Is the Roman Pontiff infallible in his ordinary magisterium? Chapter VI of nineteenth-century work by theologian J.M.A. Vacant

The Ordinary Magisterium of the Church and its Organs – J.M.A. Vacant, 1887
Introduction & Chapter I: The ordinary and universal magisterium in general
Chapter II: The ministers or organs of the ordinary magisterium
Chapter IIIa: How the ordinary magisterium expresses itself (explicitly)
Chapter IIIb: How the ordinary magisterium expresses itself (implicitly and tacitly)
Chapter IVa: The obligations imposed by the ordinary magisterium – how it does so
Chapter IVb: Can the ordinary magisterium create new obligations?
Chapter V: The doctrinal authority of episcopal magisterium
Chapter VI and Conclusion: The Pope’s personal exercise of the ordinary magisterium

The WM Review is pleased to present here a translated section from the French text of J.M.A. Vacant’s 1887 study The Ordinary Magisterium of the Church and its Organs. To our knowledge, this may be the first time that it has been published in English.

Vacant was a professor at the major seminary of Nancy, France, and the Dictionnaire de théologie catholique was commenced under his directorship. This study comes with the authorization of the Bishop of Nancy and the Archbishop of Paris.

Photo: Pope Pius IX on a papal train. Source

While his name is not well known today, this work is cited – not always in agreement – by various writers since Vatican I. For example, Cardinal Charles Journet, Fr Joachim Salaverri SJ and Dom Paul Nau OSB all engage with this study.

The Ordinary and Universal Magisterium

This section deals with the question as to whether the Roman Pontiff exercises what is called an ordinary and universal magisterium.

Vatican I taught the following:

Wherefore, by divine and catholic faith all those things are to be believed which are contained in the word of God as found in scripture and tradition, and which are proposed by the church as matters to be believed as divinely revealed, whether by her solemn judgment or in her ordinary and universal magisterium.[1]

Canon George Smith explains his understanding of this text:

“It is by no means uncommon to find the option, if not expressed at least entertained, that no doctrine is to be regarded as a dogma of faith unless it has been solemnly defined by an oecumenical Council or by the Sovereign Pontiff himself. This is by no means necessary.

“It is sufficient that the Church teaches it by her ordinary magisterium, exercised through the Pastors of the faithful, the Bishops whose unanimous teaching throughout the Catholic world, whether conveyed expressly through pastoral letters, catechisms issued by episcopal authority, provincial synods, or implicitly through prayers and religious practices allowed or encouraged, or through the teaching of approved theologians, is no less infallible than a solemn definition issued by a Pope or a general Council.

“If, then, a doctrine appears in these organs of divine Tradition as belonging directly or indirectly to the depositum fidei committed by Christ to His Church, it is to be believed by Catholics with divine-Catholic or ecclesiastical faith, even though it may never have formed the subject of a solemn definition in an oecumenical Council or of an ex cathedra pronouncement by the Sovereign Pontiff.”[2]

The universal and ordinary magisterium is sometimes conceived of as universal in that it comes from a moral unanimity of residential bishops, with the pope, whose teaching compels the universal Church to assent.

But the teaching Church cannot compel the universal Church to assent to error: the Church is, in fact, infallibly protected from such a thing. Therefore theses proposed in this way, as being of divine faith (a common example is that of the existence of guardian angels) are infallible.

Vacant’s Thesis

Vacant’s study addresses this topic in detail, but the section which we are presenting addresses the following particular question:

Given that the Roman Pontiff has jurisdiction and teaching authority over the universal church, and given that he has the power to compel assent to his ordinary magisterium from this universal Church – does he therefore have the power to exercise an ordinary and universal magisterium alone? And is this papal ordinary and universal magisterium also infallible?

The question is not asking whether every act of the pope is infallible – nor even if all of his teaching acts are infallible. The terms of the question are very specific, and are also answered in similar terms by Cardinal Billot, Mgr Fenton, Salaverri and others.

Avery Dulles claims that these views have been “effectively refuted.” It is true that the original discussions of an equivalence between the infallibility of the Church and the Pope referred not to the Pope having a “papal ordinary and universal magisterium”, but rather his infallibility extending to the secondary objects of the magisterium. However, this remain an important and interesting text.

This extract is not the last word on the subject, and it presents problems which later theologians clarified. But simply waving this thesis away without engagement is evidence of a lack of arguments.


The question for Vacant is this: Do we believe that the Church is, as Van Noort writes, “infallible so that it may be a trustworthy teacher of the Christian religion and of the Christian way of life”? [3] Does the Church teach the truth, or does she just contain the fullness of truth, always alongside more or less error – with it being incumbent on each individual to assess her teaching in order to accept what is true and reject what is false?

Infallibility is a charism, very closely linked to the final end of the Church as a safe teacher and guide. It is a negative charism, in that it prevents the given subject (e.g., the Church, the pope, a council) from teaching error in a certain set of circumstances. This prevention is not an inhibition of free will: the ability to sin or to err is not properly freedom, nor would we say that something like our Lady’s confirmation in grace inhibited her free will.

This charism is given to the Church and her visible head for the reasons that Van Noort says – to establish her as a trustworthy teacher. Could we still hold to this idea if we accept that the pope can command the universal Church to assent, in a definitive way, to errors of faith and morals? In what sense is the Church a safe guide if this is so?

This raises the greater and more thorny problem of what constitutes a “definition” in this context. Vacant has his perspective, but there are others too.

Today, some seek to explain the present crisis by asserting that “in the non-infallible ordinary Magisterium there may be errors and even, in exceptional cases, heretical formulations.”[4] This raises further problems. It suggests that the Church is an untrustworthy guide for the simple, and requires the more educated to always check whether a given teaching is in conformity with her constant magisterium before giving assent.

While there is possibly a lacuna in the Church’s received theology around the idea of “non-infallible teaching”, this traditional theology does not give us anything like a certainty that the ordinary (or “authentic”) magisterium may actually teach heresy, and it is unclear what sort of errors might be possible for a fallible magisterium.

With thanks to Les Amis du Christ Roi de France for granting us the permission to publish this translation from their published text in French.

The Editors




Master of Theology, Professor at the Major Seminary of Nancy

Printed with the permission of the Bishop of Nancy and the Archbishop of Paris.



Translated via DeepL and amended by The WM Review


The Ordinary Magisterium of the Church and its Organs – J.M.A. Vacant, 1887
Introduction & Chapter I: The ordinary and universal magisterium in general
Chapter II: The ministers or organs of the ordinary magisterium
Chapter IIIa: How the ordinary magisterium expresses itself (explicitly)
Chapter IIIb: How the ordinary magisterium expresses itself (implicitly and tacitly)
Chapter IVa: The obligations imposed by the ordinary magisterium – how it does so
Chapter IVb: Can the ordinary magisterium create new obligations?
Chapter V: The doctrinal authority of episcopal magisterium
Chapter VI and Conclusion: The Pope’s personal exercise of the ordinary magisterium

VI. The Sovereign Pontiff’s Personal Participation in the Exercise of the Ordinary Magisterium

According to the Gallicans, the definitions of the Supreme Pontiff are irreformable only after they have been sanctioned by the consent of the bishops, and it is from this sanction that they derive their infallibility. The Vatican Council condemned this doctrine as heretical : it is now a matter of faith that the definitions of the Supreme Pontiff are infallible by themselves. The magisterium of the successor of St. Peter is therefore infallible, by itself, whenever it imposes on the whole Church a doctrine which relates to faith or morals.

Now, it is necessary to ask whether this personal infallibility is given to the Pope only in his solemn judgments on faith, or whether Jesus Christ has not also promised it to the ordinary and daily magisterium of the successor of Saint Peter.

We have seen that the episcopal body is infallible in the daily magisterium which it exercises with the Pope, and that consequently the Pope, the head of the episcopal body, is infallible in the magisterium which he exercises with the body of dispersed bishops. It is useless to return to this point. But can we not distinguish between the ordinary magisterium of the episcopate united to the Pope and the ordinary personal magisterium of the Supreme Pontiff, just as we distinguish between the solemn judgments of the Councils and those of the Popes? I think so. I am therefore going to put forward a proposition which I have not hitherto read in express terms in any work, but which seems to me to be in conformity with the doctrine of all the authors who have upheld the infallibility of the Pope, namely, that the Pope exercises his infallible magisterium personally not only by solemn judgments, but also by an ordinary magisterium which extends perpetually to all truths obligatory for the whole Church.

I cannot support this assertion with authorities, so it must be supported with arguments.

The Supreme Pontiff, as I have noted, communicates some of his powers to a great number of organs which serve as his instruments. Thus he involves the Patriarchs and Metropolitans, the Catholic universities and especially the Roman congregations in his ministry as supreme doctor. Some theologians maintain that the doctrinal decisions of the Roman congregations, approved by the Supreme Pontiff, are infallible. The supporters of this opinion might regard the infallibility which they accord to these decisions as a proof that the exercise of the ordinary magisterium of the Supreme Pontiff is infallible; for these decisions are not solemn judgments. But the sentiment which admits the infallibility of congregations does not seem to me to be well founded. It seems to me, in fact, that the Supreme Pontiff can exercise by delegates the functions which belong to him, in his own right, by divine right; but that it is not in his power to communicate his infallibility; that he can oblige us to submit, even interiorly, to the doctrinal decisions of the congregations, but that he cannot attach infallibility to these decisions, unless he promulgates them in his own name and makes them pontifical definitions. This is the feeling of Cardinal Franzelin (De divina Traditione, th. XII, corol. II, p. 128) who has studied the question thoroughly. Although the decrees of the Roman Congregations are acts by which the Holy See exercises part of its ordinary magisterium, it is therefore not possible to attribute to these decrees the continual infallibility promised by the Saviour to St. Peter.

But does not the Vicar of Jesus Christ personally exercise the ordinary magisterium in all its forms every day? Does he not exercise it by the express teaching of doctrine, by the implicit teaching which is expressed in discipline and liturgy, and finally by the teaching which we have called tacit and by the maintenance of all the rules which are imposed on the faith and adherence of the Church? I will try to demonstrate this.

Definitions may be considered as types of solemn judgments if they are clothed with every form suitable for expressing clearly either the truth which is their subject, or the intention of the Pope to impose them on the faith or the assent of the whole Church. Such was, for example, the definition of the Immaculate Conception.

On the other hand, the exercise of the ordinary magisterium can be found in a host of acts in which these forms are not observed. We have examples of this in the talks which the Pope has with the bishops who come to make their ad limina Apostolorum visit, when these talks concern the doctrine to be taught. We can see others in the recitals of solemn definitions. Indeed, as Cardinal Franzelin remarks (De Traditione, p. 148), these recitals are not solemn judgments, but they are assertions that cannot be questioned without great temerity. Let us add that they express the current doctrine, that is, the daily and ordinary teaching of the Holy See.

Now, there are many pontifical acts which are more or less similar, some to solemn judgments, others to daily teaching, and if a complete list were to be drawn up, it would be impossible to mark, in this list, the point at which the ordinary magisterium begins and that at which the solemn judgments cease. Indeed, since the characteristics of these judgments are manifold, many pontifical acts are clothed with only some of these characteristics. For example, should the various apostolic letters which are not addressed to all the bishops of the world, the consistorial allocutions, and those which the Supreme Pontiff pronounces in certain public audiences, be classed among the solemn judgments or among the acts of the daily Magisterium? I will not try to determine this. What is certain is that these acts do not fulfil all the external and, if I may say so, formal conditions which characterise the solemn definitions I have taken as a type. They are, therefore, to some extent akin to the ordinary and daily magisterium; for, I beg the reader to remember, it is not the substance and authority of the teachings, but their form and the manner in which they are presented, which make all the difference between solemn judgements and the ordinary magisterium.

Nor should we forget that Pius IX had a famous document published which, it is generally agreed,[5] does not meet the conditions required by canonists for authentic laws. The Syllabus, in fact, was not written by Pius IX himself. It is a summary of the principal errors of our time, pointed out in the consistorial allocutions, encyclicals and other apostolic letters of this Pope, which he ordered to be sent, together with his encyclical Quanta cura, to all the bishops of the world, in order, said Cardinal Antonelli, that they might have before their eyes all these condemned errors. Let us note the character of this document. Pius IX had taught the doctrine of the Holy See in letters which had not been addressed to all the bishops, nor posted in the manner customary for the promulgation of laws; he had taught it in allocutions which had been known to the Catholic world only through the press; he had repeatedly returned to these teachings; in all these acts he was manifestly exercising the ordinary magisterium which we have called express. But he feared that these repeated teachings would remain unknown to a part of the episcopate, and, in order to make them known to the whole Catholic world, he had a summary drawn up[6] which served as a doctrinal rule for the dispersed bishops. He could have proposed this summary to the Church in a solemn definition; he preferred to have it sent to all the bishops with his encyclical Quanta cura. The Syllabus is therefore a document in which the Pope exercised his ordinary magisterium, addressing the whole Church by virtue of his sovereign authority.

But, it may be asked, can these acts of the Pope’s daily magisterium be infallible? Yes; for we find in them doctrines which the ordinary magisterium imposes, by these very acts, on the faith or assent of all Catholics. This is what Pius IX declared when he stated that he had condemned the principal errors of our time in several encyclicals, as well as in consistorial allocutions and other Apostolic letters which had been published;[7] for to condemn an error is to forbid adherence to it, and when the Pope makes such a defence by virtue of his supreme authority, he does so infallibly, in whatever form his act may be dressed.

As regards the Syllabus in particular, Pius IX did not formally impose it by a solemn judgment; but exercising his ordinary magisterium, he manifested his will that it should serve as a rule for the daily teaching of the bishops, and that it should, therefore, be accepted by the whole Church as containing the doctrine of the Holy See. On the other hand, the bishops of the whole world have given their adhesion to this document. The Syllabus is therefore infallible. Many theologians have therefore classified it as an ex cathedra definition.

If, in fact, the name of ex cathedra definition is applied to all the acts of the Supreme Pontiff which fulfil the conditions under which the Vatican Council declares the successor of St. Peter to be infallible, then the acts we have just mentioned must be placed among these definitions; but in this case, a distinction must be made between two kinds of ex cathedra definitions: those made by solemn decrees, and those made by the daily magisterium of the Supreme Pontiff. It is, among other reasons, for having confused solemn decrees, issued according to the rules which Canon Law requires for a law, with ex cathedra definitions, in which the conditions laid down by the Vatican Council are fulfilled, that very respectable authors have denied the infallibility of the Syllabus.[8]

Is it necessary to add that there is no reason to reject the infallibility of the Syllabus and of the teachings of the ordinary magisterium which would resemble it, because the censure deserved by each of the condemned propositions is not indicated therein, and that, in order to better understand the meaning of these propositions, it is good to have recourse to the allocutions and letters from which they are extracted, and to which the Syllabus itself refers? No; for all theologians admit the infallibility of condemnations in globo, in which a series of statements are solemnly censured, without the censure applicable to each of them being determined, and, on the other hand, we have seen above that all the teachings of the Church stand and serve to interpret each other; and these rules must be applied to the teachings of the ordinary magisterium, as well as to solemn judgments.

The ordinary magisterium of the Church is exercised not only by express teachings, but also by what we have called implicit teaching, that is, by discipline and liturgy, which can make certain dogmatic or moral truths clear to us. This is why it is certain that the Church is infallible in the general laws which she bears. Now, if we go through the Decretals and all the collections of ecclesiastical laws, we will see that most of these laws are the work of the Popes. The Supreme Pontiff therefore still exercises his ordinary magisterium personally, when he fulfils his ministry as legislator of the universal Church.

Finally, we have seen that the teaching of the dispersed Church exists perpetually, in a tacit form, through the permanent maintenance of all the doctrinal and disciplinary rules which past ages have promulgated. Now this role of silent guardian of doctrine still belongs, more than to anyone else, to the successor of St. Peter, charged with confirming his brethren in the faith. As Vicar of Jesus Christ and supreme doctor of all Christians, he makes the light of the Gospel shine throughout the universe and ensures that it is not obscured in any particular Church. In order to fulfil this role throughout the Catholic world, he has given himself organs in the patriarchs and metropolitans who preside, in his stead, over particular councils, whose decrees must, moreover, be submitted to his approval; in the universities which are under his immediate dependence; in the Roman congregations which sit around his apostolic chair, to receive the inspirations of the latter and to respond to the consultations of the whole universe. Through all these organs, Peter, immobile in the midst of Catholicity, guards the deposit of the faith everywhere and strikes down errors and heresies as soon as they arise, allowing the instruments of his authority to act as long as they are sufficient for their mission, intervening himself when necessary. He sometimes tolerates evil in some members of the mystical body of Jesus Christ, like a physician who leaves it to time to cure certain diseases; but if a doctrine were to spread throughout the Church and become established as being linked to the faith, Peter would speak to condemn it or to adopt it before it had made rapid progress; or, if he were to remain silent, his silence would have to be regarded as an assent which, according to the rules of tradition, would impose this doctrine on the belief of all. We have seen, in fact, that the Supreme Pontiffs propose to us the unanimous sentiment of theologians and the faithful as a rule to which we must conform our faith. It follows that it is by their authority that this unanimous sentiment is binding, even though it occurs without any intervention on the part of the Holy See; just as, in matters of discipline, custom clothed with the conditions marked by law has the force of law not because of the people who introduce it, but because of the legislator who tolerates and tacitly admits it. This explains the infallibility which we have attributed to the unanimous consent of the holy Fathers and theologians. It comes from the ordinary magisterium of the teaching Church, and especially from the magisterium of the Supreme Pontiff who approves their teachings formally or tacitly.

Having seen how the ordinary magisterium of the Pope proposes Christian doctrine to us, sometimes expressly, sometimes implicitly, and sometimes tacitly, it is perhaps appropriate to ask ourselves a question which we touched on earlier. Does the Vatican Council’s definition of the infallibility of the Supreme Pontiff apply to the acts in which the Pope’s daily teaching is exercised, which we have just studied?

My answer will be brief.

The definition of the Holy Council does not deal directly with the object of papal infallibility. What is of faith, in virtue of this definition, is that the Pope possesses the infallibility promised by Jesus Christ to His Church, and that, consequently, the judgments of the Supreme Pontiff on doctrine are infallible by themselves and not by the assent of the dispersed Church. Morever, it follows from this definition that in matters where it was of faith that the Church is infallible, it is of faith that the Pope is infallible as well; and that in matters where it was only certain that the Church is infallible, as for example in the case of the canonisation of saints, the infallibility of the Supreme Pontiff is simply certain.

Nevertheless, it should be noted that the Vatican Council, without having the purpose of determining the object of papal infallibility, nevertheless restricted the direct scope of its decree to the case where the Pope speaks ex cathedra, i.e. where he formally teaches a doctrine. This decree cannot therefore be applied to the implicit magisterium which the Pope exercises through disciplinary laws, let alone to his tacit magisterium. The infallibility of the Vicar of Jesus Christ in this implicit and tacit magisterium can only be established by a theological conclusion, based on the principles which justify the council’s definition. But nothing prevents the conditions of an ex cathedra definition from being fulfilled in certain express teachings of the ordinary magisterium. It would be a mistake, therefore, to think that the Vatican Fathers meant only the solemn judgments of the Supreme Pontiff.

Since we are dealing with the object of the ordinary magisterium of the Vicar of Jesus Christ, it should be observed that this object will be absolutely the same as that of the ordinary magisterium of the whole episcopal body. For this body cannot be separated from its head, and we have shown that the doctrine of the successors of the apostles will be in conformity with that of their head. It follows that the Pope and the bishops will never have more than one teaching. We can therefore ask for this teaching either from the Supreme Pontiff or from the college of bishops, since this college is infallible as well as its head. Sometimes it will be easier to judge the teaching of the bishops by that of the Pope, for it is easier to grasp the thought of one man than the thought of many. At other times, on the contrary, it will be easier to know the teaching of the Church by the dispersed bishops than by the Pope. Indeed, if the intention of the Pope to bind appears doubtful, it can be ascertained by examining the conduct of the majority of the bishops and the faithful, since the teaching of the pastors and the belief of the Christian people will always conform to the rules laid down by the Holy See.

Since the doctrine of the episcopal body cannot be at variance with that of the successor of St. Peter, and since the episcopal body is made up of the bishops who are united to the Supreme Pontiff and who act in dependence on him, it is understandable that, until now, the ordinary magisterium has been studied above all in the episcopal body. Indeed, since the infallible authority of the Supreme Pontiff was under discussion before the Vatican Council, it was natural at the time to consider the ordinary magisterium of the Church in the body of bishops dispersed and united to the Pope, rather than in the Pope considered separately.

But now that the errors of Gallicanism have been condemned, it seems appropriate to open up other avenues and to study the daily magisterium, not only in the universal Church and in the college of bishops, but also in the Roman Pontiff, who is the head of the Church and the prince of her pastors.

Conclusion (of the whole study)

We have seen that the ordinary magisterium is an infallible mode of teaching, distinct from solemn judgments, and employed by the teaching Church in her daily life with the same authority that she claims for her solemn judgments.

Examining this magisterium more thoroughly, we have recognised that it is exercised everywhere and always, by means of numerous ministers to whom the power of teaching, given to the Pope and the episcopal body by Jesus Christ, is delegated or left in various measures.

We have said that it is expressed in a thousand ways. It is exercised, in fact, either by the express teaching of Christian doctrine, or by an implicit teaching which is manifested above all in ecclesiastical discipline and in the liturgy, or finally by a tacit teaching which embraces and places at our disposal the writings of the holy Fathers, the treatises of the theologians and, in general, all the documents in which revelation is contained and in which it develops under the unceasing influence of the life of the Church.

We have also studied the obligations which the daily magisterium imposes on us. We have determined in what cases its authority is equal to that of solemn judgments. We have seen that it guards and constantly increases the treasury of truths to which we are obliged to adhere; that it clarifies what was obscure; that it makes certain and obligatory what was doubtful and free, although so far it has not gone so far as to create new dogmas of the Catholic faith; for this requires a proposition made with an insistence and clearness that is scarcely to be found in anything but solemn judgments.

We have also considered this magisterium in the members of the teaching Church. We have said that the episcopal body which has received doctrinal infallibility is formed by the Pope and the bishops who possess jurisdiction in the Catholic Church; that the majority of these bishops will always be in the truth and will continually follow the Supreme Pontiff in the authentic teaching of the doctrine of Jesus Christ, without ever taking precedence over him. Finally, we have entered upon a new path which the definition of the Vatican Council seemed to open to us; we have followed the successor of Peter personally exercising the ordinary magisterium by teachings sometimes express, sometimes implicit, and sometimes tacit; we have established that papal infallibility extends to the various forms of this ordinary magisterium as well as to solemn definitions. We have recognized, in conclusion, that the magisterium of the dispersed bishops is the same, as regards its object, as that of the Roman Pontiffs; but it is the latter which is, at all times, the supreme rule of all teaching and belief in the Church of Jesus Christ.

The Ordinary Magisterium of the Church and its Organs – J.M.A. Vacant, 1887
Introduction & Chapter I: The ordinary and universal magisterium in general
Chapter II: The ministers or organs of the ordinary magisterium
Chapter IIIa: How the ordinary magisterium expresses itself (explicitly)
Chapter IIIb: How the ordinary magisterium expresses itself (implicitly and tacitly)
Chapter IVa: The obligations imposed by the ordinary magisterium – how it does so
Chapter IVb: Can the ordinary magisterium create new obligations?
Chapter V: The doctrinal authority of episcopal magisterium
Chapter VI and Conclusion: The Pope’s personal exercise of the ordinary magisterium


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[1] Vatican I, Dei Filius Chapter 3

[2] He continues in a footnote: “Thus various events in the life of Christ (e.g., the raising of Lazarus from the dead) are certainly revealed by God and, though never defined solemnly, are taught by the ordinary and universal magisterium. Many theological conclusions concerning Christ (with regard to His knowledge, His sanctifying grace) are universally taught by theologians as proximate to faith, though they may never have been defined either by the Pope or by a general Council. It may be remarked, however, that in common practice a person is not regarded as a heretic unless he has denied a revealed truth which has been solemnly defined. (Vacant: Etudes théologiques sur les Constitutiones du Concile [t.II, pp.117 sq.)” Canon George D. Smith, “Must I Believe It?” in The Clergy Review, IX, 4 (April, 1935), 296-309. II. Available at

[3] G. Van Noort, ‘Christ’s Church’, Dogmatic Theology II, Newman Press, Maryland 1957. 118

[4] Roberto de Mattei, Love for the Papacy and Filial Resistance to the Pope in the History of the Church (henceforth LPFR), Angelico Press, Brooklyn NY, 2019. 23-29. 28.

[5] Voir Mazzella, De Ecclesia, II. 1652, note : « Novimus, dit-il, Syllabum non præ se ferre formas seu formalitates adhiberi solitas in constitutionibus dogmaticis edendis. »

[6] Perhaps someone will object that, since the Syllabus was drawn up by someone other than the Pope, it must be denied infallibility, as well as the doctrinal decisions of the Roman Congregations. But it should be noted that the Syllabus expresses in a certain way the teachings of the Pope, while the decrees of the Congregations express the decisions of the Congregations themselves and not those of the Supreme Pontiff. The Syllabus is, on the contrary, the expression of the doctrine of the Pope in his ordinary magisterium, and not the expression of the doctrine of the person who wrote it.

[7] “Cum videremus… nunquam satis lugenda damna quæ in christianum populum ex tot erroribus redundant, pro Apostolici nostri ministerii officio, illustria prædecessorum nostrorum vestigia sectantes, nostram extulimus vocem, ac pluribus in vulgus editis encyclicis epistolis et allocutionibus in consistorio habitis, aliisque apostolicis litteris præcipuos tristissimæ nostræ ætatis errores damnavimus. ” (Encyclical Quanta cura, 8 Dec. 1864).

[8] Cardinal Mazzella says of those who hold this view that they are ‘viros aliquot, paucos tamen haud mediocris ingenii’ (De Ecclesia, p. 822). He is referring to Bishop Fessier, whom he names. I do not know whether he has in view other persons distinguished by their science; but I have before me notes taken in Rome, in 1883-84, at the conferences of a famous canonist, in which it is maintained that the Syllabus is not an infallible definition, because it is a private collection, similar to the decree of Gratian, and which was not promulgated by the Pope himself, according to the rules of law. I do not know whether the lecturer’s doctrine was properly rendered by the student who wrote these notes; but the notes are wrong in assuming that, to be infallible, papal teachings must all be edited in the form required for the authenticity of laws.

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