Please read my previous post first on the difference between reliability and authority.
Does the Church command belief? It would seem so. In order for a teaching to be infallible, it must be said to be binding on all the faithful, which may involve formulae such as that X is definitely to be held or that those who deny X shall be anathema. This sounds like command language. “Believe this because we said so.” However, it is possible to read the intent in another way, that the command-like language is a performance to show that the Church’s infallibility now covers the proposition in question. “We’re sure X is true, and being a Catholic you know that we don’t make mistakes when we speak this way.” Here the appeal is to intellect rather than will. Believe any consistent set of beliefs you like, but Catholicism + not-X has just been removed from this list, because Catholicism contains the proposition “infallible teachings can’t be wrong” and X is now an infallible teaching. So, whatever reason you had for accepting Catholicism is now ipso facto a reason for accepting X.
Thus, I object to the following from Lumen Gentium
In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.
If a teaching of the pope is not certainly known, why must we all believe it? This is authority dictating belief. “Believe this, not because we’re willing to say it’s definitely true, but just because you have to do what we say.”
This is certainly more than just a command to give the pope a respectful hearing, as dissenters used to claim. In fact, I don’t accept even this, that when the pope publishes a magisterial document contradicting revelation and exonerating adultery, as has now happened, that he should be met with anything but outrage and ridicule. Would the saints of past ages have been concerned about respect for office faced with such an abomination?
The stated duty is also more than a command not to speak against the pope’s statements. Prematurely cutting off debate is usually unwise, but the pope might decide that debate itself is damaging the confidence or fraternity of the faithful. Still, such a restriction would not command belief as does the instruction “the judgments made by him are [to be] sincerely adhered to”.
This issue has become urgent. Individual bishops used to expound their own views on non-settled doctrine until pope or council made a definitive resolution. For the past century or so, the papacy has been routinely issuing official, magisterial statements which clearly establish official beliefs for the entire Church but do not meet the conditions for infallibility. Thus, we have teachings which, in addition to being official and of questionable connection to the deposit of infallible revelation, are quite novel: that everyone has a right to immigrate, that the death penalty can only be imposed when societal self-defense requires it, that the Church has a duty to ecumenism, that the Old Covenant has not been superseded, that in-vitro fertilization is immoral, that racial discrimination is immoral, and now that adulterers have a duty to render the adultery debt.
Such was a danger of Vatican I. Introducing the dogma of infallible teaching introduces the idea of non-infallible teaching. This prompts the faithful to wonder what of the teachings they’ve been given falls into this category, which is bad enough, but when the pope gets it into his head that he needn’t always be right, he gets careless. He thinks he is exercising restraint by leaving his pronouncements fallible, but he is really over-using his authority. The pre-Vatican I Church had many infallible dogmas, but few commanded beliefs, while we now have many.
I myself have lost the ability to extend any credit at all to the non-infallible Magisterium, especially with the lewd old heretic currently occupying Peter’s chair. This is not a state I recommend to anyone. It jeopardizes my communion with the Church. It may well be the prelude to a more general collapse of faith. But I find it beyond my power to force myself to believe things, especially the things I’m now being ordered to believe.
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