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Monday, 29 December 2014

Pope Pius IX - 1st Vatican Council 1869/70 - 'Dei Filius' and 'Pastor Aeternus' (Papal Infallibility)

Apologies for the delay in preparing this post, my reasons (excuses) being the complexity of the subject (to me, at least initially) combined with Christmas commitments. As regards the former, I can honestly say that I have learnt a lot when preparing this post - but it has taken me awhile, and as regards the latter, best wishes for a happy and blessed New Year.

                     Christ handing the keys to St Peter - (Perugino 1492)

 (continued from previous post)
 Over many years Pope Pius IX had been considering convoking a Council, and finally in  March 1865 a commission of  Cardinals was set up to examine the feasibility of  such a step.  All agreed in principle  and proposed that an Extraordinary Congregation be formulated, with bishops from different countries consulted as to what questions of doctrine and discipline should be dealt with. A letter was sent to thirty-six European bishops, and  in September 1866, based on their replies five preparatory commissions were set up, dealing with ‘Doctrine’,  ‘the Missions and the Oriental Church’,  ‘Ecclesiastical discipline’,  ‘Religious’, and  ‘Politico/ Ecclesial relationships’. Each Commission was composed of  consultors,  comprising Professors or Rectors of seminaries, University Professors, and members of Religious Congregations.   

                                                            Pope St Sylvester 1 (314-335)
On 29 June 1868 the Pope published the Bull ‘Aeterni Patris’, which convoked the opening of the Council for December 8, 1869, and explained that the purpose of the Council was to ‘offer a remedy to the ills of the present century in the Church and in Society. The Council was therefore to examine with the greatest care and determination what must be done in such calamitous times for the greater glory of God, for the integrity of the Faith, for the splendour of the Catholic religion, for the eternal salvation of men, for the discipline and solid instruction of the regular and secular clergy, for the observation of ecclesiastical laws, for the reform of customs, for the Christian education of youth, and for general peace and universal concord.’

No mention was made of the question of papal infallibility, however in Feb 1869 the ‘Civilta Cattolica’ published an article  suggesting that the Council might solemnly ratify the doctrine enunciated in the Syllabus, and might succeed ‘by acclamation’ in approving a definition of Papal infallibility.  This provoked an outcry from more ‘liberal’ circles, particularly certain French Bishops and German religious. In England these views were shared and spread by the influential  Lord Acton who moved to Rome prior to the Council, in order to lend his support and presence to the anti-infallibility faction.

                                                         Pope St Anastasius 1 (399-401)
The preparations for the Council were thorough and well organised. The General Assembly of the Fathers was divided into five congregations each under the chairmanship of a Cardinal appointed by the Pope. The five deputations prepared drafts of the main points to be discussed, which were then presented to the Pope prior to discussion in the general assembly. When approved and after any amendments during debate, it was brought to the public session, and only then, after a new vote by the Council Fathers, would it be promulgated by the Pope.
On 8 September, 1869 the Pope solemnly opened the 20th Ecumenical Council  in St Peter’s, quoting Our Lord's words, "‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.’"  "And what are these words? ‘Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it’".

The Council held four public sessions, the first on December 8 1869, on the opening of the Council; the second on 6 January, 1870, devoted to the profession of faith prescribed by Pope Pius IV which the Fathers made at the feet of the Pope; the third on 24 April, in which the dogmatic constitution ‘Dei Filius’ was promulgated; and the fourth on 18 July, in which Papal Infallibility was defined, with the dogmatic ‘Pastor Aeternus’ .

                                                       Pope St Leo the Great (440-461)

The dogmatic constitution ‘Dei Filius’ is described as ‘a dense and luminous exposition of the Catholic doctrines on God, Revelation, and on Faith’. This is an important document and it would be wrong to ignore it, but it is difficult to quote from it without limiting the meaning and sense of the whole; and it would be easy to create misunderstanding. It is too long to incorporate in full in this post, so I have just included the introduction, and created a link for those wishing to read the whole constitution. (which is both very clear and readable, and is extraordinarily relevant to the 21st century world)

First Vatican Council
1869 to 1870 A.D. under Pope Blessed Pius IX

Pius, Bishop, Servant Of The Servants Of God, With The Approval
Of The Sacred Council, For Perpetual Remembrance

OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, the Son of God, and Redeemer of Mankind, before returning to his heavenly Father, promised that He would be with the Church Militant on earth all days, even to the consummation of the world. Therefore, He has never ceased to be present with His beloved Spouse, to assist her when teaching, to bless her when at work, and to aid her when in danger. And this His salutary providence, which has been constantly displayed by other innumerable benefits, has been most manifestly proved by the abundant good results which Christendom has derived from Ecumenical Councils, and particularly from that of Trent, although it was held during evil times

                                               Pope St Gregory the Great (590-604) 
 For, as a consequence, the sacred doctrines of the faith have been defined more closely, and set forth more fully, errors have been condemned and restrained, ecclesiastical discipline has been restored and more firmly secured, the love of learning and of piety has been promoted among the clergy, colleges have been established to educate youth for the sacred warfare, and the morals of the Christian world have been renewed by the more accurate training of the faithful, and by the more frequent use of the sacraments. Moreover, there has resulted a closer communion of the members with the visible head, an increase of vigour in the whole mystical body of Christ, the multiplication of religious congregations and of other institutions of Christian piety, and such ardour in extending the kingdom of Christ throughout the world, as constantly endures, even to the sacrifice of life itself.

                                                               Pope St Pius V (1566-1572)

 But while we recall with due thankfulness these and other signal benefits which the Divine mercy has bestowed on the Church, especially by the last Ecumenical Council, we cannot restrain our bitter sorrow for the grave evils, which are principally due to the fact that the authority of that sacred Synod has been contemned [i.e. scorned], or its wise decrees neglected, by many.

No one is ignorant that the heresies proscribed by the Fathers of Trent, by which the divine Magisterium of the Church was rejected, and all matters regarding religion were surrendered to the judgment of each individual, gradually became dissolved into many sects, which disagreed and contended with one another, until at length not a few lost all faith in Christ. Even the Holy Scriptures, which had previously been declared the sole source and judge of Christian doctrine, began to be held no longer as Divine, but to be ranked among the fictions of mythology.

Then there arose and spread, exceedingly widely throughout the world, that doctrine of rationalism, or naturalism, which opposes itself in every way to the Christian religion as a supernatural institution, and works with the utmost zeal in order that, after Christ, our sole Lord and Saviour, has been excluded from the minds of men, and from the life and moral acts of nations, the reign of what they call pure reason or nature may be established. And after forsaking and rejecting the Christian religion, and denying the true God and His Christ, the minds of many have sunk into the abyss of Pantheism, Materialism, and Atheism, until, denying rational nature itself, and every sound rule of right, they labour to destroy the deepest foundations of human society.     
(Editor's note - very relevant to our world today - 140 years on!)

Unhappily, it has yet further come to pass that, while this impiety prevailed on every side, many even of the children of the Catholic Church have strayed from the path of true piety, and by the gradual diminution of the truths they held, the Catholic understanding became weakened in them. For, led away by various and strange doctrines, utterly confusing nature and grace, human science and Divine faith, they are found to deprave the true sense of the doctrines which our Holy Mother Church holds and teaches, and to endanger the integrity and the soundness of the faith.

                                                             Pope St Pius X (1903-1914)
 Considering these things, how can the Church fail to be deeply stirred? For, even as God wills all men to be saved, and to arrive at the knowledge of the truth; even as Christ came to save what had perished, and to gather together the children of God who had been dispersed, so the Church, constituted by God the Mother and Teacher of nations, knows its own office to be a debtor to all, and is ever ready and watchful to raise the fallen, to support those who are falling, to embrace those who return, to confirm the good and to carry them on to better things. Hence, it can never forbear from witnessing to and proclaiming the truth of God, which heals all things, knowing the words addressed to it: "My Spirit that is in you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, henceforth and forever" (Isaiah 59:21).

We, therefore, following the footsteps of our predecessors, have never ceased, as becomes our supreme Apostolic office, from teaching and defending Catholic truth, and condemning doctrines of error. And now, with the Bishops of the whole world assembled round us, and judging with us, congregated by our authority, and in the Holy Spirit, in this Ecumenical Council, we, supported by the Word of God written and handed down as we received it from the Catholic Church, preserved with sacredness and set forth according to truth, -- have determined to profess and declare the salutary teaching of Christ from this Chair of Peter, and in sight of all, proscribing and condemning, by the power given to us of God, all errors contrary thereto.

(Continuation of  Dei  Filius)


                                                      Pope St John XXIII (1958-1963)

The Council work continued with consideration of many other proposals,  however, the major question among the Council Fathers was that of papal infallibility. The powerful anti-infallibility faction, led by the German priest and theologian Dollinger, included several prominent and influential French bishops, and others, whilst the pro-infallibility faction led by the English prelate (later Cardinal) Manning, had the support of several  European  Bishops, and most of the eminent theologians of the day. Some years previously Fr. Manning and Mgr Senestyrey had both taken a vow to do everything in their power to promote the definition of Papal infallibility.  

The progress in the Council was slow, and at one stage it appeared as though the debate on papal infallibility would be put on hold, with a delay of at least several months. This possibility spelt real danger for the pro-infallibility cause, and it required an extra-ordinary request to the Pope, backed by a petition signed by 150 signatories, for this to be given immediate priority, with the debate on the draft finally opening on 13 May 1870. After many weeks of  acrimonious discussion, with agreement often seeming impossible, on 18 July during a solemn, public session in the presence of a vast multitude in the Basilica, the Council Fathers cast their definitive votes, and the final text of the apostolic constitution Pastor Aeternus was approved by 535 votes to 2, with 55 absentees.
Immediately after the vote Pope Pius IX promulgated solemnly, as an article of faith, the apostolic constitution 'Pastor Aeternus'  the purpose of which was to  present ‘the doctrine which is to be believed by all the faithful according to the ancient tradition of the universal Church, concerning the institution, the perpetuity, and the nature of the Holy, Apostolic Primate, in which there is contained the force and solidity of the whole Church; and to condemn and proscribe the contrary errors which are so damaging the Lord’s flock.’


                                                    Pope St.John Paul II (1978-2005)

As with 'Dei Filius', I include below the introduction for 'Pastor Aeternus' together with a link for those wishing to read the whole constitution.


Published In The Fourth Session
Of The Holy Ecumenical Council
Of The

Pius Bishop, Servant Of The Servants Of God,
With The Approval Of The Sacred Council,
For An Everlasting Remembrance.

'The Eternal Pastor and Bishop of our souls, in order to continue for all time the life-giving work of His redemption, determined to build up the Holy Church, in which, as the House of the living God, all who believe might be united in the bond of one faith and one charity. Therefore, before he entered into His glory, He prayed to the Father, not for the Apostles only, but for those also who through their preaching should come to believe in Him, that all might be one, even as He the Son and the Father are one. (John 17:21). Then He sent the Apostles, whom He had chosen for Himself from the world, just as he Himself had been sent by the Father. So did He will that there should ever be pastors and teachers in His Church to the end of the world.

And, so that the Episcopate also might be one and undivided, and so that, by means of a closely united priesthood, the multitude of the faithful might be kept secure in the oneness of faith and communion, He set Blessed Peter over the rest of the Apostles. And He fixed in him the abiding principle of this two-fold unity with its visible foundation, by the strength of which the eternal Temple would be built up, and the Church, in the firmness of that faith, would rise up, bringing her sublimity to Heaven. [6]

And since the gates of Hell, with greater hatred each day, are rising up on every side, to overthrow, if it were possible, the Church and Her divinely-established foundation, We, for the preservation, safe-keeping, and increase of the Catholic flock, with the approval of the Sacred Council, judge it to be necessary to propose, for the belief and acceptance of all the faithful, in accordance with the ancient and constant faith of the universal Church, the doctrine of the institution, perpetuity, and nature of the sacred Apostolic Primacy, by which the strength and solidity of the entire Church is established, and at the same time to proscribe and condemn the contrary errors, which are so harmful to the flock of Christ.'

[6] From Sermon 4, chapter 2, of St. Leo the Great, A.D. 440, vol. 1, p. 17 of edition of Ballerini,
Venice, 1753 ...

(continuation of Pastor Aeternus)

                                                            Coat of Arms of the Holy See

Of the fifty-one draft decrees to be considered by the Council, only two had been defined. However the proclamation of  infallibility was to be the final act,  for the next day, the 19 July, Prussia declared war on France, setting in motion a series of events culminating in the occupation of Rome on 20 September.  On the 20 October, the Council was suspended.

Ack. Blessed Pius IX by Roberto de Mattei (Gracewing)
        Pope Pius IX -the Man and the Myth by Yves Chiron               (Angelus Press)

(Papacy of Pope Pius IX to be concluded in the next post)

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