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St. Francis of Assisi, Patron of Peace

Does the military action the U.S. is contemplating against Iraq meet the standards of a just war?


Date: 4/7/2003 11:26:52 PM
Name or Pseudonym: Chris
Subject: Explanation

The Pope has the authority to govern the Church - He alone can make certain appointments, for example. He can bind all Catholics to certain observances such as fast days and days of abstinence, etc. But in matters theological, the Pope can only bind people on matters of faith and morals when he makes an Ex Cathedra (from the chair) decree.

According to St. Robert Bellarmine, papal infallibility is a charism of divine assistance accorded by God to the Pope because of his possessing the magisterium, or the office of primacy. Bellarmine concludes that in the event that an individual Pontiff should delinquently lose the papacy, he would necessarily lose not only the papal office but also the divine charism of infallibility.

In short, the divine assistance is attached not to the person of the Pope per se, but to the office that is filled by this person.
Therefore, an individual Pontiff enjoys this assistance of the Holy Spirit as long as he also enjoys the possession of the magisterial office. Should this office be forfeited, his prerogative of infallibility would also lapse. Thus, Bellarmine foresaw the possibility of an individual Pontiff lapsing into manifest heresy.

The First Vatican Council incorporated Bellarmine’s own formula in qualifying papal infallibility. In his treatise De Romano Pontifice, Bellarmine limits infallibility to those pronouncements made by the sovereign Pontiff "cum ex cathedra loquitur." Thus, the charism of infallibility is a free gift given the Pontiff not for his personal sanctification, but to assure the welfare of others by means of his preserving and explaining the Deposit of Faith.

The First Vatican Council amended the original title of its draft from De Romani Pontificis Infallibilitate (Concerning the Infallibility of the Roman Pontiff) to De Romani Pontificis Infallibili Magisterio
(Concerning the Infallible Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff). By stressing the infallible magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, this latter title clarified not only the source and purpose of the divine charism of
infallibility, but its resultant loss should an individual Pope regretfully lapse from the magisterial office. In this respect, the Constitution merely defined what in fact had already become the common opinion, as most capably explained by Bellarmine.

The First Vatican Council (A dogmatic council) goes on to say: "For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by His revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by His assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or Deposit of Faith transmitted by the Apostles."

Well, if a war can be just, according to the magisterium of the Church, then one can’t possibly come along at some future date and claim that the magisterium’s teaching can be changed, even a pope.

How does the Pope make an ex cathedra (from the chair) statement? "From the chair" doesn’t necessarily mean from the chair of St. Peter, it means that the Pope intends to teach all mankind a rock solid truth, using the power to loose or bind as given to St. Peter, that every Catholic must accept, or be counted among the heretics. An example of an ex cathedra statement can be found in Cantate Domino:
"The Most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews, and heretics, and schismatics, can ever be partakers of eternal life, but that they are to go into the eternal fire "which was prepared for the devil, and his angels," (Mt. 25:41) unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this Ecclesiastical Body, that only those remaining within this unity can profit from the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and that they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, alms deeds, and other works of Christian piety and duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved unless they abide within the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church."

The Pope stating that he "doen’t like this war" or that "modern man should be able to avoid war through diplomacy" or that "there is no need for the death penalty" and such are simply his private opinion, and where his private opinions are contrary to already established dogmas, the pope is incorrect.

One thing is clear; we may be more technically advanced than Catholics gone before us, and some today might think we are actually more "enlightened." But the fact of the matter is that our human nature is just as it was 5000 years ago. The rules and codes and dogmas that were right and correct for the early Christians will always be right, and opposing viewpoints will be wrong, even if they are held by arguably popular popes.

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