A Manual Of Catholic Theology, Based On Scheeben's “Dogmatik”
Joseph Wilhelm, D.D., PHD. And Thomas B. Scannell, D.D.
With A Preface By Cardinal Manning

Vol. 1. The Sources Of Theological Knowledge, God, Creation And The Supernatural Order
Third Edition, Revised, London, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Lt.
New York, Cincinnati, Chicago, Benziger Bros.

[Pp. 85-110]


SECT. 28.— The Rule of Faith considered generally; and also specially in its Active Sense.

I. THE nature and dignity of the Word of God require that submission to it should not be left to the choice of man, but should be made obligatory. The Church should put it forth in such a way as to bind all her members to adhere to it in common, and with one voice and in all its fulness, as a public and social law.

II. The Rule of Faith was given to the Church in the very act of Revelation and its promulgation by the Apostles. But for this Rule to have an actual and permanently efficient character, it must be continually promulgated and enforced by the living Apostolate, which must exact from all members of the Church a docile Faith in the truths of Revelation authoritatively proposed, and thus unite the whole body of the Church, teachers and taught, in perfect unity of Faith. Hence the original promulgation is the remote Rule of Faith, and the continuous promulgation by the Teaching Body is the proximate Rule.

III. The fact that all the members of the Church actually agree in one Faith is the best proof of the efficiency of the Catholic Rule of Faith. This universality is not the Rule of Faith itself but rather its effect. Individual members are indeed bound to conform their belief to that of the whole community, but this universal belief is produced by the action of the Teaching Apostolate, the members of which are in their turn subject to their Chief. Hence the Catholic Rule of Faith may be ultimately reduced to the sovereign teaching authority of the Holy See. This was asserted long ago in the Creed drawn up by Pope Hormisdas: “Wherefore following in all things the Apostolic See and upholding all its decrees, I hope that it may be mine to be with you in the one communion taught by the Apostolic See, in which is the true and complete solidity of the Christian Religion ; and I promise also not to mention in the Holy Mysteries the names of those who have been excommunicated from the Catholic Church — that is, those who agree not with the Apostolic See.”

IV. The act or collection of acts whereby the Word of God is enforced as the Rule of Catholic Faith is called in technical language “Proposition by the Church” (Propositio Ecclesiae, Vat. Council, sess. iii. chap. 3). It is called “Proposition” because it is an authoritative promulgation of a law, already contained in Revelation, enjoining belief in what is proposed and ”Proposition by or of the Church,” because it emanates from the Teaching Body and is addressed to the Body of the Faithful; and not in the sense that it emanates from the entire community.

V. The manner in which the Proposition is made and the form which it assumes are determined by the nature of the Teaching Apostolate and of the truths proposed. The ordinary Proposition of the law of Faith is identical with the ordinary exercise of the Teaching Apostolate; for the Word of God by its very nature exacts the obedience of Faith, and is communicated to the Faithful with the express intention of enforcing belief. Hence the ordinary teaching is necessarily a promulgation of the law of Faith and an injunction of the duty to believe, and consequently the law of Faith is naturally an unwritten law. But the Proposition of or by the Church takes the form of a Statute or written law when promulgated in a solemn decision. Such decisions, however, are not laws strictly speaking, but are merely authoritative declarations of laws already enacted by God, and in most instances they only enforce what is already the common practice. Both forms, written and unwritten, are of equal authority, but the written form is the more precise. Both also rest ultimately on the authority of the Head of the Apostolate. No judicial sentence in matters of Faith is valid unless pronounced or approved by him; and the binding force of the unwritten form arises from his tacit sanction.

VI. The authority of the Church's Proposition enforcing obedience to its decrees and guaranteeing their infallibility, is not restricted to matters of Divine Faith and Divine Revelation, although these are its principal subject-matter. The Teaching Apostolate, in order to realize the objects of Revelation, i.e. to preserve the Faith not only in its substance but also in its entirety, must extend its activity beyond the sphere of Divine Faith and Divine Revelation. But in such matters the Apostolate requires only an undoubting and submissive acceptance and not Divine Faith, and consequently is, so far, a rule of theological knowledge and conviction rather than a Rule of Divine Faith. Hence there exists in the Church, side by side with and completing the Rule of Faith, a Rule of Theological Thought or Religious Conviction, to which every Catholic must submit internally as well as externally. Any refusal to submit to this law implies a spiritual revolt against the authority of the Church and a rejection of her supernatural veracity; and is, if not a direct denial of Catholic Faith, at least a direct denial of Catholic Profession.

VII. The judicial, legislative, and other similar acts of the members of the Teaching Apostolate are not all absolutely binding rules of Faith and theological thought, but rather resemble police regulations. These disciplinary measures may under certain circumstances command at least a respectful and confident assent, the refusal of which involves disrespect and temerity. For instance, when the Church forbids the teaching of certain points of doctrine, or commands the teaching of one opinion in preference to another, external submission is required, but there is also an obligation to accept the favoured view as morally certain. When a judicial decision has been given on some point of doctrine, but has not been given or approved by the highest authority, such decision per se imposes only the obligation of external obedience. Points of doctrine expressed, recommended, and insisted upon in papal allocutions or encyclical letters but not distinctly defined, may create the obligation of strict obedience and undoubting assent, or may exact merely external submission and approval. Thus in the Rule of Faith we distinguish three degrees: (1) the Rule of Faith in matters directly revealed, exacting the obedience of Faith; (2) the Rule of Faith in matters theologically connected with Revelation, exacting respect and external submission, and, indirectly, internal assent of a certain grade; (3) the Rule of Faith in matters of discipline, exacting submission and reverence.

The difference between the rules of theological knowledge and the disciplinary measures is important. The former demand universal and unconditional obedience, the latter only respect and reverence. Moderate Liberalism, represented in the seventeenth century by Holden (Analysis Fidei), in the eighteenth century by Muratori (De Ingeniorum Moderatione and Chrismann (Regula Fidei), is an attempt to conciliate Extreme Liberalism by giving up these various distinctions, and reducing all decisions either to formal definitions of Faith or to mere police regulations.

SECT. 29.—Dogmas and Matters of Opinion.

I. Everything revealed by God, or Christ, or the Holy Ghost is by that very fact a Divine or Christian Dogma; when authoritatively proposed by the Apostles it became an Apostolic Dogma; when fully promulgated by the Church, Ecclesiastical Dogma. In the Church's language a dogma pure and simple is at the same time ecclesiastical, apostolic, and Divine. But a merely Divine Dogma — that is, revealed by God but not yet explicitly proposed by the Church — is called a Material (as opposed to Formal) Dogma.

Dogmas may be classified according to (a) their various subject-matters, (b) their promulgation, and (c) the different kinds of moral obligation to know them.

(a) Dogmas may be divided in the same way as the content of Revelation (§ 5) except that matters revealed per accidens are not properly dogmas. It is, however, a dogma that Holy Scripture, in the genuine text, contains undoubted truth throughout. And consequently the denial of matters revealed per accidens is a sin against Faith, because it implies the assertion that Holy Scripture contains error. This principle accounts for the opposition to Galileo. The motions of the sun and the earth are not indeed matters of dogma, but the great astronomer's teaching was accompanied by or at any rate involved the assertion that Scripture was false in certain texts.

(b) With regard to their promulgation by the Church, dogmas are divided into Material and Formal. Formal Dogmas are subdivided into Defined and Undefined.

(c) With regard to the obligation of knowing them, dogmas are to be believed either Implicitly or Explicitly. Again, the necessity of knowing them is of two kinds: Necessity of Means (necessitas medii) and Necessity of Precept (necessitas praecepti); that is, the belief in some dogmas is a necessary condition of salvation, apart from any positive command of the Church, while the obligation to believe in others arises from her positive command. The former may be called Fundamental, because they are most essential. We do not, however, admit the Latitudinarian distinction between Fundamental articles, i.e. which must be believed, and Non-fundamental articles which need not be believed. All Catholics are bound to accept, at least implicitly, every dogma proposed by the Church.

2. The Criteria, or means of knowing Catholic truth, may be easily gathered from the principles already stated. They are nearly all set forth in the Brief Tuas Libenter, addressed by Pius IX to the Archbishop of Munich. The following are the criteria of a dogma of Faith: (a) Creeds or Symbols of Faith generally received; (b) dogmatic definitions of the Popes or of ecumenical councils, and of particular councils solemnly ratified; (c) the undoubtedly clear and indisputable sense of Holy Scripture in matters relating to Faith and morals; (d) the universal and constant teaching of the Apostolate, especially the public and permanent tradition of the Roman Church; (e) universal practice, especially in liturgical matters, where it clearly supposes and professes a truth as undoubtedly revealed ; (f) the teaching of the Fathers when manifest and universal; (g) the teaching of Theologians when manifest and universal.

II. Between the doctrines expressly defined by the Church and those expressly condemned stand what may be called matters of opinion or free opinions. Freedom, however, like certainty, is of various degrees, especially in religious and moral matters. Where there is no distinct definition there may be reasons sufficient to give us moral certainty. To resist these is not, indeed, formal disobedience, but only rashness. Where there are no such reasons this censure is not incurred. It is not possible to determine exactly the boundaries of these two groups of free opinions; they shade off into each other, and range from absolute free do to morally certain obligation to believe. In this sphere of Approximative Theology, as it may be styled, there are (1) doctrines which it is morally certain that the Church acknowledges as revealed (veritates fidei proxima); (2) theological doctrines which it is morally certain that the Church considers as belonging to the integrity of the Faith, or as logically connected with revealed truth, and consequently the denial of which is approximate to theological error (errori theologico proxima); (3) doctrines neither revealed nor logically deducible from revealed truths, but useful or even necessary for safeguarding Revelation: to deny these would be rash (temerarium). These three degrees were rejected by the Minimizers mentioned at the end of the last section, and all matters not strictly defined were considered as absolutely free. Pius IX., however, on the occasion of the Munich Congress in 1863, addressed a Brief to the Archbishop of that city laying down the Catholic principles on the subject. The 22nd Proposition condemned in the “Syllabus” was taken from this Brief and runs thus: “The obligation under which Catholic teachers and writers lie is restricted to those matters which are proposed for universal belief as dogmas of Faith by the infallible judgment of the Church.” And the Vatican Council says, at the end of the first constitution, “It sufficeth not to avoid heresy unless those errors which more or less approach thereto are sedulously shunned.”

CHAP. SECT. 30 — Definitions and Judicial Decisions considered generally.

The chief rules of Catholic belief are the definitions and decisions of the Church. Before we study them in detail, it will be well to treat of the elements and forms more or less common to them all.

I Definitions and decisions are essentially acts of the teaching power, in the strictest sense of the word; acts whereby the holder of this power lays down authoritatively what his subjects are bound to accept as Catholic doctrine or reject as anti-Catholic. Hence, as distinguished from other acts of the Teaching Apostolate, they are termed decrees, statutes, constitutions, definitions, decisions concerning the Faith. In the modern language of the Church, “Definition” means the positive and final decision in matters of Faith (dogmas), and “Judgment” means the negative decision whereby false doctrines are condemned (censures). The wording of definitions is not restricted to any particular form. Sometimes they take the form of a profession of Faith: “The Holy Synod believeth and confesseth;“ at other times they take the form of a declaration of doctrine, as in the “chapters“ of the Council of Trent and the Vatican Council, or of canons threatening with “anathema” all who refuse to accept the Church's teaching.

II. The general object of authoritative decisions in doctrinal matters is to propose dogmas in clear and distinct form to the Faithful, and thereby to promote the glory of God, the salvation of souls, and the welfare of the Church. Sometimes, however, there are certain specific objects e.g., (1) to remove existing doubts. The definitions of the Immaculate Conception and the Infallibility of the Pope are cases in point. (2) To condemn criminal doubts prevailing against dogmas already defined, eg. the case of the five propositions of Jansenius. (3) To prevent future doubts and to confirm the Faith of the weak. In this case, as in the preceding, the new definition takes the form of a confirmation or renewal of a former definition. Thus the Vatican Council, at the end of its first constitution, insists upon the duty of conformity to the doctrinal decisions of the Holy See. The question of the “Opportuneness” of a definition must be decided by the judges themselves. Under certain circumstances they may withhold or postpone a definition in order to avoid greater evils, as in the case of the Gallican doctrines. Once the definition is given, there can be no further question as to its opportuneness. The Holy Ghost, who assists in making the definition, also assists in fixing its time.

III. Authoritative definitions and decisions can emanate only from the holders of the teaching power in the Church. Learned men and learned societies, such as universities, may publish statements of their views, and may thus prepare the way for a dogmatic definition. These statements may even have greater weight than the decisions of individual bishops. Nevertheless they are merely provisional, and stand to the final judgment in the relation of a consulting vote. Hence the importance of acting in conjunction with the Holy See. Even from the earliest times it has been the rule to refer to Rome the more important questions of Faith, and in recent times bishops and local (as opposed to general) councils have been ordered not to attempt to decide doubtful questions, but only to expound and enforce what has already been approved.

Each holder of the teaching power can judge individually, except those whose power is only delegated, and those who by reason of their functions are bound to act in concert; as, for instance, the Cardinals in the Roman Congregations. Still, it follows from their office, and it has always been the practice of the Church, that the Bishops, as inferior judges, should judge collectively in synods and councils, except when they act simply as promulgators or executors of decisions already given. The Pope, the supreme and universal judge, is subject to no other judges or tribunals, but all are subject to him. Matters of general interest (causae communes) or of great importance (causae majores) are of his cognizance. He is the centre of unity, and he possesses, in virtue of his sovereign power, a guarantee of veracity which does not belong to individual Bishops. But before coming to any decision he is bound to study the Sources of Faith, and to consult his advisers either individually or collectively. He may, nay sometimes he must allow his ordinary and extraordinary counsellors to act as subordinate colleges of judges, whose decisions he afterwards completes by adding his own. He may also place himself at the head of these various colleges, so that the members become his assessors. “The bishops of the whole world sitting and judging with us,” says the Procemium of the first constitution of the Vatican Council. The same council also enumerates the various ways in which the Popes prepare their definitions: “The Roman Pontiffs, according as circumstances required, — at one time, by summoning ecumenical councils, or by ascertaining the opinion of the Church dispersed over the world; at another time, by means of local synods, or again by other means — have defined that those things are to be held which they have found to be in harmony with the Sacred Writings and Apostolical Traditions” (sess. iv., chap. 4).

IV. Dogmatic definitions being judicial acts presuppose an investigation of the case (cognitio causae). If this is not made, the judge acts rashly, but the judgment is binding. When the authority of the judge is not supreme, and consequently the presumption in favour of the justice of the judgment is not absolute, a statement of the reasons may be necessary, and an examination of them may be permitted. Sometimes even the highest authority states his reasons for coming to a decision, but he does this merely to render submission easy. As regards the manner of conducting the investigation of the case, it should be noted that an examination of the Sources of Faith and the hearing of witnesses, although integral portions of the judicial functions, are not always necessary. When an already-defined doctrine has only to be enforced these processes may be dispensed with. However, even in this case, they may be advisable, so as to remove all suspicion of rashness or prejudice, and to enable the judges to affirm that they speak of their own full knowledge (ex plena et propria cognitione causae). (Cf. the well-known letter of St. Leo to Theodoret - ep. 120, ed. Ballerini).

Although doctrinal definitions are always supported by strong arguments, their binding force does not depend on these arguments but upon the supernatural authority of the judges, in virtue of which they are entitled to say, “It hath seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us.” In the case of individual judges the Divine guarantee depends upon the legitimacy of their appointment; in the case of councils or other bodies of judges it depends upon the legitimacy of their convocation. Hence the expression, “The synod lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost (In Spiritu Sancto legitime congregata).” We must, however, remember that the Divine guarantee is perfect only when final decisions for the universal Church are given. In other cases it is merely presumptive, and this presumption is not sufficient to make the judgment infallible or to exact unconditional submission. The formula, “It hath seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us,” does not necessarily imply that the accompanying judgment is infallible. The authority of the judgment depends upon the rank of the judge. Inferior ecclesiastical judges as a rule ask the Pope to ratify their decisions, or they add the qualification, “Saving the judgment or under correction of the Apostolic See (salvo judicio, sub correctione Sedis Apostolicae).” Hence no process is complete and final until the Holy See has given its judgment.

We shall now examine the various sources of Decisions and Judgments.

SECT. 31 — Papal Judgments and their Infallibility.

I. The Pope, the Father and Teacher of all Christians and the Head of the Universal Church, is the supreme judge in matters of Faith and Morals, and is the regulator and centre of Catholic Unity. His decisions are without appeal and are absolutely binding upon all. In order to possess this perfect right and power to exact universal assent and obedience it is necessary that they should be infallible. The Vatican Council, completing the definitions of the Fourth Council of Constantinople, the Second Council of Lyons, and the Council of Florence, and the Profession of Faith of Pope Hormisdas, thus defines Papal Infallibility: “The Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra — that is, when, in discharge of the office of Pastor and Doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority he defines a doctrine regarding Faith or Morals to be held by the Universal Church — by the Divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, is possessed of that Infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that His Church should be endowed for defining doctrine regarding Faith or Morals ; and therefore such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable of themselves and not from the consent of the Church.” (Concil. Vat., sess. iv., cap. 4).

II. The person in whom the Infallibility is vested is the Roman Pontiff speaking ex cathedra; that is to say, exercising the highest doctrinal authority inherent in the Apostolic See. Whenever the Pope speaks as Supreme Teacher of the Church, he speaks ex cathedra; nor is there any other ex cathedra teaching besides his. The definition therefore leaves no room for the sophistical distinction made by the Gallicans between the See and its occupant (Sedes, Sedens). An ex cathedra judgment is also declared to be supreme and universally binding. Its subject-matter is “doctrine concerning Faith or Morals;“ that is, all and only such points of doctrine as are or may be proposed for the belief of the Faithful. The form of the ex cathedra judgment is the exercise of the Apostolic power with intent to bind all the Faithful in the unity of the Faith.

The nature and extent of the Infallibility of the Pope are also contained in the definition. This Infallibility is the result of a Divine assistance. It differs both from Revelation and Inspiration. It does not involve the manifestation of any new doctrine, or the impulse to write down what God reveals. It supposes, on the contrary, an investigation of revealed truths, and only prevents the Pope from omitting this investigation and from erring in making it. The Divine assistance is not granted to the Pope for his personal benefit, but for the benefit of the Church. Nevertheless, it is granted to him directly as the successor of St. Peter, and not indirectly through the medium of the Church. The extent of the Infallibility of the Pope is determined partly by its subject-matter, partly by the words “possessed of that Infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that His Church should be endowed for defining doctrine regarding Faith or Morals.” Moreover, the object of the Infallibility of the Pope and of the Infallibility of the Church being the same, their extent must also coincide.

From the Infallibility of ex cathedra judgments, the council deduces their Irreformability, and further establishes the latter by excluding the consent of the Church as the necessary condition of it. The approbation of the Church is the consequence not the cause of the Irreformability of ex cathedra judgments.

III. Ex cathedra decisions admit of great variety of form. At the same time, in the documents containing such decisions only those passages are infallible which the judge manifestly intended to be so. Recommendations, proofs, and explanations accompanying the decision are not necessarily infallible, except where the explanation is itself the dogmatic interpretation of a text of Scripture, or of a rule of Faith, or in as far as it fixes the meaning and extent of the definition. It is not always easy to draw the line between the definition and the other portions of the document. The ordinary rules for interpreting ecclesiastical documents must be applied. The commonest forms of ex cathedra decisions used at the present time are the following:—

1. The most solemn form is the Dogmatic Constitution, or Bull, in which the decrees are proposed expressly as ecclesiastical laws, and are sanctioned by heavy penalties; e.g. the Constitutions Unigenitus and Auctorem Fidei against the Jansenists, and the Bull Ineffabilis Deus on the Immaculate Conception.

2. Next in solemnity are Encyclical Letters, so far as they are of a dogmatic character. They resemble Constitutions and Bulls, but, as a rule, they impose no penalties. Some of them are couched in strictly juridical terms, such as the Encyclical Quanta cura, while others are more rhetorical in style. In the latter case it is not absolutely certain that the Pope speaks infallibly.

3. Apostolic Letters and Briefs, even when not directly addressed to the whole Church, must be considered as ex cathedra when they attach censures to the denial of certain doctrines, or when, like Encyclicals, they define or condemn in strict judicial language, or in equivalent terms. But it is often extremely difficult to determine whether these letters are dogmatic or only monitory and administrative. Doubts on the subject are sometimes removed by subsequent declarations.

4. Lastly, the Pope can speak ex cathedra by confirming and approving of the decisions of other tribunals, such as general or particular councils, or Roman Congregations. In ordinary cases, however, the approbation of a particular council is merely an act of supervision, and the decision of a Roman Congregation is not ex cathedra unless the Pope makes it his own.

SECT. 32.— General Councils.

I. The Pope, speaking ex cathedra, is infallible independently of the consent of the subordinate members of the Teaching Body. On the other hand, the whole of the Bishops apart from the Pope cannot pronounce an infallible judgment. The Pope, however, can assemble the Bishops and constitute them into a tribunal which represents the Teaching Body more efficiently than the Pope alone. Their judgments given conjointly with his are the most complete expression of the Teaching Body. This assembly is termed a Universal or Ecumenical Council. It is not an independent tribunal superior to the Pope. It must be convened by him, or at least with his consent and co-operation; all the Bishops of the Church must be commanded, or at least invited to attend; a considerable number of Bishops must be actually present, either personally or by deputy; and the assembled prelates must conduct their deliberations and act under the direction of the Pope or his legates. Some of the Councils styled ecumenical do not, however, fulfil all of these conditions. The First and Second Councils of Constantinople are well-known instances. But these Councils were not originally considered as ecumenical except in the sense of being numerously attended, or on account of the ambition of the Patriarchs. It was only in the sixth century, some time after the Creed of the First Council of Constantinople had been adopted at Chalcedon, that this Council was put on a level with those of Nicea, Ephesus, and Chalcedon. Similar remarks apply to the Second Council of Constantinople. See Hefele vol. i., p. 41, and vol. ii., § 100.

It may seem strange that none of the early Western Councils, although presided over by the Roman Pontiff and accepted by the whole Church, received the title of Ecumenical. This, however, may be easily accounted for. The Western Councils only represented the Roman patriarchate, and consequently their authority was identical with that of the Holy See. Moreover, before the Great Schism the notion of a General Council was that of a cooperation of the East with the West: in other words, of the other patriarchates with the patriarchate of Rome. The Eastern Bishops attended personally, whereas the Pope and the Western Council sent deputies. Thus a Council, although meeting in the East, was really composed of representatives of the whole Church. The later Councils held in the West were far more conformable to the theological notions already given, because the entire episcopate was convened in one place, by express command not by mere invitation, and the body of the Bishops acted on the strength of their Divine mission, no distinction being made in favour of patriarchs or metropolitans, or other dignitaries.

II. Councils, when defining a dogma, perform a double function: they act as witnesses and as judges. The co-operation of the Pope is especially required as supreme judge. Care must be taken not to lay too much stress on the function of witnessing, lest the importance of the papal co-operation be unduly minimized and the true notion of a council be distorted. It is true, indeed, that many expressions of the Fathers of the fourth century concerning the Council of Nicaea seem to insist almost exclusively on the witnessing function. We must, however, remember that this Council was the first of the General Councils, and that under the then existing circumstances an appeal to the solemn testimony of so many Bishops was the best argument against the heretics. The subsequent Councils, especially the Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon, followed quite a different line of action. Stress was there laid upon the judicial function, and consequently upon the influence of the Roman Pontiff and the various grades of hierarchical jurisdiction.

III. The special object of General Councils is to attain completely and perfectly the ends which particular councils can attain only partially and imperfectly. In relation to the Pope's judgment, which is in itself a complete judgment, the object of General Councils is (1) to give the greatest possible assistance to the Pope in the preparation of his own judgment by means of the testimony and scientific knowledge of the assessors; (2) to give the Papal definition the greatest possible force and efficacy by the combined action and sentence of all the judges; and (3) to help the Pope in the execution and enforcement of his decisions by the promulgation and subsequent action of the assembled judges. The co-operation of the Council brings the testimony and the judicial power of the whole Church to bear upon the decision of the Pope.

IV. The action of General Councils essentially consists in the co-operation of the members with their Head. To the Pope therefore belongs the authoritative direction of all the proceedings of the Council. He can, if he chooses to exercise his right, determine what questions shall be dealt with and the manner of dealing with them. Hence no decision is legitimate if carried against his will or without his consent. Even a decision accepted by his legates, without an express order from him, is not absolutely binding. On the other hand, no decision is unlawful or void on account of a too extensive use of the papal right of direction, because in such a case the restriction of liberty is caused by the internal and legitimate principle of order, not by external and illegitimate pressure. The decision would not be illegitimate even if, as in many of the earlier Councils, and indeed in all Councils convoked for the purpose of promulgating and enforcing already existing papal decisions, the Pope commanded the acceptance of his sentence without any discussion. At most, the result of this pressure would affect the moral efficiency of the Council. On the other hand, the forcible expulsion of the papal legates from the “Latrocinum” (Council of Bandits) at Ephesus was rightly considered by the Catholics as a gross violation of the liberty of a Council. The sentence of the majority, or even the unanimous sentence, if taken apart from the personal action of the Pope, is not purely and simply the sentence of the entire Teaching Body, and therefore has no claim to infallibility. Such a sentence would not bind the absent Bishops to assent to it, or the Pope to confirm it. Its only effect would be to entitle the Pope to say that he confirms the sentence of a council, or that he speaks “with the approval of the Sacred Council” (sacro approbante concilio).

The Vatican Council, even in the Fourth Session, may be cited as an instance of a Council possessing in an eminent degree, not only the essential elements, but also what we may call the perfecting elements. The number of Bishops present was the greatest on record, both absolutely and in proportion to the number of Bishops in the world; the discussion was most free, searching, and exhaustive; universal tradition, past and present, was appealed to, not indeed as to the doctrine in question itself, but as to its fundamental principle, which is the duty of obedience to the Holy See and of conformity to her Faith; absolute unanimity prevailed in the final sentence, and an overwhelming majority even in the preparatory judgment.

The decrees of the General Councils may be found in the great collections of Labbe, Hardouin, Mansi, Catalani; the more important decrees are given in Denzinger's Enchiridion.

SECT 33.—The Roman congregations—Local or Particular councils.

1. The Roman Congregations are certain standing committees of Cardinals appointed by the Pope to give decisions on the various questions of doctrine and discipline which arise from time to time. The most important Congregations are the following:-

1. The Congregation of the Council of Trent;
2. The Congregation of Bishops and Regulars;
3. The Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith (Propaganda);
4. The Congregation of Sacred Rites;
5. The Congregation of the Index of Prohibited Books;
6. The Congregation of the Holy Office (the Inquisition).

To these must be added the Penitentiaria, which is a tribunal for granting absolutions from censures and dispensations in matters of vows and matrimonial impediments. It also passes judgment on moral cases submitted to its decision.

These Congregations have as their principal function the administration, or, if we may so term it, the general police of doctrine and discipline. It is their duty to prosecute offences against Faith or Morals, to prohibit dangerous writings, and to attach authoritative censures to any opinions the profession of which is sinful. They do not give decisions without appeal, because finality is inseparable from infallibility. Although they act in the Pope's name, their decrees are their own and not his, even after receiving his acknowledgment and approbation. If, however, he himself gives a decision based upon the advice of a Congregation, such decision is his own and not merely the decision of the Congregation. What, then, is the authority of the Roman Congregations?

1. Doctrinal decrees of the Congregations, which are not fully and formally confirmed by the Pope, are not infallible. They have, however, such a strong presumption in their favour that even internal submission is due to them, at least for the time being. The reason of this is plain. The Congregations are composed of experienced men of all schools and tendencies; they proceed with the greatest prudence and conscientiousness; they represent the tradition of the Roman Church which is especially protected by the Holy Ghost. We may add that their decrees have seldom needed reform. Hence Pius IX points out that learned Catholics “must submit to the doctrinal decisions given by the Pontifical Congregations” (Brief to the Archbishop of Munich, Tuas Libenter, 1863).

2. If the Pope fully and formally confirms the decrees they become infallible. It is not easy, however, to decide whether this perfect confirmation has been given. Certain formulas, e.g the simple approbavit, may signify nothing more than an act of supervision or an act of the Pope as head of the Congregation, and not as Head of the Church.

II. Particular or Local Councils are assemblies of the Bishops of a province or a nation as distinguished from assemblies of the Bishops of the world. When the council is composed of the Bishops of a single province, it is called a Provincial Council; when the Bishops of several provinces are present, it is called a Plenary or National Council. Thus in England, where there is only one province, the province of Westminster, the English Councils are called the “Westminster Provincial Councils.” In Ireland there are four provinces, and consequently when all the Irish Bishops meet in council the assembly is called the “National Council.” The usual name given to similar assemblies in the United States is Plenary Council. Every Particular Council must be convened with the approbation of the Holy See. The Bishops act indeed in virtue of their ordinary power, and not as papal delegates; nevertheless it is only fitting that they should act in union with their Head. Moreover, the decrees must be submitted to the approval of Rome. The approval granted is either Simple or Solemn (approbatio in forma simplici, approbatio in forma solemni). The Simple form, which is that usually granted, is a mere act of supervision, and emanates from the Congregation of the Council. The Solemn form is equivalent to an adoption of the decrees by the Holy See as its own, and is seldom granted. The Provincial Councils held against Pelagianism are well-known instances. In modern times, Benedict XIII granted the solemn approbation to the decrees of the Council of Embrun. Without this solemn approval the decrees of Provincial Councils are not infallible. The presumption of truth in their favour depends partly on the number and the personal ability and character of the Bishops present, and partly on the nature of their proceedings and the wording of their decrees. Peremptory and formal affirmation of a doctrine as Catholic, or condemnation of a doctrine as erroneous, would not be tolerated by the Holy See unless such affirmation or condemnation was in accordance with the teaching of Rome; and consequently even the simple approval of decrees of this kind gives a strong presumption of truth. When, however, the decrees have not this peremptory and formal character, but are simply expositions of doctrine or admonitions to the Faithful, the presumption in their favour is not so strong.

See Bellarmine, De Conciliis; Benedict XIV., De Synodo Diocesana, 1. xiii. c. 3. The decrees of the various Provincial and other Particular Councils may be found in the great collections of Councils named above. The more recent decrees are given in the Collectio Lacensis (Herder, Freiburg). The Westminster Councils, of which four have been held, have been published by Burns and Oates. The most important National Council of Ireland is the Synod of Thurles held in 1851. There have been three Plenary Councils of Baltimore (United States), held in the years 1852, 1866, and 1884 respectively.

SECT. 34.—Dogmatic Censures.

I. The Vatican Council has spoken of the right of censure belonging to the Church in the following terms: “Moreover, the Church having received, together with the apostolic office of teaching, the command to keep the Deposit of the Faith, hath also the right and the duty of proscribing knowledge falsely so-called, lest any one should be deceived by philosophy or vain deceit. Wherefore all the Faithful are forbidden, not only to defend as legitimate conclusions of science opinions of this kind which are known to be contrary to the doctrine of the Faith, especially if they have been condemned by the Church, but are also bound to hold them rather as errors having the deceitful semblance of truth “ (sess. iii., chap. 4). See also Pius IX's brief Gravissimas inter.

II. Dogmatic censures impose most strictly the duty of unreserved assent. In matters of Faith and Morals they afford absolute certainty that the doctrines or propositions censured are to be rejected in the manner required by the particular censure affixed to them. Sometimes the obligation of submitting to the Church's judgment is expressly mentioned ; e.g. in the Bull Unigenitus. “We order all the Faithful not to presume to form opinions about these propositions or to teach or preach them, otherwise than is determined in this our constitution.” In cases of this kind the infallibility of the censures is contained in the infallibility concerning Faith and Morals which belongs to the Teaching Apostolate, because submission to the censure is made a moral duty. No difference is here made between the binding power of lesser censures and that of the highest (heresy). Moreover, these censures bind not only by reason of the obedience due to the Church, but also on account of the certain knowledge which they give us of the falsity or untrustworthiness of the censured doctrines To adhere to these doctrines is a grievous sin because of the strictness of the ecclesiastical prohibition sanctioned by the heaviest penalties, and also because all or nearly all the censures represent the censured act as grievously sinful. The duty to reject a censured doctrine involves the right to assert and duty to admit the contradictory doctrine as sound, nay as the only sound and legitimate doctrine. The censures do not expressly state this right and duty, nevertheless the consideration of the meaning and drift of each particular censure clearly establishes both. In the case of censures which express categorically the Church's certain judgment, such as “Heresy,” “Error,” “False,” “Blasphemous,” “Impious,” and also in cases where moral certainty is expressed, such as “Akin to Heresy,” “Akin to Error,” “Rash,” there can be no question as to this.

Doubt might perhaps arise whether the other censures, such as “Wicked,” “Unsound,” “Unsafe, and mere condemnations without any particular qualification, impose the duty of admitting the falsity of the condemned doctrines as at least morally certain, or whether it is enough to abstain from maintaining them. As a rule, however, we must not be content with the latter.

III. The Church's judgment is also infallible when condemning doctrines and propositions in the sense meant by some determinate author. This infallibility is already contained in the infallibility of the censure itself when no distinction can be drawn between the meaning of the words and the meaning intended by the author. But, where this distinction can be drawn, the infallibility of the judgment concerning the author's meaning is at least virtually contained in the infallibility of the censure itself. The Church sometimes condemns an author's propositions in the sense conveyed by their context, and sometimes formulates propositions conveying the author's meaning. In the former case the censure applies to the context as well as to the proposition; in the latter case there is a twofold censure, one on the propositions as formulated by the judge, and another on the text as containing the sense of the propositions. In neither of these cases would the censure be infallible, if it were not infallible in determining the sense of the author. For this reason the Church does not give a separate judgment to establish that a particular text conveys a particular meaning; she simply attaches the censure to the text as it stands.

These various distinctions were of great importance in the Jansenistic controversy. The Jansenists admitted that the five propositions censured by Innocent X were worthy of condemnation, but denied that they were to be found in their master's works.

SECT. 35.—Development of Dogma.

I. The truths which God has been pleased to reveal to mankind were not all communicated in the beginning. As time went on, the later Patriarchs had a larger stock of revealed truth than those who preceded them; the Prophets had a still larger share than the Patriarchs. But when the Church was founded, the stock of Revelation was completed, and no further truths were to be revealed (§ 6). The infallibility of the Church manifestly precludes any change in dogmas previously defined. Nevertheless, it is clear that the Church has not always possessed the same explicit knowledge of all points of doctrine and enforced them just in the same way as in the time of the Apostles. In what terms should this difference be stated?

II. 1. It is not enough to say that the difference between the earlier and the later documents is merely nominal; viz. that the terminology of the earlier Creeds is obscure and vague, while in the later ones it becomes clear and precise.

2. Nor, again, will it do to make use of the comparison of a scroll gradually unrolled or of a casket whose contents become gradually known. There is, indeed, some truth in these comparisons, but they cannot account for all the facts.

3. A better comparison is that the later defined doctrines are contained in the earlier ones as the conclusion of a syllogism s contained in the premisses. This is to admit that there has been a real, though only logical, development in the Church's doctrine. Such is the argument of St. Augustine in the dispute concerning the re-baptism of heretics. According to him, a dogma may pass through three stages: (1) implicit belief; (2) controversy; (3) explicit definition. Thus in the early ages the validity of heretical Baptism was admitted in practice by the fact of not repeating the Sacrament. But when the question was formally proposed, there seemed to be strong arguments both for and against the validity. At this stage the most orthodox teachers might, and indeed did, disagree. Finally, the matter was decided, and thenceforth no further discussion was lawful within the Church. (De Bapt., II. 12-14; Migne, ix. 133. See also Franzelin, De Trad., thes. xxiii.)

4. But can we not go further and admit an organic development? In the case of logical development all the conclusions are already contained in the premisses, and are merely drawn out of them, whereas in organic development the results are only potentially in the germs from which they spring (Mark V. 28-32). In organic development there is no alteration or corruption, no mere addition or accretion; there is vitality, absorption, assimilation, growth, identity. Take, for example, the doctrines mentioned above. Scripture teaches plainly that there is only one God; yet it speaks of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and it speaks of Jesus Christ in such terms that He must be both God and Man. It was not until after some centuries that these truths were elaborated into the definitions which we are bound to believe. Who can doubt that during these centuries the primitive teaching absorbed into itself the appropriate Greek elements, and that the process was analogous to the growth of an organism? (Supra, p. xx.) This view of the organic development of the Church's teaching is a conclusive answer to those who ask us to produce from ancient authorities the exact counterpart of what we now believe and practise. They might just as well look for the branches and leaves of an oak in the acorn from which it sprang.

“Shall we then have no advancement of religion in the Church of Christ? Let us have it indeed, and the greatest. … But yet in such sort that it be truly an advancement of faith, not a change (sed ita tamen ut vere profectus sit ille fidei, non permutato), seeing that it is the nature of an advancement, that in itself each thing (severally) grow greater, but of a change that something be turned from one thing into another. … Let the soul's religion imitate the law of the body, which, as years go on, develops indeed and opens out its due proportions, and yet remains identically what it was. … Small are a baby's limbs, a youth's are larger, yet they are the same. … So also the doctrine of the Christian religion must follow those laws of advancement; namely, that with years it be consolidated, with time it be expanded, with age it be exalted, yet remain uncorrupt and untouched, and be full and perfect in all the proportions of each of its parts, and with all its members, as it were, and proper senses; that it admit no change besides, sustain no loss of its propriety, no variety of its definition. Wherefore, whatsoever in this Church, God's husbandry, has by the faith of our fathers been sown, that same must be cultivated by the industry of their children, that same flourish and ripen, that same advance and be perfected” (Commonitorium, nn. 28, 29).

III. Revelation does not follow the merely natural laws of development like any other body of thought. While it is indeed necessarily influenced by the natural environment in which it exists, this influence works under Divine Providence and the infallible guidance of the Church. Moreover, it can never come to pass that an early dogmatic definition should afterwards be revoked, or be understood in a sense at variance with the meaning originally attached to it by the Church. “The doctrine which God has revealed has not been proposed as some philosophical discovery to be perfected by the wit of man, but has been entrusted to Christ's Spouse as a Divine deposit to be faithfully guarded and infallibly declared. Hence sacred dogmas must ever be understood in the sense once for all (semel) declared by Holy Mother Church; and never must that sense be abandoned under pretext of profounder knowledge (altioris intelligentiae).” (Vat. Council, Sess. iii. chap. 4.) On the whole subject, see Newman's great work, Development of Christian Doctrine.

SECT. 36—The chief Dogmatic Documents — Creeds and Decrees.

The most important dogmatic documents are the Creeds, or Symbols of Faith, and the decrees of the Popes and of General and Particular Councils.

I. Creeds.

1. The simplest and oldest Creed, which is the foundation of all the others, is the Apostles' Creed. There are, however, twelve different forms of it, which are given in Denzinger's Enchiridion. See Dublin Review, Oct., 1888, July, 1889; and Le .Symbole des Apotres, by Batiffol and Vacant, in the Dict, de Théol. Catholique.

2. The Nicene Creed, published by the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325), defines the Divinity of Christ. It originally ended with the words, “and in the Holy Ghost.” The subsequent clauses concerning the Divinity of the Holy Ghost were added before the First Council of Constantinople. In its complete form it is now used in the Mass.

3. The Athanasian Creed was probably not composed by St. Athanasius, but is called by his name because it contains the doctrines so ably expounded and strenuously defended by him. It is aimed at the heresies of the fourth and fifth centuries, and dates back at least to the sixth or seventh century.

4. The Creed of Toledo, published by the sixth council of Toledo (A.D. 675), further develops the Athanasian Creed, and is the most complete of the authentic expositions of the dogmas of the Blessed Trinity and Incarnation. As it closely follows St. Augustine's teaching, it might almost be called “St. Augustine's Creed” with even more reason than the preceding creed is called the creed of St. Athanathius. See Denzinger, n. xxvi.

5. The Creed of Leo IX is a free elaboration of the Nicene Creed, with some additions against Manichaeans and Pelagians. See Denzinger, n. xxxix. It is still used at the consecration of Bishops.

6. The Creed of the Fourth Lateran Council the famous caput Firmiter credimus, under Innocent III (1215), which is the first Decretal in the Corpus Juris Canonici, is in substance similar to the foregoing, but further develops the doctrine concerning Sacrifice, Baptism, and particularly Transubstantiation. The subjoined condemnation of Abbot Joachim completes the dogmatic definition of the Holy Trinity. See Denzinger, n. lii.; also St. Thomas, Expositio Primae et Secundae Decretalis, Opuscc. xxiii. and xxiv.

7. The formula prescribed by the same Pope Innocent III (1210) to the converts among the Waldenses, states more or less extensively the doctrine concerning the Sacraments, and also various matters of morals and discipline. Denzinger, n. liii.

8. The Confession of Faith made by Michael Palaeologus in the Second Council of Lyons, 1274, accepted by Pope Gregory X, is based upon the Creed of Leo IX., but adds clauses containing the doctrine concerning the Four Last Things (Death, Judgment, Hell, Heaven), the Sacraments, and the Primacy of the Roman Church.

After the Council of Trent three more professions of Faith for the use of converts were issued by the Popes, all of which begin with the Nicene Creed, and contain in addition appropriate extracts from the decrees of several councils.

9. The so-called Tridentine Profession of Faith, drawn up in 1564 by Pius IV for converts from Protestantism, recapitulates the most important decrees of the Council of Trent. Denzinger, n. lxxxii.

10. The Profession of Faith prescribed by Gregory XIII to the Greeks contains the principal decrees of the Council of Florence concerning the Trinity, the Four Last Things, and the Primacy. Denzinger, n. lxxxiii.

11. Lastly, the Profession of Faith for the Easterns prescribed by Urban VIII, is copied from the Decretum pro Jacobitis, published by the Council of Florence. It is a summary of the teaching of the first eight ecumenical councils, and contains the same extracts from the Council of Florence as the foregoing Profession. It also includes many definitions of the Council of Trent. It is composed on historical lines, and is the most complete of all the Creeds. Denzinger, n. lxxxiv.

II. The decrees of the Popes and the councils are sometimes negative and aphoristic, and sometimes positive and developed formulas. The drawing up of these formulas was, as a rule, the work of doctors or of particular Churches or of the Holy See; in a few cases these were the results of the combined labours of the bishops assembled in councils. In this respect the Council of Trent excelled all others. The various decrees are given in Denzinger's Enchiridion.