese led the van of missionary enterprise.  One of the most famous of these missionaries is the St. Francis Xavier, the apostle of the Indies, who used to call the little children together with a bell, as he made his way through the cities of India, the islands of Molucca, and Japan, to teach them the truths of religion (A.D 1552); he had the gift of tongues, and baptized some 2 million heathens.  After his death great work was done in China by the Jesuits, especially Ricci and Schall.  Another great missionary is St. Peter Claver (1654 A.D.) whose work was mostly among the Negro's in South America.  Cardinal Lavigerie in our own time has done much in Africa, especially in resisting the slave trade, and founding a congregation for the conversion of the natives.  The College of Propaganda was founded at Rome in 1662 for the training of young men from all nations for a missionary career.  At present some 15,000 priests, 5000 lay brothers and 50,000 nuns are at work in the foreign missions; the missionaries belong for the most part to the order of Jesuits, Franciscans, Capuchins, Benedictines' and Lazarists.  The organizations for the support of the missions are the Propagation of the Faith and the Holy Childhood.  It is a sacred obligation to help in such work, and the efforts of non Catholics in this direction may well put us to shame.


In the latter times the Church has lost many members by the Lutheran an Anglican heresies.


Martin Luther, and Augustinian monk of Erfurt, and later teacher in the high school at Wittenberg, took offense because he thought that he was not sufficiently held in esteem at Rome.  When Pope Leo X., anxious to complete the building of St. Peter's, gave indulgences to those who should subscribe to the work, and sent out preachers to promulgate these indulgences, Luther came forward with his 95 propositions on indulgences, and nailed them to the door of the Church at Wittenberg.  These propositions at first condemned only the abuses of indulgences in the Church, but later went on to combat the teaching of the Church on the subject (1517).  Refusing to withdraw them at the command of the Pope he was excommunicated (1520), and also outlawed by the emperor for not answering the summons requiring him to appear before the council at Worms.  He sought protection from the Elector of Saxony.  His heresy soon spread over Germany and led to many religious wars.  The name Protestant was assumed by the Lutherans at Spires in 1529, on account of their protest against Catholic doctrine.  The peace of Augsburg secured to the Protestants the same rights as Catholics (1555).  The Council of Trent set forth the points in dispute between Catholics and Protestants. (1545-1563). Luther died in 1546.  His chief errors are contained in the following propositions: (1).  There's no supreme teaching power in the Church. (2). The temporal sovereign has supreme power in matters ecclesiastical.  (3). There are no priests.  (4).  All that is to be believed is in the Scripture.  (5.) Each one may interpret the Holy Scriptures as he likes.  (6.) Faith alone saves, good works are superfluous. (7.) This last follows from the fact that man lost his free will by original sin.  (8).  There are no Saints, No Christian sacrifice, no sacrament of confession, no purgatory.  The Jesuits, founded by Saint Ignatius of Loyola (1540) , won many back again to the fold of the Church. Zwingli and Calvin in Switzerland, and Henry VIII.  In England, about the same time help in Luther's deadly work.  The errors of the Anglican Church were drawn up later in the form of thirty-nine Articles, which are quite Lutheran in tone.


7.       At present the Catholic Church numbers about 288,000,000 members.


These are under the direction of about 1,478 bishops, counting about 15 partriarchs, 314 archbishops and 20 prelates with dioceses.  There are some 375,000 Catholic priests in the whole world.  The inhabitants of Italy, Spain, France, Austria, Belgium, and Ireland are nearly all Catholics.  In Switzerland about half are Catholics; in Germany over a third of the population, and in Russia 11,000,000.  In Europe about three-quarters of the entire population are Catholic.  In America there are 80,000,000  Catholics, of whom there are 18,000,000 in the United States, forming one fifth of the entire population, while Mexico, South and Central America, with the exception of Brazil, are almost entirely Catholic.  The adjacent islands are mainly Catholic.  In Asia there are only 10,000,000 Catholics, in Africa 3,000,000. in Australia 1,000,000.  The Protestants, comprising the various sects of Lutherans, Calvinists,  Anglicans, etc., number 167,000,000; they inhabit England, North and Central Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, parts of Switzerland and Hungary, and the United States of America.  The Oriental Greeks or Schismatic Greeks number about 121,000,000.  The occupy for the most part the Balkan Peninsula and Russia.  Besides these there are some 10,000,000 of various other Christian sects, hence a total of 576,000,000 Christians.  Since the inhabitants of the earth amount to about 1,700,000,000 only a little over one-third of the human race is Christian.  The Mohammedans number 227,000,000; they inhabit Arabia, Western Asia, the northern half of Africa, and part of Turkey.  In addition there are 15,000,000 Jews; they are for the greater part in Russia and Austria.  Finally there are still 1,116,000,000 heathens, dwelling for the most part in southern Africa, India, China and Japan.







Indestructibility of the Church.




The Catholic Church is indestructible;  i.e., it will remain till the end of the world, for Christ said:

 "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it"  (Matt. xvi. 18).



Hence there will always be Popes, bishops, and faithful, and God's revealed truths will ever be found in the Catholic Church.  The archangel Gabriel and had announced to Mary:  "Of his kingdom there shall be no end. "  (Luke i. 33)  "The Church," says St. Ambrose, "Is like the moon; it may wane, but never be destroyed; it may be darkened, but it can never disappear.  "The bark of the Church," says St. Anselm,  "may be swept by the waves, but it can never sink because Christ is there."


1.  Of all the persecutors of the Church none have succeeded against it, and some have come to a fearful end.


Judas’ end is the type of those of his imitators. .   Herod, the murderer of the infants of Bethlehem, died in unspeakable tortures; so, too, Herod the murderer of St. James was devoured by worms.  Pilate was banished by the emperor to Vienne, in France and there he took his own life.  During the siege of Jerusalem 1,000,000 Jews died of hunger or sickness, or in battle, the city itself was reduced to ashes and some hundred thousand Jews carried off into captivity.  The tyrant  Nero was deposed,  and in his flight from Rome was stabbed by a slave.  Diocletian came to a shameful end.  Before his death his family were sent into exile, his statues were destroyed, and his body attacked with loathsome disease.  Julian the Apostate was struck down on the field of battle by a lance; his last words were: "Galilean, Thou hast conquered."    The case of Napoleon is instructive.  He kept Pius VII.  a prisoner for five years, he himself was a prisoner for seven years;    in the castle at Fontainebleau he forced the Pope to give up to the states of the Church, promising a yearly income of 2,000,000 francs;  in the same place he was himself forced to sign his abdication, and received a promise of a yearly income of the same amount.  Four days after giving the order to unite the States of the Church with France he lost the battles of Aspern and Erlingen.  He answered the excommunication launched against him, saying that the words of an old man would not make the arms drop from hands of his soldiers.  This actually happened in his Russian campaign from the intense cold: and on the same day on which Napoleon died at St. Helena, Pius VII.  was celebrating his own feast day at Rome.  No wonder the French have a saying: "Whoever eats of the Pope dies."  The same fate is shared by the founders of heresies, and the enemies of religion.  Arius burst asunder during a triumphal procession; Voltaire died in despair.  These facts and many more of the same kind illustrate the words of Holy Writ:  “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God"   (Heb. X. 31).



2.      When the Church is in the greatest need, Christ ever comes to its help, either by miracles or by raising up saintly men. 


The appearance of the cross in the heavens, for instance, seen by Constantine and his army, brought the Christian persecution to an end. "The Church," says St. Jerome, "Is like Peter's bark.  When the storm is at its height the Lord wakes from His sleep and commands peace. "


  3.  "It is peculiar to the Church," says St. Hillary, "To flourish most when persecuted. "


"Persecutions," says St. Augustine, "serve to bring forth Saints. " To the Church as well as to Eve were the words spoken: "In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children"  (Gen. iii. 16).  The members of the Church increase under persecution.  The Church is a field, fruitful only when torn up by the plough, or it is a vine, stronger and richer for being pruned. "As fire is spread by the wind, so is the Church increased by persecution," says St. Rupert.  Persecution purifies the Church; even if millions fall away, it is not a loss but a cleansing.  The time of persecution is usually a period of miracles, attesting the divine origin of the Church, as in the Babylonish captivity they attested the truth of the religion of the Jews.  How often have Christians, come unhurt out of boiling liquid, like Saint Cecilia, or remained unharmed in the midst of the flames, like Saint Polycarp, or been thrown to the beasts and receive their homage like St. Venantius ?  Facts like these force the enemies of the Church to exclaim: "Mighty indeed is the God of the Christians. " The Church comes triumphant out of every persecution.  Easter always follows Good Friday.  But a few years ago the bishops in Germany were cast into prison, the religious Orders driven out, the administration of the sacraments in part forbidden; at the present day the number of Catholic members in the Reichstag is over a hundred, the Catholic journals have increased to four or five hundred, yearly congresses take place and all kinds of unions for Catholic objects are formed, while the Catholics themselves are stauncher and more self sacrificing. "The more battles the Church has to fight, the more her powers are developed; and the more she is oppressed the higher she rises," are the words of Pius VII.  Such a privilege belongs to no institution save the Church, and by that she may be recognized as the offspring of God, the Bride of Christ.




The Infallibility of the Church.



God has planted in our hearts a longing for truth which must be satisfied.  Our first parents had no difficulties to face in the search for truth. "In the state of innocence, " says St. Thomas, "It was impossible for man to mistake false for true." Ever since the Fall, to err is human.  God, however, sent an infallible Teacher, His only begotten Son, that man might again find the truth; hence the words of Christ to Pilate: " For this came I into the world that I should give testimony of the truth" (John xviii. 37).  Christ was to be a light to our understandings, darkened as they were by sin. (John iii. 19).  As Christ was not to remain always on earth, He appointed another infallible teacher, His Church, and provided it with the necessary gifts, especially with the assistance of the Holy Spirit.



Christ conferred on His apostles and their successors the teaching office, and promised them His divine assistance.


Thus he said at His ascension into heaven: "Going,  teach ye all nations. . .  and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world"    (Matt. xxviii. 19,20); and at the Last Supper: "I will ask the Father and He shall give you another Paraclete that He may abide with you forever, the Spirit of truth"  (John xiv. 16, 17).  To St. Peter He said: "The gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church" (Matt. xvi. 18).  Since Christ is the Son of God, His words must be true.  If the Church, in the carrying out of her teaching office, could lead men into error, Christ would not have kept his word.  Hence St. Paul calls the Church "the pillar and ground of truth" (1 Tim. Iii. 15), and the measures decided upon by the apostles in the Council of Jerusalem were introduced with the words: "For It hath seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us" (Acts xv. 28).  It is no recent belief that the Church is infallible.  Long ago Origen writes, " As in the heavens there are two great sources of light, the sun, and the moon which borrows its light from the sun, so there are two sources of our interior light-Christ and the Church.  Christ, the Light of the world, shares His light with the Church, and she enlightens all the earth. " in the words of St. Irenćus: "Where the Church is, there is also the Spirit of God. "


1.  The Catholic Church is infallible in her teaching; i.e., the Holy Spirit assists the Church in such a manner that she cannot err  in the preserving and announcing of revealed doctrine.


Just as our reason prevents us from making statements which are contrary to certain fundamental truths, so the Holy Ghost exerts His influence to prevent the Church giving any decision contrary to the truths taught by Christ.  The infallibility of the Church is not in any way like that of God with God, for she attributes it not to herself but to God's special providence over her.


2.  The Church delivers her infallible decisions through general councils and through the Pope.


In every kingdom some court is established for the settlement of doubtful cases; it is evident that the all wise God must have instituted some such tribunal in His kingdom; and this tribunal is the general assembly of the bishops, for at His ascent into heaven He gave them the power to teach, and promised them immunity from error (Matt. xxviii. 18-20).  Hence the expression of Saint Cyprian: "The Church is in the bishops. " Now since the bishops cannot always assemble together on account of their duties towards their particular dioceses, some other tribunal must exist with power to give infallible decisions.  This tribunal is the Pope speaking ex cathedra.  The priests have not this infallibility secured to them, through their services are indispensable to the bishops in the carrying out of the teaching office.  Priests when present in the assemblies of bishops are so as counsellors, but without any deciding vote in the questions under consideration.  So soon as the Church defines a question of doctrine, everyone is bound before God to submit under pain of excommunication.


A general council is the assembly of the bishops of the world presided over by the Pope.


The apostles in the year 51 held the first Council of Jerusalem,, and announced their decisions as coming from God.  Of the first four general councils St. Gregory the Great asserted that he held them in equal honor with the four gospels.  Since the council at Jerusalem, there have been twenty general councils assembled.  The first of these was held at Nicća, in the year 325, to repel the Arian heresy.  The following are specially worthy of note: the Third Council at Ephesus in 425, where Mary was declared to be the Mother of God; the Seventh General Council, or Second of Nicća in 787, where the veneration of images was declared lawful; the Twelfth General Council of Fourth Lateran in 1215, which imposed the obligation of the Easter communion; the Nineteenth General Counsel at Trent (1545-1563), occasioned by Luther's heresies;  the Twentieth General Council in the Vatican (1870), where the infallibility of the Pope was defined as an article of faith.  And the presence of all the bishops is not required for a general council, but the greater number of them must be there; nor is a unanimous vote in any way necessary to secure a definition; a majority of votes approaching more or less to unanimity is quite sufficient.  Thus in the Vatican Council five hundred and thirty three bishops voted for the definition of Papal infallibility; two voted against, and 52 were absent from the meeting.  Nor is it necessary that the Pope should preside in person: he may act through his legates as in the first, third, and fourth general councils.  All that is necessary is that the Pope should approve of the decrees of the council.  Others besides bishops have a vote, such as the cardinals, the generals of religious Orders, and all who have episcopal authority, as in the case of many prelates and abbot’s; suffragans have also a vote when they are summoned, as happened in 1870.  The general council only settles questions after mature consideration, relying generally on the teaching of the Catholic Church in the early ages.  Besides the general councils there are national councils, or assemblies of the bishops of a nation or kingdom under their primate, and also provincial councils or meanings of the bishops and dignitaries of a district under the archbishop; and finally diocesan synods, or assemblies of the clergy under their bishop.  Such assemblies have no claim to infallibility.


The general consent of the bishops all over the world confirmed by the Pope is also infallible; this may happen when the Pope asks their opinion on a question of doctrine or morals.


A case of the kind happened in 1854.  The Pope sent round to the various bishops of the world to ascertain the feeling of Christians at large as regarded the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady.  As nearly all the replies approved of the doctrine, it was solemnly defined as of faith.  This consensus of the bishops, though living apart at the time, was infallible , because the Holy Spirit is not confined by limitations of place.  Nor was this solemn declaration necessary; it was quite sufficient that all the bishops should teach in the same sense in regard of any given subject to make that teaching infallible; where it otherwise the Church would be capable of teaching heresy, or of falling away from the truth.  Hence the Vatican Council declared that not only must that be accepted which has been solemnly defined by the Church, but also whatever is proposed by the lawful and general teaching authority (Vatican Council, 3, 3).


The Pope makes an infallible definition when, as teacher and guide of the Church, he proposes to the universal Church a doctrine of faith or morals.  These decrees are called doctrinal.


The Vatican Council in 1870 decreed that all doctrinal decisions of the Pope were infallible.  This is the logical consequence of the words of Christ to St. Peter: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church" (Matt. xvi. 18).  If the foundation of the Church were to fail,  it would not be a rock but a quicksand.  Moreover St. Peter was appointed shepherd of the apostles and the faithful in these words of our Lord: "Feed My lambs, feed My sheep" (John xxi. 15, 17), and he received power to confirm his brethren in the faith (Luke xxii. 32).  If then the Pope were to teach error, our Lord's promise would have come to naught.  Decisions in matters of doctrine were held in the greatest reverence from the earliest times.  When the Roman See condemned and 417 the errors of Pelagius. St. Augustine cried out: "Rome has spoken; the cause is at an end."  And St. Cyprian says: “No heretics can gain admittance to the Church."  Even general councils call the Bishop of Rome "the father and teacher of all Christians" (Council of Florence, 1439), and the Roman Church "The Mother and Teacher of the faithful".  (Council the of Lateran, iv., 1215);  of course the Church understood here is the teaching, the "hearing” Church having no claim to teach.  The Pope must be infallible for this reason, too, that "he has full power to govern the whole Church" (Council of Florence); for with this power is necessarily linked authority to teach.  The supreme teaching office of the Church involves infallibility in accordance with the divine promise of the assistance of the Holy Ghost.  In consequence of this the decisions of the Pope are infallible of themselves, quite independently of the consent of the bishops (Council of Vatican, iv. 4).  Were it otherwise the rock (or successor of St. Peter) would derive its strength in solidity from the building raised upon it (the Church).  It would, however, be quite wrong to assert that the Pope is infallible in all things; for he is a man and can make mistakes as other men in writing, speaking, etc..  He can also commit sin as other men, and unhappily some of the Popes led very scandalous lives.  When the Pope gives a decision on a doctrinal matter, it is Christ Who keeps him from error by the agency of the Holy Ghost; moreover the bishops are always consulted before any such decision is given.  Addresses to pilgrims, letters to king's and princes, the brief of suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773 are not infallible pronouncements.  Doctrinal decisions are usually accompanied by sentence of excommunication against those who refuse to submit to them; hence such decisions are binding for all Catholics.  Although the Pope is infallible in his solemn decisions, general councils are not for that reason superfluous; for they confer a greater external solemnity on the Popes decrees, and the teaching of the Church can be more thoroughly examined in these assemblies.  Hence these general councils may, under certain circumstances, be necessarily as well as useful.  Even the apostles held a general council at Jerusalem, though each single apostle was infallible in his office as teacher. 


3.  The Church pronounces infallible  judgments and the following cases: on doctrines of faith and morals and their meaning and interpretation, on the Holy Scripture and Tradition and their interpretation.


                        If, for instance, the Church declares that the punishments of hell are eternal, the declaration is infallible, for is made on a doctrine of faith; or again if it declare that the observation of Sunday is a command of God, the declaration turns on teaching with regard to morals and is therefore infallible .  Christ made a special promise to His apostles that the Holy Ghost should teach them all truth (John xvi. 13); in other words that the Holy Ghost would teach them all truth bearing on religion; and that religion included morality as well as belief may be gathered from the words of Christ just before His ascent into heaven: "Going there for teach ye all nations. . .  teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you"  (Matt. xxviii. 19, 20), and with regard to this last order He promised them the assistance of the Holy Ghost, and consequently, infallibility.  Since the Church derives her doctrine from two sources, Holy Scripture and Tradition, it must be infallible in its interpretation of both.


Moreover, it is certain that the Church is infallible when it declares that any given opinion on faith or morals is contrary to revealed teaching, as also in the canonization of saints.


It is the common opinion of theologians that the Church is infallible in judging whether a proposition is opposed to revealed teaching.  If, for example, the Church were to condemn the assertion that man is the offspring of a pair of apes as contrary to the revelation, it would be acting quite within the limits of its infallibility, and on a subject most intimately connected with revealed doctrine.  If the Church can see truth it must also be able to recognize error.  From the earliest times the Church has condemned error, whether taught by writing or by word of mouth.  At the Council of Nicća (325), the errors of Arius were condemned by the bishops.  Up to the present day the Pope has continually condemned books which have attacked faith or morals; and this could not have been unless God had conferred such powers.  Any mistake in either beautifying or canonizing seems well-nigh impossible even on natural grounds, on account of the strict examination insisted on.  By the act of canonization, the veneration is of a saint, and so to a certain extent the  acknowledgement of the Church’s belief in him, is imposed on the faithful, and he is then officially recognized in the Church’s offices, as in the Mass and Breviary; hence if anyone not a saint were declared holy, the whole church would approve an error.  Such a supposition is impossible.  Pope Benedict the XIV.  declares on his own experience in these cases of the assistance of the Holy Spirit in removing insuperable difficulties which beset a process, or, on the other hand, in breaking it off entirely.  Finally the Church in its decisions whether of beautification canonization is dealing with things which have the closest connection with doctrine of faith or morals.


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