September 8th, 1713, Pope Clement XI issued a Bull, Unigenitus, which among other things condemned
the proposition that reading of the bible is for everyone,
1 and seemed
to exalt the efficacy of grace to the point of destroying liberty. It also appeared to limit the
Church to the predestined only.
2 The storm of protest
that arose against it proves conclusively that 18th
century Catholic Europe had little notion of Papal
Infallibility. This Papal Bull almost brought
France to the brink of schism
3 and the Austrian Emperor forbade the Bull
Unigenitus in his territories.4
This Bull sparked a debate as to the limits
of papal authority. Sicilian seminaries were teaching their
students that General Councils were supreme over the Pope
and were using Unigenitus to show how Popes could
Everywhere, the battle over Unigenitus caused a
decline in the reputation of the See of Rome as a teacher of
the Protestation of the English Catholics was signed by all
the vicars-general and all the Catholic clergy and laity in
England of any note, and solemnly declared before Parliament
that we acknowledge no infallibility in the pope.7
Even in 19th century England and Ireland, Papal
Infallibility was still denied as an article of Catholic
belief. In 1822, Bishop Baines, Vicar Apostolic in England,
wrote that Bellarmine and some other divines, chiefly
Italians, have believed the Pope infallible, when proposing
ex cathedra an article of faith. But in England or
Ireland I do not believe that any Catholic maintains the
infallibility of the Pope.8
In 1825, a British Parliamentary Royal Commission was
established in view of the forthcoming Catholic Emancipation
Act of 1829. Some of the questions put to Roman Catholic
Bishops are as follows:
Is the authority of the Pope in spiritual matters absolute
A: It is
Questions to Bishop Murray
Is that (Papal) authority under the control of General
authority is limited by the councils and canons of the
Church; he is the executive power of the Church, appointed
to preside over it and enforce its canons or laws. Those
canons vest in individuals, for instance in Bishops, certain
rights, which of course is the duty of the Pope to protect
and not violate; his authority is thus limited by those
Does it justify an objection that is made to Catholics that
their allegiance is divided?
allegiance in civil matters is completely undivided.
Question to Dr. Oliver Kelley
Do the R.C. clergy insist that all the Bulls of the Pope are
entitled to obedience?
Roman Catholic doctrine in respect to Bulls from the Pope is
that they are always to be treated with respect; but if
those Bulls or Rescripts proceeding from the Pope do contain
doctrines or matters which are not compatible with the
discipline of the particular Church to which they may be
directed, they feel it their duty then to remonstrate
respectfully, and not to receive the regulations that may
emanate from the Pope.
Can you state in what respect the national canons received
in Ireland, or any particular construction put upon the
general canons, differ from those which are received in
instance, a particular church, or the canons of a particular
church, might define that the authority of a general council
was superior to that of the Pope: Such canon may be
received, for instance in Ireland or France, and might not
be received in Italy or Spain.
Question to Bishop Murray
Is the decree of the Pope valid without the consent of the
decree of the Pope in matters of doctrine is not considered
binding on Catholics, if it have not the consent of the
whole Church, either dispersed or assembled by its Bishops
the declaration of the Archbishops and Bishops of the Roman
Catholic Church in Ireland, was endorsed by the signatures
of 30 bishops, declaring that The Catholics of Ireland
declare on oath their belief that it is not an article of
the Catholic faith, neither are they required to believe
that the pope is infallible.10
Archbishop Kenrick of St. Louis pointed out in his
undelivered speech, which he had published in Naples, that
for two hundred years a book had been in circulation
entitled Roman Catholic Principles in Reference to God
and the King. It enjoyed such a wide circulation that
from 1748 to 1813 it underwent 35 editions and the Very
Reverend Vicar Apostolic Coppinger in England had 12
printings of it. On the question of Papal Infallibility it
It is no
matter of faith to believe that the Pope is in himself
infallible, separated from the Church, even in expounding
the faith: by consequence of Papal definitions or decrees,
in whatever form pronounced, taken exclusively from a
General Council, or universal acceptance of the Church,
oblige none, under pain of heresy, to an interior assent.11
Infallibility - A Protestant Hoax?
One of the
most popular catechisms circulating in 19th century England
was the Controversial Catechism by the
Reverend Stephen Keenan. The one I have is the third edition
of 1854, published by Marsh and Beattie of Edinburgh and
Charles Dolman of London and Manchester. On page 112 we find
the following question and answer:
Must not Catholics believe the Pope in himself to be
A: This is
a Protestant invention; it is no article of the Catholic
faith; no decision of his can oblige, under pain of heresy,
unless it be received and enforced by the teaching body;
that is, by the bishops of the Church.
This catechism carries the enthusiastic approbation of four
The Right Rev. Bishop Carruthers:
concise summary of arguments, authorities, and proofs,
in support of the doctrines, institutions and practices
of the Catholic Church, is here presented in a very
convenient form, as an additional antidote against the
unceasing effusions of antagonistic Ignorance and
MisrepresentationThe work I trust will meet with the
notice it deserves, and the good be thus effected which
the zealous and talented author has had in view of its
ANDREW, BISHOP OF CERAMIS,
Vicar Apostolic of Eastern Scotland.
Edinburgh, 10th April, 1846.
The Right Rev. Bishop Gillis:
much pleasure in adding my name to the above Approbation
by my Venerable Predecessor, and in earnestly
recommending the study of the CONTROVERSIAL CATECHISM to
the Faithful of the Eastern District of ScotlandBut
there are many, it is to be hoped, sincere in their
pursuit of Truth; and to all such, the CONTROVERSIAL
CATECHISM must ever prove a welcome and highly useful
fact that nine thousand copies having already been
exhausted in two editions in this country, besides a
third edition printed in America, is evidence sufficient
of the favour with which the Catechism has been received
by the Catholic Public
BISHOP OF LIMYRA,
Vicar Apostolic of the Eastern District in Scotland.
14th November, 1853.
the Right Rev. Bishop Kyle:
read, with much pleasure, a work entitled Controversial Catechism, by the Rev. Stephen
Keenan. As it contains a well-reasoned defense of the
Catholic faith, and clear and satisfactory solutions of
the usual objections adduced by separatists, I deem that
the study of it will be most useful to all Catholics;
and, therefore, I earnestly recommend it to the Faithful
in the Northern District of Scotland.
KYLE, V.A. N.D.S.
Preshome, 15th April, l846.
the Right Rev. Bishop Murdoch:
Glasgow, 19th November, 1853
Dear Mr. Keenan,
exceedingly delighted to learn that a third edition of
your excellent Controversial Catechism is about
to be printed. You request my approbation of this New
Edition. Most willingly and most heartily do I give it.
But it is really altogether unnecessary, for the work
has amply approved itself. The rapid exhaustion of the
last two editions is more than sufficient proof of the
value and worth of the Catechism. I know not, indeed, if
we possess a better volume adapted to the wants of the
time;As long as the Controversial Catechism is
to be had, it is entirely the fault of all Catholics -
be their rank however humble - if they be not ready on
all occasions to give a reason of the faith and hope
that are in them. I am, Rev. Dear Sir, yours sincerely
MURDOCH, V.A. W.D.
Rev. Stephen Keenan, Dundee.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
rapid sale of the former edition - its approbation by
many Clergyman in Scotland and by several in Ireland and
England - the fact of its appearing in a very elegant
American edition, approved by the Right Rev. Dr. Hughes
of New York, and by the American Catholic Clergy and
Catholic press - combined with the antipathy of modern
religionists to its publication or circulation, and the
unwilling testimony wrung from them as to its efficacy
in supporting truth, - all these motives, strengthened
by a desire to put down error and establish truth, have
induced the Author to give the public a second edition
in mid-nineteenth century Britain and
America we have a very popular Catholic Catechism claiming the notion of Papal Infallibility as evidence of
Protestant deceit or ignorance. As we have seen,
this was not an article of faith that the universal church
has always confessed. Pius had already tested infallibility
when, in 1854, he declared the doctrine of the Immaculate
Conception of, which some of them (bishops) dreaded and some
opposed, but which all submitted when he had decreed without
the intervention of a Council.
IX—The Infallible Instrument of God
Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, the future Pius IX was born
in 1792, being the last of nine children, to a family of the
lesser nobility. In his youth and well into his thirties he
suffered epileptic seizures. For a while he was allowed to
celebrate mass only on the condition that another priest or
deacon was present. Nothing more is heard of this condition
in his later life, however, according to his contemporaries
the traces of the Popes epilepsy were visible, in that the
right side of his body was slightly less developed than the
left. This could be seen even in his face which was
asymmetric, with lips awry and a head that inclined to the
was the longest reigning pope, possessing personal charm and
enjoying great popularity. He was also considered highly
impressionable, capricious, impulsive and unpredictable.
These characteristics were attributed to his epilepsy.
13 It is this
Pope Pius IX who was absolutely determined to have his
office dogmatically defined as the infallible instrument of
God by a council of the Church.
First Vatican Council the approval of the passing of Papal
Infallibility was almost guaranteed from the beginning.
First, by the incredibly unequal representation which was
highlighted during the Council by a pamphlet, whose author
was believed to be Georges Darboy, Archbishop of Paris
entitled, The Liberty of the Council and the
Infallibility. This pamphlet claimed that while Italy
had two hundred and seventy bishops, the rest of Europe had
only two hundred and sixty-five. Closer scrutiny reveals
that twelve million German Roman Catholics were represented
by nineteen bishops while seven hundred thousand inhabitants
of the Papal States were represented by sixty-two. Three
anti-Infallibilist Bishops of Cologne, Paris and Cambrai
represented five million souls. It is little wonder that the
German bishops who formed the backbone of the
anti-Infallibilist complained of being overwhelmed by
Italian and Sicilian bishops.
reason why the doctrine of Papal Infallibility was
guaranteed to pass was the deep personal involvement of Pius
IX himself and the intimidating coercive tactics he used. A
measure of his resolve is the statement he made to the chief
editor of La Civilta Cattolica, My mind is so made up that
if need be I shall take the definition upon myself and
dismiss the Council if it wishes to keep silence.
15 In a brief to Dom
Gueranger, Abbot of Solesmes, a leading French Ultramontane
(on the other side of the Alps; one who advocates supreme
papal authority), Pius IX, while demonstrating no lack of
confidence in his own infallibility, attacks and brands the
bishops who oppose the definition as men, who show
themselves completely imbued with corrupt principals and who
no longer know how to submit their intelligence to the
judgment of the Holy SeeTheir folly mounts to this excess
that they attempt to remake the divine constitution of the
Church in order to bring down more easily the authority of
the supreme Head whom Christ has set over it and whose
prerogatives they dread.16
Pope Pius IX was so bent on having the office of the Papacy
declared infallible he used the power and prestige of his
office to intimidate and upbraid even bishops who adopted a
neutral or moderate line. The Reverend T. Mozley, special
correspondent to The Times of London writes that
bishops who adopted a neutral or moderate line:
themselves sorely tried in a personal interview. They find
it vain to declare their devotion or their sincerity. His
Holiness tells them plainly they are not on his side; they
are among his enemies; they are damaging the good cause;
their loyalty is not sound. It is enough that they have
signed what they should not, or not signed what they ought.17
Ullathorne, Bishop of Birmingham wrote, The Pope, takes
every opportunity of expressing his views on the
infallibility both in audiences and letters that at once get
into the papers.18
Again Ullathorne writes, The Pope, I believe, is bent on the
definition, if he can, as the crowning of his reign, and I
think it will in some shape probably pass.19 To a group of
vicars apostolic and Oriental bishops, Pius IX reminded
them, It is necessary for you to defend the truth with the
Vicar of Jesus Christ. My children do not abandon me.
example of how far removed the bishops, the successors of
the apostles, were from the dignity and freedom they
exercised at the Seven Ecumenical Councils and their
subservience to the Pope can be judged by the behaviour of
Wilhelm von Ketteler, Bishop of Mainz. Just before the final
vote on Papal Infallibility, a deputation of minority
bishops implored Pius IX to accept certain concessions in
the wording of the declaration: Ketteler threw himself on
his knees and with tears in his eyes said: Good Father, save
us and save the Church of God!21
One cannot help recalling St. Pauls reproof to St. Peter
when he, withstood him to his face, Gal. 11:11, and St.
Irenaeus stern rebuke to Pope St. Victor over the Easter
controversy (see Chapter II ). Pius was unmoved.
Guidi, Archbishop of Bologna, in a speech before the Council
said that, while accepting infallibility, he urged the Pope
to take the counsel of his bishops before issuing decisions
as this is the tradition of the Church. Guidis speech was
reported to the Pope and he was sent for and scolded. The
surprised Cardinal responded that he was only maintaining
that bishops are witnesses of tradition. Witnesses of
tradition? said the Pope, There is only one; thats me.22
Even Roman Catholic author Dom Cuthbert Butler in his
popular work, The Vatican Council, admits to the
personal influence of Pius IX,did it amount to undue
influence? That at the final stages he exerted his personal
influence to the utmost cannot be questioned, for it was
Lacking in Freedom
objections were voiced at the Council regarding the lack of
freedom due to the manner of the agenda. Dom Butler admits
to the Popes control over the Council when he writes, In all
things the Pope kept to himself the complete mastery. Things
which at Trent had been left in the hands of the Fathers -
settlement of claims to take part in the Council,
appointment of officials, regulation of procedure, etc. -
were all now fixed by the personal act of the PopeThe
bishops were invited and exhorted to suggest freely anything
for deliberation that they thought would be for the general
good of the Church. But such proposals or postulations must
be submitted to a special Congregation, nominated by the
Pope, for dealing with such postulates, to consider them and
report its advice to the Pope, with whom the decision would
lie as to whether the thing be brought forward at the
Council or not.
the validity of the Council, Archbishop Peter Richard
Kenrick refused to speak at any of the general sessions
after June 4th, 1870. Bishop Joseph Strossmeyer of Diakovar
told Lord Acton, There is no denying that the Council lacked
freedom from beginning to end. To Professor Joseph Hubert
Reinkens, Strossmeyer said, that the Vatican Council had not
had the freedom necessary to make it a true Council and to
justify its passing resolutions binding the conscience of
the entire Catholic world. The proof of this was perfectly
Francois Le Courtier spoke for many when he wrote, Our
weakness at this moment comes neither from scripture nor the
tradition of the Fathers nor the witness of the General
Councils nor the evidence of history. It comes from our lack
of freedom, which is radical. An imposing minority,
representing the faith of more than one hundred million
Catholics, that is, almost half of the entire Church, is
crushed beneath the yoke of a restrictive agenda, which
contradicts conciliar traditions. It is crushed by
commissions which have not been truly elected and which dare
to insert undebated paragraphs in the text after debate has
closed. It is crushed by the commission for postulates,
which has been imposed from above. It is crushed by the
absolute absence of discussion, response, objections, and
the opportunity to demand explanations; The minority is
crushed, above all, by the full weight of the supreme
authority which oppresses it
26 Furthermore, the opposing minority of
about two hundred bishops objected to the short time allowed
for studying the text on primacy and infallibility as well
as to the practice adopted by the deputations of inserting
new clauses at the last moment.
minority bishops were not allowed to discuss the historical
objections against Papal Infallibility with the deputation
on the faith.27
In a letter Bishop Le Courtier complains, See what more than
aught else destroys our liberty: it is crushed under the
respect we have for our Head.28
Later in frustrated anger, Bishop Francois Le Courtier
tossed his council documents into the river Tiber and left
Rome. The papers were retrieved and brought to the attention
of Vatican officials. The price for this gesture was
extracted three years later, when he was dismissed as Bishop
of the unequal representation and Pius IX using the power
and prestige of his office, there was still a large number -
eighty-eight bishops - who voted against Papal Infallibility,
which was enshrined in the constitution, Pastor Aeternus.
Sixty-two bishops, many of whom were de facto
opponents, voted with reservations, with only four hundred
and fifty-one giving a clear yes - this is less than half of
the one thousand and eighty-four prelates with voting
privileges and less than two-thirds of the seven hundred
bishops in attendance at the commencement of the Council.
Over seventy-six bishops in Rome abstained from voting and
fifty-five bishops informed the Pope that while maintaining
their opposition to the definition that out of filial piety
and reverence, which very recently brought our
representatives to the feet of your Holiness, do not allow
us in a cause so closely concerning Your Holiness to say non placet (it is not pleasing) openly in the face of
This statement alone speaks volumes for the subservience
that these bishops had for the immense authority figure of
the Pope - a presence unknown in the councils of the Early
Thus lacking a moral unanimity or even a clear two-thirds
majority, Papal Infallibility was now elevated as an article
of faith equal to the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation.
A belief that could not possibly meet the Vincentian canon
of Universality, Antiquity and Consent, and in fact
a belief not universally shared by Catholics even within
living memory of the Council that solemnly defined it.
Years later, Orthodox theologian Sergei Bulgakov,
observed with disdain that, The Vatican Council has as much
right to call itself a Council as todays meetings of
delegates from the Soviet republics can claim to be a free
expression of the will of the people.
1. The Popes and
European Revolution, page 75, Owen Chadwick, Clarendon
Press, Oxford, 1981.
Encyclopedia, page 397, Vol. XIV.
3. Ibid., page 398,
4. Chadwick, page
5. Chadwick, page
6. Chadwick, page
Memoirs Respecting the English Catholics, ii, pages 113
- 118, Charles Butler, 1819.
A Defence of
the Christian Religion, page 230, Bath, 1822. See W.E.
Gladstone, Vaticanism page 48, 1875.
Documenta, Vol. I, pages 234, 236, 237, 240.
10. Essay on the
Catholic Claims, page 300, Bishop J.W. Doyle, 1826.
11. Kenrick (Naples
edition). Page 46.
Freedom and Power, page 305, Lord Acton, Meridian Book,
Cleveland, Ohio. 1972.
How the Pope
Became Infallible, Pius IX and the Politics of Persuasion,
page 107, August Bernhard Hasler, Translated by Peter
Heinegg, Doubleday and Co. Inc., Garden City, New York,
Vatican Council, page 230.
15. Hasler, page 81.
Documenta, Vol. I, page 184.
Rome, II, 282.
18. Butler, The
Vatican Council, Vol. II, page 199.
19. Ibid., page 119.
Documenta, Vol. I, page 185.
21. Butler, page
22. Ibid., page 355.
23. Ibid., page 446.
24. Ibid., page 213,
25. Hasler, page
26. Hasler, pages
of the Holy See, page 156, Derek Holmes Burns & Oates,
First Vatican Council, page 477.
29. Hasle, page 139.
Vatican Council, page 408, 409.
31. Hasler, page