Fallibility — Peter Robinson


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As a friend, who is, like me, a convert to Catholicism, put it in an email: What is a Catholic to do when the Supreme Pontiff makes statements that are, on the very face of them, preposterous?

(If you disagree with the premise–that is, if you can see some way of constructing the statement such that it isn’t, actually, preposterous–please do say so. I’d be hugely relieved.)

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  1. iDad Inactive

    Does that include abortion?

    • #31
  2. user_1938 Inactive


    Perhaps the Holy Father is preparing the Vatican accountants for the liquidation of the Church’s treasures, and their immediate distribution to the poor? Would be a monumental good faith gesture.

    Treasures which would not continue to exist if the Church did not preserve them and restore them to good condition at considerable expense. There might indeed be room for criticism in this, but the Vatican is not as wealthy as it appears. 

    • #32
  3. doc molloy Inactive
    doc molloy

    Sheik.. A lot of fatwa that would do..

    • #33
  4. doc molloy Inactive
    doc molloy

    Try again..
    Sheik.. A lot of fatwa that would do..

    • #34
  5. doc molloy Inactive
    doc molloy

    Not happening for reply to CandE..

    • #35
  6. tabula rasa Inactive
    tabula rasa

    I’m not Catholic, so this is merely an observation from a friendly outside observer. 

    Deep religious doctrine doesn’t lend itself to tweeting because it is tone-deaf to context. In doing so on such a touchy, nuanced subject, Pope Francis creates unnecessary contention.  Let’s just chalk it up to a rookie mistake.

    • #36
  7. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart


    Well, I ain’t Catholic, but I’m pretty sure that Tweets aren’t covered by Papal infallibility.

    Seriously, remember, once Benedict got onto Twitter he couldn’t keep his head in his job and had to resign.

    • #37
  8. user_86050 Inactive

    Oh, good grief, relax.

    There’s no such thing as a theological Tweet-ise. He wasn’t issuing theology or declaring any economic agendas. It was a tweet.

    • #38
  9. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler

    I’m not Catholic, so I never considered the man infallible. And I wouldn’t presume to know whether this falls under the infallibility doctrine or not.

    But this tweet goes well beyond a “mistake”. It reveals a belief in an anti-property rights collectivism that is at best fatuous, and at worst evil. I would have hoped the leader of a major world religion could tell the difference between right and wrong.

    • #39
  10. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue

    Peter- great way to crash that post-Canonization Mass Euphoria there (schreibt der Protestant). It’s a fatuous statement betraying profound economic illiteracy. And it is borderline unbiblical unless clarified.

    • #40
  11. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England


    What disappoints me most about Pope Francis is not necessarily his message (although I do not agree with the premise of this Tweet), but how delivers it.

    Popes should be allowed to make controversial statements. But given their incredible influence, when popes do voice controversial opinions they need to be explained in detail, not tweeted or whispered as one-liners to journalists on a plane flight. For a pope to drop such an ideological bomb without explaining his underlying reasoning is the intellectual equivalent of a hit-and-run.

    Pope Benedikt XVI also managed to ruffle some feathers, but to his credit he spilled enough ink in his treatises to let the world fully understand his thinking.

     No, he’s explained these views in detail, repeatedly. They don’t become any more compatible with Catholic doctrine or the bible when he does. To be fair to him, he seems fairly open about this; he suggests in Evangelii Gaudium #53 that his repudiation of Christ’s parables condemning those who condemn inequality constitute a new commandment.
    Paul tells us how to respond to new teachings that contradict the old in 2 Corinthians 11 and Galatians 1.

    • #41
  12. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist

    Peter, in my commiseration, all I can come up with is I hope some intern in the bowels of the Vatican is responsible for this tweet and we can write it off as the sentiments of some adolescent utopian liberal. That’s certainly how it reads.

    Otherwise, we’ll just have to do as Scott Wilmot suggests in #24.

    • #42
  13. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England

    There’s a similar tweet expressing a frequent but manifestly false papal thought here (don’t read the ignorant responses).
    “Consumerism has accustomed us to waste. But throwing food away is like stealing it from the poor and hungry.”
    While in the instance you post about and in that tweet, Francis is restating claims he’s made repeatedly and at length, KC is right that tweets are not always super reliable.

    For instance, this  tweet sounds odd in English, where it appears to be a novel description of atonement etc. “No one saves oneself. The community is essential.” In Latin and Spanish, though, it’s a much less surprising “Nadie se salva solo. La dimensión comunitaria es esencial en la vida cristiana.”

    With the tweet you quote, while the English reads like a lot of Francis’ texts, the latin radicalizes the statement further by dropping the qualifier “social”  (although its “inequality” is also odd). Just “Iniquitas radix malorum.” Boom. I suspect that the variant message was unintended (the Spanish version has the qualifier). Until the Vatican learns to use twitter, I’m not sure that his tweets will be worth paying much attention to.

    • #43
  14. user_536506 Member

    Pope Francis, the author of “The Joy of the Gospel”, preached recently that we are afraid of joy. Easter shows us that Jesus has risen but we are afraid of being close to him because this gives us joy. This joy is a  challenge to us: it calls us to be a saint. The inequality of the unborn discarded in abortion is a social evil. The inequality of opportunity for so many is a social evil. The Holy Father seems to me to be a man of joy who embraces St. John Paul II’s call to “be not afraid”.

    I will admit that many of Pope Francis’s off the cuff statements make me cringe initially. But like those statements, instead of reading this tweet as some bizarre take on income inequality, and responding in sadness that he has failed us, I prefer to see it as another challenge to embrace the fullness of our faith.

    • #44
  15. user_3444 Coolidge

    Western Chauvinist: I hope some intern in the bowels of the Vatican is responsible for this tweet

     I think it’s a quote from Evangelii Gaudium:

    202. The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good order of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises. Welfare projects, which meet certain urgent needs, should be considered merely temporary responses. As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.

    Slightly different translation, but same gist.  So it probably is some staffer at the Vatican responsible for the tweet, but he’s quoting from the Pope’s earlier document that we already debated at length when it came out.

    Basically this is old news.

    • #45
  16. user_3444 Coolidge

    Hartmann von Aue: It’s a fatuous statement betraying profound economic illiteracy.

    Why do people keep mentioning “economic illiteracy” when it’s not even a statement about economics?

    • #46
  17. user_3444 Coolidge

    Son of Spengler: It reveals a belief in an anti-property rights collectivism that is at best fatuous

     The Church has long supported property rights, but within limits:

    Thus the issue of ownership or property enters from the beginning into the whole of this difficult historical process. The Encyclical Rerum Novarum, which has the social question as its theme, stresses this issue also, recalling and confirming the Church’s teaching on ownership, on the right to private property even when it is a question of the means of production. The Encyclical Mater et Magistra did the same.

    The above principle, as it was then stated and as it is still taught by the Church, diverges radically from the programme of collectivism as proclaimed by Marxism and put into pratice in various countries in the decades following the time of Leo XIII’s Encyclical. 

    • #47
  18. user_3444 Coolidge

    At the same time it differs from the programme of capitalism practised by liberalism and by the political systems inspired by it. In the latter case, the difference consists in the way the right to ownership or property is understood. Christian tradition has never upheld this right as absolute and untouchable. On the contrary, it has always understood this right within the broader context of the right common to all to use the goods of the whole of creation: the right to private property is subordinated to the right to common use, to the fact that goods are meant for everyone.

    That is from Saint John Paul II’s Laborem Exercens.

    • #48
  19. George Savage Contributor
    George Savage

    I am recently returned from Ethiopia were, alas, the equality realized by the Derg remains largely undisturbed nearly a quarter-century after communism’s evanescence as a global force for hope and change.

    I doubt that Pope Francis realizes that Ethiopia’s forty-year obsession with equality has united Addis Ababa residents in squalor; uniformly denying millions adequate shelter, sanitary facilities, clean water, basic healthcare or paying jobs.  

    But the state continues to own every parcel of land in this country of 93 million people, which certainly seems equal.  Consequently, most citizens are too poor and sick to care overmuch about “social evil.”


    • #49
  20. user_1184 Member

    Joseph Stanko, will you knock it off with your balanced views and reasonable tone?

    • #50
  21. Podkayne of Israel Inactive
    Podkayne of Israel

    As a Jew, I have no skin in the Papal infallibility game. But I thought the rule was that the Pope is only infallible when he speaks ex cathedra on matters concerning, what, canon law? I was under the impression that infallibility does not include offhand remarks, weather predictions, and the like.

    • #51
  22. Podkayne of Israel Inactive
    Podkayne of Israel

    VooDoo:. Popes are ‘infallible’ only under certain fairly tight circumstances, 99.99999% of what the pope says/writes do not fall under it. The issue must: “concern a doctrine of faith or morals; it must bind the universal Church; and it must be proposed as something to be held firmly and immutably”.

    Sorry I neglected to read this, VooDoo. It’s just so darn hard to skim through multiple pages of comments on 2.0.

    Peter, from one reasonably obedient member of an authority-based faith to another, I wouldn’t get your ritual fringes in a knot over this. Examine your conscience and give more charity.

    • #52
  23. Podkayne of Israel Inactive
    Podkayne of Israel

    An equal portion of goat droppings will still be goat droppings.

    • #53
  24. user_3444 Coolidge

     Yes Podkayne, VooDoo is correct.  Here’s an example of what that looks like in practice:

    44. For which reason, after we have poured forth prayers of supplication again and again to God, and have invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, for the glory of Almighty God who has lavished his special affection upon the Virgin Mary, for the honor of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the Victor over sin and death, for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church; by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

    45. Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith.

    • #54
  25. user_3444 Coolidge

    That would be Pope Pius XII defining the dogma of the Assumption in 1950.  I believe none of the popes since then have said or written anything that intended to invoke this highest level of papal authority.

    I read somewhere once that St. John Paul II (I love writing the saint part!) had considered issuing an infallible declaration that the Church could not ordain women as priests, but that Cardinal Ratzinger (the future Pope Benedict) talked him out of it.  But I forget my source and I’m not sure it was ever confirmed anyway, it may have just been a rumor.

    • #55
  26. user_536506 Member

    Joseph Stanko:

    I read somewhere once that St. John Paul II (I love writing the saint part!) had considered issuing an infallible declaration that the Church could not ordain women as priests, …

    In Ordinatio Sacerdotalis St. John Paul II wrote:

    4. “Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.

    Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

    It may not be ex cathedra, but it seems pretty clear to me.

    • #56
  27. Goldgeller Member

    I have a good deal of respect for the office of the Pope. And I wish Pope Francis well. But I find the statement a bit confusing. Doesn’t the Bible trace the root of evil to “the love of money”? 
     It doesn’t make sense that inequality is the root of social evil or social ills. The inequality between someone living on $2 a day in the third world and the average poor person on welfare (with TV PS4 and iPhone) is not the problem. The problem is that the person making $2 a day is poor and struggling for sustenance. The inequality between myself (middle class) and Bill Gates is by no means problematic. 
    The main issue is really poverty and compassion.

    • #57
  28. Misthiocracy Member

    George Savage: I doubt that Pope Francis realizes that Ethiopia’s forty-year obsession with equality has united Addis Ababa residents in squalor; uniformly denying millions adequate shelter, sanitary facilities, clean water, basic healthcare or paying jobs.  

    We in the West do not yet live in equal squalor. That’s the problem (according to progs).

    • #58
  29. She Member

    True Blue:

    What the heck does “social evil” even mean? How does it I differ from regular evil?

     Oh, probably about as much as ”social justice” differs from regular justice . . . .

    • #59
  30. Severely Ltd. Inactive
    Severely Ltd.

    Well, he does have a way with words. It’s not easy to distill Marxist thinking down to a single phrase.

    • #60
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