Infallibility. The Transcript of Part 4 of a Series of Homilies on Tradition Given by Fr. Ripperger

This content is taken from a series of sermons given by Fr. Chad Ripperger on Sacred Tradition and it is transcribed here by Tony Capobianco.

Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter by Pietro Perugino (1481-82) . Location: Sistine Chapel Collection. This work is in the public domain. {{ PD-US }}

Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter by Pietro Perugino (1481-82) . Location: Sistine Chapel Collection. This work is in the public domain. {{PD-US}}

Permission to transcribe Father’s lecture was sought and permission was granted. The copyright remains that of Sensus Traditionis.

© 2019, Fr. Chad Ripperger - All Rights Reserved. © Sensus Traditionis 

Fr. Ripperger  0:03

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Fr. Ripperger  0:06

We resume our homilies on Tradition and one of the aspects of Tradition is that some people tend to treat everything from the Tradition with the exact same amount of certitude or weight. That is, they think that everything from the Tradition is absolutely infallible and absolutely has to be adhered to and then you get the opposite extreme which says that none of the Tradition has to be adhered to or followed. Whereas the actual answer lies a little bit differently than that. There are different sources from the Tradition and they have to be treated differently as to how certain we are as regarding the teaching that they contain. The question of certitude affects the various considerations of the various forms of sources within the Tradition. Some sources have greater certitude than others, obviously. The question of sources is of importance as we as Catholics require on the sources for our knowledge of the Deposit of Faith. This is also important because we're trying to recoup the Tradition. So you'll get someone and I’ve seen this before.... they'll have a manual of ceremonies and they’ll come up to you and they’ll say, “Father you're violating the rubrics which is right here and it says this.” So then you take the person downstairs, you pull out five other books and say, “Well, these say something different.” In other words, people accuse you of stuff as if you're violating some infallible rubric. It's not exactly how it works.

Fr. Ripperger  1:29

So when we recoup the Tradition it is going to take a bit of doing in order for us to really do the proper research. Sometimes the sources, these things that we go back to, to find the Tradition are the ways and means by which the Tradition is safely transmitted. The first source is the solemn judgments of the Church which constitute an infallible proof of the truth of some proposition which is held to pertain to the Faith. These judgments, these solemn judgments are part of the documentary Tradition of the Church, also part of what’s called the Monumentary or the Monuments of the Church. We’ll talk about those more later. An example of what a solemn judgment would be is the definition of the Immaculate Conception by Pius the Ninth (Pius IX). If a Catholic wanted to know what the Church taught on the Immaculate Conception he’d go to the document Ineffabilis Deus of Pius IX and just read the formal definition. Like all infallible statements, solemn  judgments become as it were like proper accidents of the Deposit of Faith. In other words, the Deposit of Faith constitutes the essence of the Tradition of what's passed on. But along with that are those things which surround it  and tell us  how that Deposit of Faith is to be understood and those solemn judgments are infallible and can never be changed. Therefore, every time one finds a solemn judgment, he’s required as a Catholic to give assent to it. And it can't be changed. It’s irreformable. It always becomes part of our understanding of  that part of the Tradition.

Fr. Ripperger  3:02

Only the Holy Father when meeting the  conditions of infallibility laid down by the First Vatican Council, that is he's infallible only when he meets those conditions. I’ve mentioned this before, you get some people in the Church that when he sneezes they start writing it down as if it's infallible.  That’s not how the Church understands itself.

Fr. Ripperger  3:21

There are certain conditions, now  I I’ve also mentioned this before, people on a practical level they say, “Oh yeah this is what the Church teaches regarding Papal infallibility” but they on a practical level deny them. They always treat everything he teaches as infallible or the converse which is the sedevacantists who if he teaches something erroneously, aside from what's infallible, then they somehow think, “Oh then he's not the pope, this, that or the other thing”.  This is exactly what the First Vatican Council is saying is not the case, that outside these conditions, he can fail.

Fr. Ripperger  3:56

These conditions are: that what he teaches must pertain to faith and morals. So if he starts talking about, you know, global warming, it’s a whole different ball game. Also, it has to be taught by virtue of his office. That is ex cathedra. In other words, he has to be speaking as a pope not as a private individual. He has to teach that it's definitively held, that is he's putting an end to the discussion. And that it’s something that must be held by all the faithful. Again, the Church herself has laid these conditions down. To insist that the pope must be infallible all the time and in every statement is actually heretical. To treat every statement the same way verges on heresy. As I mentioned this is a problem with the neo cons and the sedevacantists. They ultimately reject these conditions.

Fr. Ripperger 4:48

The Bishops, when an Ecumenical Council likewise solidly define or judge some matter of the Faith (these definitions and judgments) are also infallible. But therein lies another problem. You got people running around saying that, you know, “Vatican Two is infallible.” This is false. Paul the Sixth (Paul VI) made the statement on the closing session, “Nothing extraordinary happened here.” And that is technical theological language for saying infallibility was not employed during the Second Vatican Council. Now, that does not mean that you can throw the baby out with the bathwater. Some people will just say, “Oh well, you know, all of Vatican II is heretical and you have to throw out all of the documents.” Well  excuse me but there's certain things in Vatican II which are in fact infallible, not by what Vatican II said but by virtue of the fact that it incorporates teachings from the past. It's theologically dangerous to go around and reject documents wholesale. It has to be taken on a line by line basis in context in order to get a proper judgment of these statements.

Fr. Ripperger  5:57

We also know that the ordinary magisterial teaching when it is taught by all the bishops throughout the world also constitutes an infallible source of what the Church teaches. This form of infallibility was implied when John Paul II in the document “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis”, made the statement that women cannot be ordained to the priesthood. In other words he didn't use his extraordinary powers that is his infallibility as Pope, rather the document lays out the fact that this has always been taught everywhere by all that women cannot be ordained. And so he was basically laying out that on a certain level he didn't have to use his infallibility, although would have been nice if he would have, he didn't have to because it was already infallible by virtue of the ordinary magisterial teaching. Not all of ordinary magisterial teachings are infallible. Only those which are taught by all the bishops throughout the world.

Fr. Ripperger  6:59

And in fact later it was asked to the then Cardinal Ratzinger in the congregation for the doctrine of Faith if it was in fact the Pope's intention to lay out this ordinary magisterial infallibility in that document and he said, “yes.”

Fr. Ripperger  7:11

Outside of these contexts we do not have the same degree of certitude when the bishops and the pope speak. In other words, this has to keep us sober about how and what the Church is teaching. Yet infallibility regarding the same matter pertaining to the Deposit of Faith is not restricted to the popes and bishops alone. In other words, they're not the only ways in which something can be infallible. This is something that a lot of people don't seem to understand. Infallibility is also enjoyed in several other agencies clearly recognized by the teaching authority of the Church. In other words, the popes themselves, the Church itself has drawn attention to these sources as infallible. And those are: The Sensus Fidelium (we'll talk about what that means here in a minute), the Fathers of the Church, and the theologians.

Fr Ripperger 8:07

The Sensus Fidelium means the sense of the faithful. That is, the people who have Catholic Faith, those people, they can constitute a source of infallibility when there is a distinct universal and constant profession of a doctrine by the whole body of the simple faithful. The Sensus Fidelium involves a relatively independent and immediate testimony of the Holy Ghost. Although the echo of the authentic teaching of the Magisterium, the universal belief of the faithful is of great weight in times when its unity and distinctness are more apparent than the teaching of the Magisterium. So essentially what this means is that the Holy Ghost would not allow the entire faithful of the Church to constantly hold to some point of doctrine when it is heretical. That's basically what that means. The appeal to the Sensus Fidelium was done by the Council of Trent when it used its decree on the Holy Eucharist. Therefore, if we find that every Catholic faithful person held to some doctrine then we would know that it was true. Now there has been some abuses of this doctrine as of late because most Catholics have fallen into contraceptive practice and think that it's okay that some theologians run around saying, “Oh this is the Sensus Fidelium.” No, we're talking about something that must be held universally and constantly by the faithful, which obviously it has not been (believed that contraception was okay). Such a position is untenable since the faithful have not constantly held such a position and this is very important because before Vatican II the faithful were pretty clear on the fact that contraception was a grave sin.

Fr. Ripperger  9:47

The next infallible source that we can go to are what are called the Patristics or the Fathers of the Church. The Church states that when the Fathers of the Church consent on certain doctrines which evidently belong to the common Faith of the Church and all the faithful believe them, then the constant consent of the Fathers shows the Divine Tradition of these doctrines. That is the same consent of the Universal Church. Consequently, the common consent of the Fathers is infallible because the Church itself is infallible. That’s what it says in “Tuas Libenter”, if I’m not mistaken. The importance of the Fathers and their infallibility has been used and it is a constant theme in various documents of the Church as we see in the Council of Orange, the Council of Trent, Pius IX’s “Gravissimas Inter”, among others. It is often said by the popes that the if the Patristics have a consensus regarding a specific doctrine it is to be held to be of the Faith. In other words, it's infallible and you must give consent to it. While not everything that the Patristics say is infallible, nevertheless Patristics constitute a specific source of knowledge regarding these things which pertain to the Faith. What’s an example of this kind of a thing? Well before the Second Vatican Council, it was commonly held that the doctrine of limbo, because all the Patristics held to it, was considered to be an irreformable doctrine; that is you had to believe it as a Catholic. That's what was commonly held Before the Second Vatican Council.

Fr. Ripperger  11:22

The next infallible source is the theologians. Obviously given our current historical context, this needs a bit of explanation. We're not talking about every single theological school or theologian, but what is called the Scholastic theologians. During the medieval period there were various theological schools. For example: the Dominicans, the Franciscans,  et cetera. If there was a consensus of the various theologians in these schools regarding a particular point of dogma, that teaching was held to be of the Faith. When the term theologians is used, it should not be confused with a generic, that is lowercase theologians, such as we have today. Here we're talking about a specific group of men, mainly those theologians of the various scholastic schools from the 12th century until the middle of the 18th century, roughly from the years 1100 to 1750. Pius IX in “Tuas Libenter” says that we are to hold those teachings as pertaining to the Faith, not only the decrees the Councils, but the universal constant consensus of the Catholic theologians. Here we see two criteria for the infallibility of things held by them. That is, it must be constant. In other words it doesn’t change. And it must be universal. That is, held by the theologians during that historical period. Although the assistance of the Holy Ghost is not directly promised to the theologians, nevertheless the assistance promised to the Church requires that He should prevent them as a body from falling into error. Otherwise the faithful would then be led astray. The consent of the theologians implies the consent of the episcopate or even the Magisterium, we may say. According to Saint Augustine’s dictum, “Not to resist  an error is to approve it. Not to define a truth is to reject it.”

Fr. Ripperger  13:06

We must be clear that this teaching does not extend to theologians today. While some theologians try to stake a claim for themselves in this regard, for instance calling themselves you know, a second Magisterium or things of that sort or a parallel teaching structure in the Church. This does not enjoy the support of papal teaching. The fact that the consensus of the theologians of that period hold such weight indicates that the Church’s mind regarding that period of theological work as a period of great theological advancement and so the Church values it greatly. While Modernists today systematically reject anything that occurred in the medieval period. Such a mindset is contrary to the mind of the Church and borderlines a heretical mindset. The Church, holds that the work of that period, particularly that of St. Thomas, in the  highest regard. Many traditional scholars maintain an intellectual balance precisely by immersing themselves in the writings of Fathers of the Church, particularly in the area of Scripture, which the Church has constantly suggested and reminded us to do, and the theologians and again particularly, St. Thomas.

Fr. Ripperger  14:13

The various creeds promulgated throughout the life of the Church constitute an unerring source of what we believe as Catholics. Many of them were promulgated by Ecumenical Councils and enjoy infallibility. The creeds are broken down in the various articles of the Faith, which are propositions which formulate what we believe. These are important for us as Catholics because they are a constant reference point and principle of judgment regarding what we hear and see in the Church. I make this observation very often when people start talking about various churches, you know, the creed says (which is infallible) there is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

Fr. Ripperger  14:57

Perhaps one of the best sources for Catholics regarding what pertains to the traditional teaching of the Church is found in catechisms and particularly the Catechism of the Council of Trent, sometimes called The Roman Catechism. This catechism constitutes the norm for all subsequent catechisms, even the Catechism of the Catholic Church which was put out in the 1990s. The Roman Catechism is important since it is the first major catechism promulgated by the Magisterium. While there were lesser catechisms, lesser meaning in size not necessarily in importance to the Church; such as the Didache. The Roman Catechism is an ordinary magisterial document which lays down all the essentials of the Faith. Since the essentials of the Faith do not change then subsequent catechisms must  always be understood in light of the Roman Catechism regarding the essentials of the Faith.

Fr. Ripperger  15:48

Because the Roman Catechism, sometimes called the Catechism of the Council of Trent, contains and explicates the essentials of the Faith, some have wondered why it was necessary to promulgate a new catechism in recent years. Such an impulse was perhaps to give psychological assurance that the Faith had not changed. It may have been better to simply promulgate an addendum to the Roman Catechism containing definitions of the popes and of the Church’s teaching on modern moral issues which have occurred since the promulgation of the Roman Catechism. However to promulgate a separate catechism when the Roman Catechism was sufficiently clear and to reformulate it, would represent the various doctrines in a manner not consistent with the Roman Catechism, implies a change in the Faith. This is one of the reasons for example why the Church shouldn’t go around changing these things consistently, because it gives people, you know if you keep turning out a different catechism every couple of generations, people start wondering what really changed? Another catechism that is not well known but is clear in its presentation of the Faith is the Catechism of Pope St. Pius X, the one that he published. 

Fr. Ripperger  16:51

So these are some of the sources, you know, if you want to know what the Tradition is, that's where you go. That's where you start. You look at the Catechisms, you look at the documents of the Church, you look at the teachings of the theologians (and that is those from a period of 1100 to 1750), and you look at the Fathers of the Church. That's where we have to start the process of recouping the Tradition. These things are still available. You know sometimes you get people running around like chicken little saying, “Tradition is lost.” No it's not. It's still there. We just have to have the devotion and the desire to go back, to spend the time and the energy to recoup those things because they are good.

Fr. Ripperger  17:31

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.

© 2019, Fr. Chad Ripperger - All Rights Reserved. 

© Sensus Traditionis 

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Part 4 of the sermon series on tradition where Father speaks on infallibility & what is it. What it is not? How we determine it? Sources for teaching (e.g.