“Quoting a Roman Catholic” – Luther W. Martin

Luther W. Martin

If it is about the Catholics, ask a Catholic,” is an expression which has been used by those under Papal dominion. They seem to consider it unfair if some non-Catholic is quoted or referred to as a basis of some position or statement in the discussion of the Roman Church. Consequently, in this article, it is our intention to copy directly from a Catholic scholar concerning some issues upon which we do not agree.

First, may we remind our readers that it was on July 13, 1870, that the doctrine of Papal Infallibility was voted upon. Previous to this session there had been as many as 744 Council Members in attendance, but only 601 were present when it was brought to a vote. Four hundred fifty one voted “yes,” 88 voted “no” and 62 voted “yes with amendments.” On July 16, 1870, an amendment was added to state that the Pope’s infallibility did not rest upon nor issue from the consent of the church. On July 17, 1870, 56 bishops sent a written protest to the Pope. The evening of that same day, 116 bishops left Rome, rather than vote upon the question. On July 18, 1870, the final session of the Vatican Council met and voted upon the issue. Only 536 of the original 744 were present. Five hundred thirty-three voted “yes” and two voted “no.”

From the above factual information, it is evident that there was considerable division and dissension in the ranks of the Vatican Council, and thus within the Roman Church herself, over the Papal Infallibility question. Objectively, the diverse views on the subject in 1870 might have been classified as follows: (1) Those who regarded the belief in Papal Infallibility as a necessity, and any view to the contrary as heresy. (2) Those who desired the doctrine but who respected those who opposed it up to the time of its dogmatic definition as good Catholics. (3) Those who personally accepted the truth of the doctrine, but denied the opportuneness of declaring it as an article of faith. (4) This class comprised the immense majority of Catholics at that time, who had formed no personal opinion either for or against the doctrine. (5) This group was willing to submit to the doctrine although up to that time, had not been able to convince themselves of its truth. (6) Those who opposed the doctrine of Papal Infallibility to such an extent that they doubted the ecumenical character of any Council that might promulgate such a dogma. (7) The last group so opposed the idea of Papal Infallibility, that they also rejected the infallibility of the Roman Church itself, Council and all.

Among those Catholic subjects who were not willing to submit to the new doctrine of Papal Infallibility, was Dr. John Joseph Ignatius Dollinger, who was at the time, professor in the University of Munich. Dr. Dollinger had been a Roman Catholic priest since the year 1822. The following spring of 1871, after the Vatican Council had disbanded, Dr. Dollinger was summoned by his bishop to submit his adhesion to the dogma of Papal Infallibility within ten days. He refused to accept the doctrine for the reason that it is irreconcilable with the scriptures as interpreted by the Fathers, and with the beliefs and tradition of churchmen in all ages; it is supported principally by forged, documents; is contradicted by the doctrines published by two general councils and several popes in the 15th century; is incompatible with the constitution of Bavaria and several other European States; was enacted by a council which was not free; and tends to the repression of man’s intellectual activity and to a temporal and spiritual terrorism. Dr. Dollinger was, therefore, excommunicated. He was no novice, he had been a Roman Catholic priest and scholar for almost a half-century. Consequently, when we quote from his writings, we are “Quoting A Catholic.”

Dr. Dollinger On Forgeries

…In the middle of the 9th century — about 846 — arose the huge fabrication of the Isidorian decretals, which had results far beyond what its author contemplated, and gradually, but surely, changed the whole constitution and government of the Church. It would be difficult to find in all history a second instance of so successful, and yet so clumsy a forgery. For three centuries past it has been exposed, yet the principles it introduced and brought into practice have taken such deep root in the soil of the Church, and have so grown into her life, that the exposure of the fraud has produced no result in shaking the dominant system.

About a hundred pretended decrees of the earliest Popes, together with certain spurious writings of other Church dignitaries and acts of Synods, were then fabricated in the west of Gaul, and eagerly seized upon by Pope Nicolas I. at Rome, to be used as genuine documents in support of the new claims put forward by himself and his successors. The immediate object of the compiler of this forgery was to protect bishops against their metropolitans and other authorities, so as to secure absolute impunity, and the exclusion of all influence of the secular power. This end was to be gained through such an immense extension of the Papal power, that, as these principles gradually penetrated the Church, and were followed out into their consequences, she necessarily assumed the form of an absolute monarchy subjected to the arbitrary power of a single individual, and the foundation of the edifice of Papal Infallibility was already laid — first, by the principle that the decrees of every Council require Papal confirmation: secondly, by the assertion that the fulness of power, even in matters of faith, resides in the Pope alone, who is bishop of the universal Church, while the other bishops are servants.

Now, if the Pope is really the bishop of the whole Church, so that every other bishop is his servant, he, who is the sole and legitimate mouth of the Church, ought to be infallible. If the decrees of Councils are invalid without Papal confirmation, the divine attestation of a doctrine undeniably rests in the last resort on the word of one man, and the notion of the absolute power of that one man over the whole Church includes that of his infallibility, as the shell contains the kernel. With perfect consistency, therefore, the Psuedo-Isidore makes his early Popes say: ‘The Roman Church remains to the end free from stain of heresy.’

Formerly all learned students of ecclesiastical antiquity and canon-law—men like DeMarca, Baluze, Constant, Gibert, Berardi, Zallwein, etc.—were agreed that the change introduced by the psuedo-Isidore was a substantial one, that it displaced the old system of Church government and brought in the new. Modern writers have maintained that the compiler of the forgery only meant to codify the existing state of things, and give it a formal status, and that the same development would have taken place without his trick. The truth is:

First, Before his fabrication many very efficacious forgeries had won a gradual recognition at Rome since the beginning of the sixth century; and on them was based the maxim that the Pope, as supreme in the Church, could be judged by no man.

Secondly, The Isidorian doctrine contradicted itself, for it aimed at two things which were mutually incompatible, — the complete independence and impunity of bishops on the one hand, and the advancement of Papal power on the other. The first point it sought to effect by such strange and unpractical rules that they never attained any real vitality, while, on the contrary, the principles about the power of the Roman See worked their way, and became dominant under favorable circumstances, but with a result greatly opposed to the views of Isidore, by bringing the bishops into complete subjection to Rome. But that the psuedo-Isidorian principles eventually revolutionized the whole constitution of the Church, and introduced a new system in place of the old—on that point there can be no controversy among candid historians.

At the time when the forged decretals began to be widely known, the See of Rome was occupied by Nicolas I (858-867), a Pope who exceeded all his predecessors in the audacity of his designs. Favored and protected by the break-up of the empire of Charles the Great, he met East and West alike with the firm resolution of pressing to the uttermost every claim of any one of his predecessors, and pushing the limits of the Roman supremacy to the point of absolute monarchy. By a bold but non-natural torturing of a single word against the sense of a whole code of law, he managed to give a turn to a canon of a General Council, excluding all appeals to Rome, as though it opened to the whole clergy in East and West a right of appeal to Rome, and made the Pope the supreme judge of all bishops and clergy of the whole world (Canon 17 of Chalcedon, which speaks of appeals to the primas dioceseos, i.e., one of the Eastern patriarchs, not a civil ruler, as Baxmann thinks (Politik der Pabste, ii. 13).

Nicolas said the singular meant the plural, dioceseos and that the primate meant the Pope—a notion which would not seem worth a reply in Constantinople. He wrote this to the Eastern Emperor, to the Frankish King, Charles, and to all the Frankish bishops. And he referred the Orientals, and so sharp-sighted a man as Photius, to these fabrications fathered on Popes Silvester and Sixtus, which were thenceforth used for centuries, and gained the Roman Church the oft-repeated reproach from the Greeks, of being the native home of inventions and falsifications of documents. Soon after, receiving the new implements forged in the Isidorian workshop (about 863 or 864), Nicolas met the doubts of the Frankish bishops with the assurance that the Roman Church had long preserved all those documents with honor in her archives, and that every writing of a Pope, even if not part of the Dionysian collection of canons was binding on the whole Church. In a Synod at Rome in 863 he had accordingly anathematized all who should refuse to receive the teaching or ordinances of a Pope.” (Pages 76-80, The Pope and the Council, written by Dr. J.J.I. Dollinger, under the pen name Janus).

I know that Dr. Dollinger is accepted by Roman Catholic authorities, because Bertrand L. Conway, quoted from two of Dollinger’s works in The Question Box.

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