The Heretical Case Against the Synod

Nicolas Beatrizet, Christ's Charge to Peter (1540s)
Nicolas Beatrizet, Christ’s Charge to Peter (1540s)

Simon Peter has quite a plummet in Matthew 16. Shortly after correctly declaring Jesus the Messiah (for which Jesus renames him from Simon to “Peter,” meaning “Rock”), Jesus reveals with His Disciples the gory details of God’s plan for salvation, the Crucifixion (Matthew 16:21). Incredibly, Peter responds by taking Jesus aside to rebuke Him, leading Jesus to utter His harshest words in the New Testament: “Go behind me, Satan, thou art a scandal unto me: because thou savourest not the things that are of God, but the things that are of men” (Mt. 16:23 DRA).

Jesus’ rebuke is rich with ironic inversions: instead of calling Simon “Rock,” He calls him a “scandal,” a Greek word that literally means a “stumbling stone”; And whereas He had previously praised Peter’s confession for being Divinely-inspired (“flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven,”), He now criticizes Peter for savoring  “not the things that are of God, but the things that are of men.” I’m reminded of this painful juxtaposition in reading the numerous Catholic authors — even good Catholic authors — who seem to be losing their minds, and their faith, in response to the ongoing Synod on the Family.

Even sober-minded authors like Ross Douthat haven’t been immune. Much of his coverage of this year’s Synod mirrors the vision he laid out during the Synod last year, in which he suggested that it’s conservative Catholics, rather than the Holy Spirit, who are needed to preserve the Church from error (“They can certainly persist in the belief that God protects the church from self-contradiction. But they might want to consider the possibility that they have a role to play, and that this pope may be preserved from error only if the church itself resists him.”).

Jeffrey Bond over at OnePeterFive likewise lays out three possible outcomes, one of which is that “the Synod will explicitly change Catholic doctrine on the family.” While he views this outcome as “highly unlikely,” he doesn’t think it’s impossible, and his reasons for doubting its occurrence are more Machiavellian than theological,  since it would mean that “The plans of the modernists would then be fully exposed for all to see, and formal schism would soon follow once faithful cardinals, bishops and priests refused communion to those living publicly in the mortal sin of adultery and sodomy.” The analysis casually assumes the very Protestant claim that Catholicism has always denied: namely, that a situation could arise in which the faithful are forced to make the impossible choice between heresy and schism (each of which are mortal sins).

But the most dramatic example of St. Peter’s plummet is The Week’s Michael Brendan Dougherty. On October 1, he wrote easily the best piece on Pope Francis and Kim Davis, showing how the pope sought to imitate Christ rather than media scribes. Four day later, it was as if another writer entirely had taken the keyboard.  Start with the title: “Does Pope Francis fear God? On the Synod of the Family and the fracturing of the Catholic Church.” In fact, the piece doesn’t actually quote Pope Francis at all. This is what we get instead:

In the next three weeks, I fully expect the leadership of my own One Holy and Apostolic Catholic Church to fall into apostasy, at the conclusion of the Synod on the Family that begins today in Rome. This is the outcome Pope Francis has shaped over the entirety of his pontificate, and particularly with his recent appointments. An event like this —heresy promulgated by the Pope and his bishops — is believed by most Catholics to be impossible. But they should be prepared for it anyway. This is not an ordinary religious conference, but one to be dreaded.

This isn’t just bad tea-reading of the Synod. This is heresy.

In the decree dogmatically defining papal infallibility, the First Vatican Council explained that it’s because of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, not the natural wisdoms of the popes themselves, that the See of St. Peter will always and forever remain unblemished by any error:

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.

Indeed, their apostolic teaching was embraced by all the venerable fathers and reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors, for they knew very well that this see of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Saviour to the prince of his disciples: I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.

This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this see so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine. Thus the tendency to schism is removed and the whole church is preserved in unity, and, resting on its foundation, can stand firm against the gates of hell.

The whole point of the Magisterium in general and the papacy in particular is to ensure that the people of God are never fed poisonous heresy by their own Church, and never forced to choose between schism and heresy. After all, the Church is the Bride of Christ, for whom Jesus died, that He might have “a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).

Vatican I’s teaching is solidly rooted in Scripture. And at the Last Supper, Jesus promises (John 14:16-18), “I will ask the Father, and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you for everThe spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, nor knoweth him: but you shall know him; because he shall abide with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you.” And a little later (Jn. 16:23), Jesus clarifies that the Spirit of Truth will lead the Church into all truth: “when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth. For he shall not speak of himself; but what things soever he shall hear, he shall speak; and the things that are to come, he shall shew you.” So the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit, preserved in the fullness of truth forever.

The successor of Peter has a crucial role to play in this. I alluded to Peter’s confession of faith in Matthew 16. Christ responds in this way (Mt. 16:17-19), “I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.” All of this is related to the particular charge that Jesus entrusts to Peter at the Last Supper (Luke 22:31-32): “Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren.

Notably missing in the Scriptures is some sort of caveat in which Christ says, “I won’t leave you orphans until 2015,” or “the Holy Spirit will guide you until the fiftieth Synod of Bishops,” or “the Church will be preserved in all truth unless a Cardinal teaches otherwise.” Quite the opposite, in fact: Christ promises to be with the Church until the end of time (Matthew 28:20), and it’s the indefectibility of the Church that is held up as a proof that Christianity is the true faith in Acts 5:35-39.

Ultimately, the position of Dougherty, et al, isn’t just faithless, it’s mindless. Even if you ignored the teachings of Vatican I and Sacred Scripture, history itself would testify to the incredible steadfastness of the Church. For two thousand years, enemies of the Church (both within and without) have sought to destroy her; for two thousand years, they have failed. G.K. Chesterton, in Everlasting Man, summarizes the “Five Deaths of the Faith” this way: “At least five times, therefore, with the Arian and the Albigensian, with the Humanist sceptic, after Voltaire and after Darwin, the Faith has to all appearance gone to the dogs. In each of these five cases it was the dog that died.” Never once did the Roman Catholic Church slip into error, however briefly. Never once did a pope declare, accidentally or intentionally, a  Christological or Trinitarian heresy.

This point can be conceded even if one isn’t a Catholic: right or wrong, the Church has been unflinchingly consistent in a way that no other institution on earth has been (this is, after all, what inspires the ire of so many of her foes). But the authors mentioned above are all conservative Catholics, meaning that they apparently believe that the Church has always come out of these barrages with the faith preserved immaculate and entire, which makes their current panic all the more bizarre.

The play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead opens with the duo flipping a coin: it comes up heads 92 times in a row, the joke being how the event’s absurd improbability. But denying that the historical preservation of the Church is the work of the Holy Spirit would be more absurd, akin to postulating that the Church’s flawless track-record on solving technical theological questions was little more than a 2000 year-long lucky streak. Acknowledging the Church’s indefectibility as His work, in turn, shows the absurdity of assuming that He would stop now. The authors panicked about the Synod of Bishops seem to lack any sense of either theological foundation or historical perspective. We survived Arianism, a popular heresy backed by the Roman Empire, but lost to … a Synod about marriage?

Ultimately, this isn’t about trusting in the bishops assembled at the Synod, or even in His Holiness Pope Francis; it’s about trusting in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

77 Comments

  1. Let’s say the Church allows the civilly divorced and remarried to receive communion. Would this constitute heresy? Isn’t this the belief of the Church – that the Holy Spirit will prevent the promulgation of heresy? Wouldn’t it rather be a misguided praxis and not a teaching? I would think so. We don’t consider the Orthodox Churches in heresy because of their practice of allowing second marriages. We don’t agree with them, but we don’t consider it a heretical “teaching”, just poor practice.

    1. It is most certainly a heterodox practice that contradicts even Orthodox teaching on marriage, which is indissoluble and given by the blessing of the priest (in contrast to the Roman teaching that the bride and groom wed each other). It is also predicated on a turgid and overblown concept of the economy of the Church, that the Church’s merits compensate for our shortcomings; their application would suggest that the Church compensates for the adultery it permits, wouldn’t it? This is why the current pope’s repeated mention of the heterodox hellenistic practice bothers many.

      I will give the Orthodox credit for excommunicating divorcees, at least in theory, before allowing them to have penitential second and third marriages (without the necessary blessing for the validity of the marriage). I wonder if the Synod will mandate similar acts of public humility should it ask the pope to change Catholic discipline?

  2. “Never once did a pope declare, accidentally or intentionally, a Christological or Trinitarian heresy.”

    I hope this is meant in a formal sense and not a material sense.

    1. Certainly it’s true in a formal sense, but it’s also true materially, in terms of promulgated teaching. The early Church history is amazing: you continually have, for example, Patriarchs of Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople slipping in and out of various and sundry heresies, while the Roman Church maintains orthodoxy. It’s against this backdrop that an exasperated Jerome (living, at the time, in the East) writes to Pope Damasus:

      “Since the East, shattered as it is by the long-standing feuds, subsisting between its peoples, is bit by bit tearing into shreds the seamless vest of the Lord, woven from the top throughout, [John 19:23] since the foxes are destroying the vineyard of Christ, [Song of Songs 2:15] and since among the broken cisterns that hold no water it is hard to discover the sealed fountain and the garden inclosed, [Song of Songs 4:12] I think it my duty to consult the chair of Peter, and to turn to a church whose faith has been praised by Paul. ”

      And it’s this history also which helps to explain why so many disputes in the East end up getting resolved via Roman intervention, instead of Western disputes getting resolved in Constantinople or somewhere.

      Why do you ask? Did you have an example of a time you thought a pope promulgated a Christological or Trinitarian heresy?

      I.X.,

      Joe

      1. “…And it’s this history also which helps to explain why so many disputes in the East end up getting resolved via Roman intervention.”
        I have a stupid question. What if a roman pontif had this vision/idea that the two Churches should mend their seperation. And he knew that he himself wasn’t going to be the one to do it overnight as it were. It would take years and changes to ‘things’. So he decides that the Western Church should adopt the Easterns’ procedures on marriage/remarriage and kinda move things along. What would be wrong with that move?

        1. Pope Liberius under the pains of torture signed off on an arianized creed, so that is Christological heresy. For what it is worth, Athanasius did defend him because he was old, feeble, and tortured.

          1. It was semi-arians btw.I heard that it was technically Orthodox teaching in the creed.

            here’s the Catholic encyclopedia

            Sozomen tells a story which finds no echo in any other writer. He makes Constantius, after his return from Rome, summon Liberius to Sirmium (357), and there the pope is forced by the Semi-Arian leaders, Basil of Ancyra, Eustathius, and Eleusius, to condemn the “Homoousion”; he is induced to sign a combination of three formulæ: that of the Catholic Council of Antioch of 267 against Paul of Samosata (in which homoousios was said to have been rejected as Sabellian in tendency), that of the Sirmian assembly which condemned Photinus in 351, and the Creed of the Dedication Council of Antioch of 341. These formulæ were not precisely heretical, and Liberius is said to have exacted from Ursacius and Valens a confession that the Son is “in all things similar to the Father”. Hence Sozomen’s story has been very generally accepted as giving a moderate account of Liberius’s fall, admitting it to be a fact, yet explaining why so many writers implicitly deny it. But the date soon after Constantius was at Rome is impossible, as the Semi-Arians only united at the beginning of 358, and their short-lived influence over the emperor began in the middle of that year; hence Duchesne and many others hold (in spite of the clear witness of St. Athanasius) that Liberius returned only in 358. Yet Sozomen mentions the presence of Western bishops, and this suits 357; he says that Eudoxius spread the rumour that Liberius had signed the second Sirmian formula, and this suits 357 and not the time of Semi-Arian ascendancy. Further, the formula “in all things like” was not the Semi-Arian badge in 358, but was forced upon them in 359, after which they adopted it, declaring that it included their special formula “like in substance”. Now Sozomen is certainly following here the lost compilation of the Macedonian (i.e. Semi-Arian) Sabinus, whom we know to have been untrustworthy wherever his sect was concerned. Sabinus seems simply to have had the Arian story before him, but regarded it, probably rightly, as an invention of the party of Eudoxius; he thinks the truth must have been that, if Liberius signed a Sirmian formula, it was the harmless one of 351; if he condemned the “Homoousion”, it was only in the sense in which it had been condemned at Antioch; he makes him accept the Dedication Creed (which was that of the Semi-Arians and all the moderates of the East), and force upon the court bishops the Semi-Arian formula of 359 and after. He adds that the bishops at Sirmium wrote to Felix and to the Roman clergy, asking that Liberius and Felix should both be accepted as bishops. It is quite incredible that men like Basil and his party should have done this.

  3. In the last third you conflate “a bunch of people in the hierarchy are going to apostatize” with “the Church is going to collapse as a whole”. The former has happened. The latter has not.

    As for Rome being protected against all error, I don’t think the Council Fathers at Vatican I meant what you think they meant. Otherwise what are we to make of the case of John XXII?

  4. I think much of the sentiment in these Catholic bloggers is more nuanced than you’re giving them credit for. Gatherings of Bishops have erred, think of the Robber Council of Ephesus or the sessions of the Council of Constance not approved by the Pope. Also Popes have taught heresy, Pope Honorius I and John XXII are two examples. Pope’s have also erred, as in the Galileo case. Now these instances are very rare, but they have happened.

    Obviously none of the affects the definition of Vatican I and infallibility, because by defining infallibility Vatican I set limits on when the Pope is infallible and when he isn’t, and what he has authority to teach and what he doesn’t. This is why theologians like Suarez and Bellarmine wrote so much about how to depose a Pope who taught heresy even though both believed in Papal infallibility.

    Lastly, to just say “the Church can never err, therefore this Bishop Synod can’t do anything heretical” fails to make a host of necessary distinctions. Also, just because the Church will remain forever doesn’t mean we should be indifferent to the evils within her. Of course the Church won’t die, but individual souls may be lost due to silliness in the hierarchy, and that’s worth caring about.

    Both the laity and clergy are bound to revealed truth, and if anyone contradicts revealed truth they ought to be corrected. That’s the spirit of what these bloggers are saying, though I obviously won’t defend every jot and tittle of what they say.

    1. Luke,

      See my response below: I think it covers most of what you raise here. John XXII erred on a yet-undefined doctrine in a series of homilies, and then corrected himself after the University of Paris’ theologians intervened. Honorius is a misunderstood case: he was condemned for heresy, not for teaching it, but for letting it be taught. And nothing in the realm of papal infallibility means that every shepherd will successfully guard from all possible wolves. And no pope was involved in the Galileo case. So none of those are cases of popes promulgating something heretical (which is what’s impossible).

      Vatican I defines papal infallibility, ex cathedra, but isn’t placing outer limits on ecclesial infallibility. Quite the opposite: as you can see from the section of the Council that I quoted in the post, they locate papal ex cathedra infallibility within the larger realm of ecclesial infallibility. The Church will never teach heresy, period.

      I’m not saying “the Church can never err, therefore this Bishop Synod can’t do anything heretical.” See what I said below about how the Synod is advisory.

      I would absolutely encourage prayers and fasting for the success of the Synod. The fact that it won’t (and can’t) lead to the Church proclaiming heresy doesn’t mean that everything is guaranteed to be smooth sailing. On this point, I think we’re in agreement.

      Coupled with that, the danger to individual souls is absolutely a concern worth addressing, which is one of the chief reasons that I wrote this post: I think the sort of panicking that’s going in some quarters is both heretical and (at least materially) a sin against faith and against hope. The whole notion that the role of the lay blogger is to protect the Church’s Deposit of Faith against the pope and the Magisterium is both a radical inversion of Catholic ecclesiology and a minefield of spiritual ills. The very reasons that Luther, et al, were wrong back then are the reasons that Dougherty, et al, are wrong now.

      I.X.,

      Joe

  5. I am intentionally abstracting from some of the particulars of the Synod, because the procedural questions aren’t the most important part. The biggest question isn’t “what’s the Synod going to suggest to the pope?” but “is it possible that this process will lead to the Church falling into heresy? And there’s a clear answer to that question.

    None of the writers I’m critiquing in this post seem to understand that the final document will be issued by the pope rather than the Synod (whose role is merely deliberative and advisory). While I’m not certain about synodal bodies like this, the general principle is that advisory bodies *can* advance heretical opinions (see, e.g, the papal commission that looked in the question of artificial birth control under Pope Paul VI) precisely because they’re not Magisterial.

    I thought about arguing against these authors on those procedural grounds, but decided against, as it missed the big picture. When Douthat says “this pope may be preserved from error only if the church itself resists him,” or when Bond says it possible that “the Synod will explicitly change Catholic doctrine on the family,” or when Dougherty says “I fully expect the leadership of my own One Holy and Apostolic Catholic Church to fall into apostasy,” I understand all three of them to mean that the pope/Magisterium will (or at least might) teach heresy. And that’s heretical, for reasons that are broader than the question of which teachings are ex cathedra [Douthat seems to think that ecclesial infallibility is limited to ex cathedra, but that’s not what Vatican I says, or what Christ says].

    What, then, about Pope John XXII? Popes can (and do!) err in homilies and non-Magisterial statements. The pope wasn’t trying to dogmatically define the existence (or lack thereof) of the Beatific Vision immediately after death. He wasn’t saying, “as a Catholic, you have to believe that there’s no Beatific Vision until the General Resurrection.” If he had been saying that, the University of Paris would have been in an awkward spot. But instead, they almost immediately corrected the pope’s misunderstanding, and the Church proceeded to officially declare the true and orthodox teaching.

    To avoid making infallibility into something legalistic and mechanical, a good rule of thumb is that the Holy Spirit will never force believers to choose between schism and orthodoxy. John XXII’s homilies didn’t put believers in that position. [The same analysis would apply if there turned out to be something heretical, for example, in Benedict’s “Jesus of Nazareth” trilogy].

    I.X.,

    Joe

    1. I think the problem is not that people believe the Church will teach heresy as doctrine- especially since I haven’t really run across any authors or laymen who seriously believe the official teaching will change- but that people are worried as to whether or not the Church can change practice in a way that contradicts doctrine, which seems to be less clear. So might the Synod and the Pope allow the adopting heretical practice while keeping orthodox the official doctrine (ie, We affirm that x, y, and z that have always been doctrine are true, but we’re going to DO this other thing instead).

      That’s a different kind of question. Can the Church maintain orthodoxy on paper but officially sanction behavior that is contrary? And if so, doesn’t that constitute apostasy?

      1. I agree. It is unclear to me, at least, that the Church is protected from implicit errors. E.g. by allowing communion to the remarried you’d implicitly be contradicting doctrine regarding the Eucharist, or marriage, or both. But it may well be the case that this implicit heresy is never explicitly proposed as a teaching.

        I’d think that kind of error is possible. Otherwise I think we would have a serious “creeping infallibilism” problem. E.g. you could say that annulment reform runs into the same problem.

        I think that is what Dougherty, et al are worried about. If so, wouldn’t that be permissible?

        1. I agree. It is unclear to me, at least, that the Church is protected from implicit errors. E.g. by allowing communion to the remarried you’d implicitly be contradicting doctrine regarding the Eucharist, or marriage, or both. But it may well be the case that this implicit heresy is never explicitly proposed as a teaching.

          I don’t think such implicit errors “force believers to choose between schism and orthodoxy.” So I’d think that kind of error is possible. Otherwise I think we would have a serious “creeping infallibilism” problem. E.g. you could say that annulment reform runs into the same problem.

          I think that is what Dougherty, et al are worried about. If so, wouldn’t that be permissible?

  6. Personally, I think the Lord loves when His servants and sons debate, be they Cardinal bishops or mere altar boys.

    How do I come to this conclusion? Because it was so easy for Jesus to give very simple instructions to His apostles while He was teaching in Israel, regarding the nature of their future mission to the whole world, including items such as the circumcision of gentiles, Jewish dietary laws, changes to celebrations of Jewish ‘feasts’ and ‘sacrifices’, changes from the Sabbath to ‘The Lord’s day’, etc… But He did not.

    That He did not give these simple instructions while He was preaching in Israel, is instructive for us. It indicates that He wanted the disciples to settle these things by themselves, and with the aid of the future Holy Spirit who was to come at Pentacost. And the model we have for this discernment on such controversial ecclesiological items, is detailed in events and discussions that took place in the Acts of the Apostles, at the first Council of Jerusalem, which is also the model for all future synods and councils, even the one that is currently taking place in the Vatican today.

    That St. Paul was involved in the controversies of the First Council of Jerusalem, and that he actually reproved St. Peter on one occasion, at least, indicates that those who are not of the order of the 12 apostles, can also participate in debate, or discussion, on such items.

    And there is probably a very good reason that Jesus chose this route. And that it that controversies keep the faith alive and active, and force His faithful to scrutinize His ways in an ever deeper way. It is like the mother of deep theology. The Church has a very profound and detailed Faith EXACTLY because of these debates, and this is proved by just reading a little of the Church history, and theology, from the 3rd and 4th centuries. In a way, it is a means to force the Church as a whole, to focus and ponder deeply the difficult theological issues at hand, and also to define, teach and resolve them with the promised light, and aid, of the Holy Spirit.

    But, what is also important, is that after the arguments, debates and discussions are concluded, and the Magisterium has made a solemn decision on the matter, that the faithful of the Church respect both the process and the final decision. After 2000 years, the Lord has continually kept His promise that ‘the gates of Hell shall not prevail against His Church’, and we can still trust Him that this incredible, and miraculous, promise will continue to prove true until the end of the world.

  7. I am surprised about this article. Synods can err according to Catholic dogma. The Synod of Elvira banned the use of religious images. Yet, the seventh Ecumenical council taught that the veneration of images is proper. Both can’t be right, the Synod of Elvira would have to be wrong (if you are a modern Catholic.) So, why can’t this Synod be wrong from a logical standpoint?

    1. For what it’s worth, one prominent Church Historian, Maurice Meigne (1975), “considers that only the first twenty-one canons in the list that has been transmitted were promulgated at Elvira; the remainder having been added to the collection.”

      The canon that you refer to is canon 36.

      1. Interesting, but doesn’t really meet his point, since there are a number of other examples of heretical synods, including a couple of Arian and Semi-Arian synods during the post-Nicene crisis, and famously the Robber Council of Ephesus in 449, which Luke Welborn has already mentioned above.

        1. I’ll look into it….though, in the end, I agree it doesn’t matter much. The authority of the Church to ‘loose and bind’ is great. Also, not all canons are given the same weight. Some are more important than others.

          I’m busy today, but can follow up tomorrow a bit.

          1. General info on ecclesiastical canons:

            “The early Fathers use canon as equivalent to the rule of faith, or for some formula expressing a binding obligation on Christians (Irenæus, Adv. Hær., I, ix; Tertullian, De Præscr., 13). Bickell declares that for the first three hundred years, canon is scarcely ever found for a separate and special decree of the Church; rather does it designate the rule of faith in general. He appeals to the fact that the plural form of the word is seldom used in the earliest Christian writers (Bickell, Geschichte des Kirchenrechts, I, 8). With the fourth century began the use of canon for a disciplinary decree, owing to its employment in this sense by the First Council of Nice (325). The Cassinese editors of Ferraris (s.v. Canones) say that in the first ages of the Church many disciplinary regulations were not required, and hence it was scarcely necessary to discriminate decrees into dogmatic and disciplinary, as the faithful classed both under the obligation to observe the general rule of faith. From the fourth century onward, canon signified almost universally a disciplinary decree of a council or of the Roman pontiffs. The word decretum during the same period, though signifying in general an authoritative statute or decision, began to be limited more and more to dogmatic matters, while canon when used in opposition to it was restricted to laws of discipline. That this usage, however, was not invariable is evident from Gratian’s use of “Decretum” to signify his collection of canons and decrees. From the Council of Nice to that of Trent exclusive, the regulations concerning discipline issued by assemblies of bishops received the name of canons. (Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent)

          2. Regarding the canons of the Council of Alvira:

            “The textual history of these canons is complicated. Hamilton Hess discusses the problems of the textual transmission of the canons in The Early Development of Canon Law and the Council of Serdica (Oxford Early Christian Studies, Oxford: 2002) 40-42. He summarizes the research of Samuel Laeuchli (who prints the Latin text and translates it), Sexuality and Power: The Emergence of Canon Law at the Synod of Elvira (Philadelphia: 1972) and of Maurice Meigne, “Concile ou collection d’Elvire,” Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique 70 (1975) 361-387. Meigne argues that the Council of Elvira issued only the first 21 canons; the other canons were added to the “collection” later, probably taken from other Iberian councils. For those who read German, see Eckhard Reichert, Die Canones der Synode von Elvira: Einleitung und Kommentar (Dissertation, University of Hamburg: 1990). The date of the council is also not certain. Scholars have placed it between 300 and 309.”

            Unfortunately I don’t read German, so…I’ll have to trust them. 🙂

          3. Two points. First, it is one scholar’s contention that the other canons were added. That one scholar is going against previous scholarship, so he might be wrong. Second, his theory is that the other canons are from other synods. So, it really doesn’t change my point anyway. As far as I know, a Synod can be corrected by a Council while a Council is supposed to be inerrant. BTW, I would not agree that councils are inerrant, but that is the Catholic position, right?

  8. I think you misread Dougherty’s column, Joe. He (and others who have written on this topic) fully expect the Synod to come out with a document that repeats traditional doctrine, but to present it in such a way that bishops and priests around the world will infer that the exact opposite is to become practice. This is how many conservatives view the “Spirit of Vatican II”. If you read the documents of Vatican II, it’s all solid Catholicism, but many people — laypeople and priests — believe that the council was a rejection of ancient doctrines and a mandate to adapt to the thinking of the 1960s.

    It is hard to see how they’re wrong. Both this synod, and the one last year, seem engineered to present the Kasper proposal as legitimate, and pro-sodomy teachings as open to discussion. *You don’t negotiate the non-negotiable*, so the fact that the bishops are even holding a debate about whether to change Christ’s teachings about marriage is doing incalculable damage. Of course they will inevitably “decide” to keep the traditional doctrine, but that doesn’t undo the damage. Millions of souls will be further imperiled because the message from the Synod is “this is just the majority opinion, and reasonable people can disagree about it”.

  9. Craig Truglia is correct. This Synod can err and can promulgate heresy. I’m surprised by this article too and I am a faithful convert to Catholicism from evangelicalism 4 years ago (and a happy Catholic). Nothing is biding on Catholics as a result of this Synod unless the Pope says so. Consequently, what cannot happen is the pope ACCEPTING any heresy from this Synod and promulgating it as doctrine – the Holy Spirit will never allow it. Joe, you are all over the place on this one – by like a lot from the Church today you are not clear here.

    Secondly, Joe, I don’t like how you question the faith of these “good” (your word) Catholic writers when they question what may happen as a result of this Synod. How can anyone not when one reads what some of the Synod Fathers are saying – want an example? How about the Synod Father who has brought up women deacons? How about Cardinal Kasper running around on a world tour leading up to the Synod talking about divorced and remarried Catholics being allowed to take communion? How about Cardinal Marx saying before the Synod that the local bishop conferences are not a subsidiary of Rome? My point is these “good” Catholics have good reason to be fearful. Put down the Kool-Aid, Joe, and have some empathy.

    1. There have been female Deacons in the past, though they served in the baptism of other females (because baptism generally was performed when completely naked in the 4th and 5th centuries). However, I am unsure of the debate, as i am sure I would agree with traditional Catholics that it would not be appropriate for women to assist in the eucharist.

      1. Take a look at some of these interesting canons of Alvira ( from : faculty.cua.edu/pennington/Canon%20Law/ElviraCanons.htm):

        “1. A baptized adult who commits the capital crime of sacrificing to the idols is not to receive communion even when death approaches.

        2. Flamens (a priest in a temple) who have been baptized but who then offer sacrifices will double their guilt by adding murder (if they organize public games) or even triple it with sexual immorality, and they cannot receive communion even when death approaches.

        3. Flamens who have not offered sacrifices but who have presided at public games have kept themselves from complete destruction and may receive communion when death approaches if they have done the required penance. If they commit sexual offenses after completing the penance, they shall be denied any further communion since receiving communion would make a mockery of the Sunday communion.

        4. Flamens who have been catechumens for three years and who have abstained from sacrifices may be baptized.

        5. If a woman beats her servant and causes death within three days, she shall undergo seven years’ penance if the injury was inflicted on purpose and five years’ if it was accidental. She shall not receive communion during this penance unless she becomes ill. If so, she may receive communion.

        6. If someone kills another by sorcery or magic, that person shall not receive communion, even at the time of death, for this action is a form of idolatry.

        7. If a Christian completes penance for a sexual offense and then again commits fornication, he or she may not receive communion even when death approaches.

        8. Women who without acceptable cause leave their husbands and join another man may not receive communion even when death approaches.

        9. A baptized woman who leaves an adulterous husband who has been baptized, for another man, may not marry him. If she does, she may not receive communion until her former husband dies, unless she is seriously ill.

        10. If an unbaptized woman marries another man after being deserted by her husband who was a catechumen, she may still be baptized. This is also true for female catechumens. If a Christian woman marries a man in the knowledge that he deserted his former wife without cause, she may receive communion only at the time of her death.

        11. If a female catechumen marries a man in the knowledge that he deserted his former wife without cause, she may not be baptized for five years unless she becomes seriously ill.

        12. Parents and other Christians who give up their children to sexual abuse are selling others’ bodies, and if they do so or sell their own bodies, they shall not receive communion even at death.

        13. Virgins who have been consecrated to God shall not receive communion even as death approaches if they have broken the vow of virginity and do not repent. If, however, they repent and do not engage in intercourse again, they may receive communion when death approaches.

        14 If a virgin does not preserve her virginity but then marries the man, she may receive communion after one year, without doing penance, for she only broke the laws of marriage. If she has been sexually active with other men, she must complete a penance of five years before being readmitted to communion.

        15. Christian girls are not to marry pagans, no matter how few eligible men there are, for such marriages lead to adultery of the soul.

        16. Heretics shall not be joined in marriage with Catholic girls unless they accept the Catholic faith. Catholic girls may not marry Jews or heretics, because they cannot find a unity when the faithful and the unfaithful are joined. Parents who allow this to happen shall not receive communion for five years.

        1. More reason not to ascribe too much weight to Synods! I mean, a lot of the stuff makes sense but some of it is sort of weird, especially the increased weight of sexual immorality compared to murder. However, I is a very good historical source concerning how early the Eucharist was held in such high esteem! Many shopping mall Catholics now (not the crowd here, the divorced and such) abstain from the Eucharist and Confession, and really think nothing of it. People were sure a lot different back then!

          1. The Church has always responded to problems that they deemed necessary for the promoting of The Faith during their their particular era’s. So of these problems were dogmatic in nature and some were disciplinary in nature. As the Church grew in numbers, both by the conversion of the Roman Empire, and the conversion of pagan tribes and nations, it seems to have encountered difficult pastoral challenges from these non-Jewish populations, who were not accustomed to Judeo/ Christian morals as lived near the Holy Land. So, apparently, disciplinary ‘canons’ were appropriate for the instruction of these new populations of Christian converts.

            The quote above distinguishing ‘discipline’ from ‘dogma’ is an interesting detail wherein we can somewhat gauge the weight of the ‘canon’ or ‘decree’ promulgated by the Church in these early centuries:

            “in the first ages of the Church many disciplinary regulations were not required, and hence it was scarcely necessary to discriminate decrees into dogmatic and disciplinary, as the faithful classed both under the obligation to observe the general rule of faith. From the fourth century onward, canon signified almost universally a DISCIPLINARY decree of a council or of the Roman pontiffs. The word decretum during the same period, though signifying in general an authoritative statute or decision, began to be limited more and more to DOGMATIC matters, while canon when used in opposition to it was restricted to laws of discipline. That this usage, however, was not invariable is evident from Gratian’s use of “Decretum” to signify his collection of canons and decrees.

            That the Church eventually converted pretty much the entirety of the ancient Roman world, as well as so many ‘barbarian’ tribes and nations throughout Europe, indicates that these same disciplinary canons and dogmatic decrees were very effective in bringing pagan nations to the Holy Faith. This, in effect, was the birth of the Holy Roman Empire which in turn developed into the modern western civilization that we live in today.

          2. Good points. And, proper penance is to the benefit of those who want the Eucharist. Taking the Eucharist in an unworthy way can be deadly!

            It just seems to me that Catholic teaching isn’t that a Synod can never be wrong, or be interpreted and applied differently in different times and places. This is what makes this recent Synod not really such a big deal. Augustine wrote:

            “But who can fail to be aware that the sacred canon of Scripture, both of the Old and New Testament, is confined within its own limits, and that it stands so absolutely in a superior position to all later letters of the bishops, that about it we can hold no manner of doubt or disputation whether what is confessedly contained in it is right and true; but that all the letters of bishops which have been written, or are being written, since the closing of the canon, are liable to be refuted if there be anything contained in them which strays from the truth, either by the discourse of some one who happens to be wiser in the matter than themselves, or by the weightier authority and more learned experience of other bishops, by the authority of Councils; and further, that the Councils themselves, which are held in the several districts and provinces, must yield, beyond all possibility of doubt, to the authority of plenary Councils which are formed for the whole Christian world; and that even of the plenary Councils, the earlier are often corrected by those which follow them…Libosus also of Vaga says: “The Lord says in the gospel, ‘I am the Truth.’ John 14:6 He does not say, ‘I am custom.’ Therefore, when the truth is made manifest, custom must give way to truth.” Clearly, no one could doubt that custom must give way to truth where it is made manifest” (Augustine, On Baptism, Against the Donatists Book III, Chapter 6).

            I think the people who have a huge problem with this recent Synod have an “un-Catholic” understanding of Synods.

          3. The organic development of the early Church included BOTH.. some Scripture, and some Tradition. I say ‘some’ scripture, because the canon of the New Testament wasn’t even settled until after the Council of Nicaea. Moreover, the literacy level among those living in the Roman Empire was minimal, and even less, when we talk about ‘barbarian’ tribes and nations. These latter didn’t even have a written alphabet in most cases. So, access to a physical copy of even a few books of the New Testament, as we know it,…was limited to only a very small portion of the ancient populations.

            But, that scripture was read in the early Church Eucharistic liturgies, with whatever letters, or scripture, that was then available, effectively transmitted the Holy Gospels and other N.T. texts to the local congregations in their respective countries. And this is still what happens today with the Catholic Mass. Even today, many poor, or illiterate persons in the world don’t have access to Bibles, or scripture, but can always attend a Mass wherein throughout the liturgical year they can hear from the ‘ambo’ most of the essential Gospel teachings, and biblical stories of the Holy Faith. And this is ‘one’ argument against ‘sola scriptura’, considering that even the highly educated early Father’s of the Church usually were lacking various of the Books of the NT from which they could learn and study. How then could the multitudes of barbarian peoples be expected to have had even the most limited access to these same Scriptures as we know them today? But it was the ‘Tradition’ that they had, i.e.. liturgies, customs, sacraments, prayers, catechesis, etc…much of which was transmitted orally to the illiterate populations by the various Bishops of the Catholic Church.

            On the whole, though, I think that the early Church did an excellent job of growing, far and wide, that same Church of Christ; and with the talents and minimal technology that the Lord provided them in that early epoch of world history.

          4. I think you missed my point and rather reacted to the ramifications of what Augustine clearly taught. My point is that if the Synod Joe speaks of errs, we should not be totally surprised because it would have not surprised Augustine. So, Joe’s defense that the Synod cannot be wrong appears to me a bit strange given how many Catholics presently, and historically, have viewed the issue.

            “And this is ‘one’ argument against ‘sola scriptura’, considering that even the highly educated early Father’s of the Church usually were lacking various of the Books of the NT from which they could learn and study. How then could the multitudes of barbarian peoples be expected to have had even the most limited access to these same Scriptures as we know them today?”

            I do not think you understand “sola scriptura” then. Sola scriptura is merely a statement of authority. Roman Catholics do not reject sola scriptura because some people might not be able to read it. They reject it because they believe the teaching authority of the Church itself to interpret the Scripture is equally authoritative. Hence, you can be illiterate and still not understand how the RCC interprets the Scripture, let alone the Scripture itself. The existence of illiterates would not disprove the teaching authority of the RCC.

            So, I think you need to revisit what Augustine really meant, because I cannot follow your reasoning here 🙁

          5. “This is what makes this recent Synod not really such a big deal.”

            A synod, or council, is only a big deal if a person has sufficient faith in the Church. A synod usually produces it’s own “canons” dealing with the topic discussed and resolved by the Synod. Whether a person agrees with, or adheres to the ‘canons’ produced by the synod is a sort of measurement of the faith of that person, by the very definition of the word ‘canon’ :

            “Ecclesiastical Canons are certain rules or norms of conduct or belief prescribed by the Church. The name is derived from the Greek kanon, the instrument used by architects and artificers for making straight lines. Some writers think that the Church preferred the word canon to law, as the latter had a harsh meaning for the faithful in the times of persecution. The early Fathers use canon as equivalent to the rule of faith, or for some formula expressing a binding obligation on Christians (Irenæus, Adv. Hær., I, ix; Tertullian, De Præscr., 13). (Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent)

            So, the present Synod IS a big deal for those who love and trust the Holy Church.

            Just because a ‘synod’ does not have the ‘weight’ of an ‘ecumenical council’, which Augustine discusses to in your quote, this doesn’t signify that a synod isn’t important or useful for the Church. But again, it is the Christian with a ‘great measure of faith’ that will understand and obey the Church when the canons are promulgated after the synod or council.

            This also happened with the ‘closing of the canon’ of scripture, that Augustine quotes above. The lists of books of the N.T,. were debated initially in a regional council at Carthage, not in an ecumenical council. At the 3rd Synod of Carthage in 419 AD, the Book of Revelations was included in the ‘canon of scripture’. So, by Augustine’s very quote that you provided, we can also understand that these types of ‘regional synods’ can be very significant indeed.

            A person who doesn’t respect these synods, and canons, of the Church throughout history…is a person, I think, who has only a little measure of the Christian faith. It’s like if the Christian ‘Judaiser’s’ of the 1st Century rejected the conclusions of St. Peter at the Council of Jerusalem I, and continued to demand that Christians be circumcised throughout the entire pagan world. All Christians should have a respect not only for the present canons produced by contemporary synods, and councils, but also the canons of all of the other councils since the foundation of the Church.

          6. “A person who doesn’t respect these synods, and canons, of the Church throughout history…is a person, I think, who has only a little measure of the Christian faith.”

            You need to be careful that when you point your finger saying that, you don’t have four more fingers pointing back at yourself.

            “Just because a ‘synod’ does not have the ‘weight’ of an ‘ecumenical council’, which Augustine discusses to in your quote, this doesn’t signify that a synod isn’t important or useful for the Church.”

            No one said it wasn’t useful. Myself and other Catholics here, just don’t think what any given Synod comes up with is inerrant. The issue is inerrancy, and that’s the issue Augustine actually addresses. So, if you go about lobbing accusations of not respecting history, be sure to actually understand the nature of Augustine’s claims. Augustine says Synods and contradict one another, which puts them at a secondary level of truthfulness. Meanwhile, the Scripture “stands so absolutely in a superior position to all later letters of the bishops, that about it we can hold no manner of doubt or disputation whether what is confessedly contained in it is right and true.”

            So, if this upcoming Synod errs, it does not rock the Catholic faith, at least the real Catholic faith. Augustine had no problem saying, “[T]he Councils themselves, which are held in the several districts and provinces, must yield, beyond all possibility of doubt, to the authority of plenary Councils which are formed for the whole Christian world; and that even of the plenary Councils, the earlier are often corrected by those which follow them.” Augustine did not even hold that Ecumenical Councils are infallible.

            I think you are wrongly accusing me of not appreciating the authority of Ecumenical Councils, Synods, and the such. In fact, it is the person who wrongly ascribes to such councils authority which none of the men taking part in them thought they held does one actually not appreciate their authority.

          7. Craig,

            I didn’t specifically mean you, as a person who doesn’t respect synods and councils, I mean’t ANYONE who doesn’t respect these ecclesiastical rules and institutions. The Church has always been run by Bishops, first the Apostles and then their successors. When the Catholic bishops get together to lead the Church, they intend that the flock will follow them as their shepherds in Christ. This is why I said that all Christians should respect authentic authority in the Church.

            This present Synod is pretty much the same as former ones throughout the ages. The flock should trust in the bishops, and Pope, to do their jobs as Shepherds of the faith, as Jesus said : “I will be with you always until the end of the world”. Moreover, I think it has also been stated on this post that the Holy Father confirmed that the Synod would not attempt to change Church doctrine. So, I figure it will be pastoral synod in nature. It will be interesting to see how things unfold, but I’m really not too worried. We have 2000 years now of resisting the ‘gates of Hell’…and possibly another 5000 years, or more, to come?

            Best to you.

          8. I don’t think that you have really addressed my point that you keep replying to it, but that you for clarifying that you were not responding directly to me.

            God bless,
            Craig

          9. “My point is that if the Synod Joe speaks of errs, we should not be totally surprised because it would have not surprised Augustine.”

            I guess this is the point you were trying to make.

            I don’t think this is correct. It depends on HOW the Synod MIGHT err. IF it taught a new form of heresy, and the Pope was in full agreement, THEN Augustine would definitely be ‘surprised’. But this is probably impossible.

            On small items, such as how much penance should be given to penitants, this is disciplinary and discretionary. A Synod and Pope could also change DISCIPLINARY items, such as to re-instate marriage for priests at a Synod, if they thought that this was best for the Church at this time in history. But they COULD NOT change the nature of the ‘priesthood’ and allow women to become priests.

            So, what the Synods can, and cannot do, are determined by the particular doctrines that they are addressing. And even Popes by themselves cannot change certain things, such as teach a new doctrine that there are is not a Trinity of persons, Father Son and Holy Spirit, but just One person, God the Father.

            So, the power of Popes and Synods is limited.

          10. Hi Awlms, Craig, et al,

            Craig,

            It sounds as though you’re trying to pit St. Augustine against the Catholic Church again.

            You said:

            It just seems to me that Catholic teaching isn’t that a Synod can never be wrong, or be interpreted and applied differently in different times and places.

            Has anyone said differently? I don’t see it. Certainly not in anything that awlms said. But maybe you can point it out.

            This is what makes this recent Synod not really such a big deal. Augustine wrote:

            I missed the part where St. Augustine said that Synods were not a big deal. Please point that out.

            You said to Awlms:
            No one said it wasn’t useful.

            But you said its not a big deal. Which conveys the idea that it wasn’t useful. So, what’s the difference?

            Myself and other Catholics here, just don’t think what any given Synod comes up with is inerrant.

            And YOU and those other Catholics are making yourselves the judge of that which is being decided in this Synod? Who gave you that authority?

            The issue is inerrancy,

            No. The issue is obedience.

            and that’s the issue Augustine actually addresses.

            That’s the issue which St. Augustine, a Bishop of the Church was teaching about. He did not thereby insinuate that any Catholic was free to disobey the findings of a Synod. That never even comes up.

            So, if you go about lobbing accusations of not respecting history, be sure to actually understand the nature of Augustine’s claims.

            I agree with Awlms completely. It is you who needs to study St. Augustine in order to actually understand his thoroughly Catholic teaching.

            Augustine says Synods and contradict one another, which puts them at a secondary level of truthfulness.

            Does St. Augustine teach that you or any individual has the right to judge which Synods contradict the Word of God and which don’t?

            If not, why are you doing so?

            Augustine, On Baptism, Against the Donatists Book III, Chapter 6

            Actually, that’s book II

            Here’s what St. Augustine is teaching, peacefulness, humility and obedience:

            The authority of Cyprian does not alarm me, because I am reassured by his humility. …how much more readily and constantly should we prefer, either to the authority of a single bishop, or to the Council of a single province, the rule that has been established by the statutes of the universal Church?

            So, Craig, since you claim that we can disregard the Synod, because you think it is not such big deal. And you quote St. Augustine to prove your point. You need to show that St. Augustine said that anyone has the authority to disregard the Synod.

            Perhaps your other Catholic friends can help you identify such a teaching in any of St. Augustine’s books.

            Synods are a big deal to Catholics, Craig. A very big deal.

          11. Al,

            “I don’t think this is correct. It depends on HOW the Synod MIGHT err. IF it taught a new form of heresy, and the Pope was in full agreement, THEN Augustine would definitely be ‘surprised’.”

            I think you are going beyond Augustine’s comment and I am going beyond what I know about the synod in Joe’s article (I’m not a Catholic and I haven’t been following it.) But yes, Synods can change over disciplinary matters, and Synods are not inerrant or infallible. As Augustine wrote, “For I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error” (Letter 82).

          12. De Maria,

            Craig,

            “It sounds as though you’re trying to pit St. Augustine against the Catholic Church again.”

            I’m merely showing that Augustine did not view Synods as infallible, that’s all.

            “Has anyone said differently? I don’t see it. Certainly not in anything that awlms said. But maybe you can point it out.”

            Totally serious, non-rhetorical question: Is it Catholic dogma that every Synod which convenes cannot make an error which a later Synod can correct?

            “I missed the part where St. Augustine said that Synods were not a big deal. Please point that out.”

            Augustine commented that Synods correct previous Synods. “the authority of Councils; and further, that the Councils themselves, which are held in the several districts and provinces, must yield, beyond all possibility of doubt, to the authority of plenary Councils which are formed for the whole Christian world; and that even of the plenary Councils, the earlier are often corrected by those which follow them”

            “Which conveys the idea that it wasn’t useful. So, what’s the difference?”

            Something can be useful without being inerrant. The letters of the CHurch Fathers, for example, are useful. They are not inerrant.

            “And YOU and those other Catholics are making yourselves the judge of that which is being decided in this Synod? Who gave you that authority?”

            WHo gave you the authority to judge other Catholics? You can go ahead and judge me, but how about your Catholic brothers?

            “That’s the issue which St. Augustine, a Bishop of the Church was teaching about. He did not thereby insinuate that any Catholic was free to disobey the findings of a Synod. That never even comes up.”

            But I wasn’t commenting on people disobeying the Synod either.

            “It is you who needs to study St. Augustine in order to actually understand his thoroughly Catholic teaching.”

            No, it is you who needs to study St. Augustine in order to actually understand thoroughly historic Catholic teaching.

            “Does St. Augustine teach that you or any individual has the right to judge which Synods contradict the Word of God and which don’t?”

            Yes: “As to all other writings, in reading them, however great the superiority of the authors to myself in sanctity and learning, I do not accept their teaching as true on the mere ground of the opinion being held by them; but only because they have succeeded in convincing my judgment of its truth either by means of these canonical writings themselves, or by arguments addressed to my reason” (Letter 82).

            Will you concede that Ecumenical Councils are not inerrant as Augustine does?

            “Actually, that’s book II”

            Book II Chapter 3, my bad it has been a few months since I read it and posted it on my website, I had a quote from Book III on the tail end of the article and I screwed up in my copying and pasting.

            “You need to show that St. Augustine said that anyone has the authority to disregard the Synod.”

            When did I say people can disregard the Synod? I am of the mind people have to obey their elders.

          13. Craig Truglia says:
            October 13, 2015 at 11:19 pm
            De Maria,

            Totally serious, non-rhetorical question: Is it Catholic dogma that every Synod which convenes cannot make an error…?

            No.

            “I missed the part where St. Augustine said that Synods were not a big deal. Please point that out.”

            Augustine commented that Synods correct previous Synods. “the authority of Councils; and further, that the Councils themselves, which are held in the several districts and provinces, must yield, beyond all possibility of doubt, to the authority of plenary Councils which are formed for the whole Christian world; and that even of the plenary Councils, the earlier are often corrected by those which follow them”

            That doesn’t answer my question. Where does St. Augustine teach that Synod’s are no big deal?

            “Which conveys the idea that it wasn’t useful. So, what’s the difference?”

            Something can be useful without being inerrant.

            I didn’t ask anything about inerrancy. You’re avoiding the question which I asked. I quote:

            You said to Awlms:
            No one said it wasn’t useful.

            But you said its not a big deal. Which conveys the idea that it wasn’t useful. So, what’s the difference?

            The letters of the CHurch Fathers, for example, are useful. They are not inerrant.

            So, are they “not a big deal” because they aren’t inerrant? If so, why do you study them, then?

            “And YOU and those other Catholics are making yourselves the judge of that which is being decided in this Synod? Who gave you that authority?”

            WHo gave you the authority to judge other Catholics?

            I don’t. I asked you who gave you the authority to judge that which is being decided in the Synod?

            You can go ahead and judge me, but how about your Catholic brothers?

            Judge you what? Are you feeling guilty about something?

            But I wasn’t commenting on people disobeying the Synod either.

            When you say that something is no big deal, that insinuates it should be disregarded. Thus, disobeyed. Or is there another reasonable understanding of that comment?

            No, it is you who needs to study St. Augustine in order to actually understand thoroughly historic Catholic teaching.

            Oh, wait. Here’s a catchy rebuttal. No! It’s you!

            Yes: “As to all other writings, in reading them, however great the superiority of the authors to myself in sanctity and learning, I do not accept their teaching as true on the mere ground of the opinion being held by them; but only because they have succeeded in convincing my judgment of its truth either by means of these canonical writings themselves, or by arguments addressed to my reason” (Letter 82).

            You do realize that in that segment, St. Augustine is speaking:

            1. Of writings of individuals, not of Synods.
            2. as a Bishop of the Catholic Church
            3. and is speaking in reference to himself.

            You’ll need to point out what you are interpreting as St. Augustine giving anyone advice to disobey a Synod.

            Will you concede that Ecumenical Councils are not inerrant as Augustine does?

            If St. Augustine said that, St. Augustine was wrong. St. Augustine is neither inerrant nor infallible and I am aware of errors in his doctrine. But St. Augustine never taught that ecumenical councils, in union with the Pope, were ever in error. He certainly is not saying that in the excerpt you provided.

            When did I say people can disregard the Synod?

            When you said that the Synod is no big deal.

            I am of the mind people have to obey their elders.

            Very Catholic of you. Totally serious, non-rhetorical question. Whom do you obey? Which set of elders, I mean?

          14. “the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error” (Letter 82).

            Craig,

            When Augustine says ‘canonical books of scripture’, he is referring to the list of books that were MADE canonical by the decision of a Synod, and that is why I referred to the 3rd Council of Carthage, and the inclusion of the book of Revelations, in my post above. Without the infallible decision of the Synod, there would not be a “closed canon’ referred to in your Augustine quote above.

            So it seems that you are saying that Augustine values the scriptures MORE THAN synods, yet the scriptures themselves would not even exist, in the New Testament form that they do, WITHOUT a Synod.

            So, I really don’t ‘get’ the argument you’re trying to make regarding Augustine, scriptures and synods.

          15. Al, pardon my brief reply:

            “When Augustine says ‘canonical books of scripture’, he is referring to the list of books that were MADE canonical by the decision of a Synod…Without the infallible decision of the Synod, there would not be a “closed canon’ referred to in your Augustine quote above.”

            Now you are adding words in Augustine’s mouth. Augustine is saying that the Scripture alone is infallible. Now, you can say that the Synod which comes up with such a decision must logically also be infallible too, but that is not the point Augustine made and it actually mitigates against it.

            “So, I really don’t ‘get’ the argument you’re trying to make regarding Augustine, scriptures and synods.”

            Augustine’s point is as simple as it is explicit. Only the Scripture is infallible, synods are not. I quoted him in two different sources and that’s quite simply what he is saying. You would like to add that the synod is infallible too, but Augustine actually contrasts the infallible nature of the Scripture against that of the fallible nature of synods.

            Now, if you cannot concede this, for this is what Augustine clearly says, then I give you the last word on it. I have nothing to add and what Augustine says explains itself and is self-evident.

          16. De Maria, please likewise pardon my brief reply:

            “No.”

            Thanks for clarifying, then we agree.

            “That doesn’t answer my question. Where does St. Augustine teach that Synod’s are no big deal?”

            I think you are misunderstanding my position. I was trying to defend Joe against some of his detractors, that the edifice of Catholicism is no rocked by the results of this upcoming Synod. It is in this sense that it is not a big deal.

            “So, are they “not a big deal” because they aren’t inerrant? ”

            The above should help clear up what I was getting at in the “not a big deal” comment. It is fine to disagree with me, but you shouldn’t purposely be looking for things to be divided on, because you will find that you are disagreeing merely over wording and not concepts.

            “I don’t. I asked you who gave you the authority to judge that which is being decided in the Synod?”

            I won’t answer your rhetorical question until you answer mine 😉

            “Judge you what? Are you feeling guilty about something?”

            There is always something to feel guilty about. You know how much I have to fight sin every day, how ignorant I am, how much I am at God’s mercy every given moment?

            “When you say that something is no big deal, that insinuates it should be disregarded.”

            Maybe in your mind it does.

            “Oh, wait. Here’s a catchy rebuttal. No! It’s you!”

            Yeah, I thought you’d appreciate that, because most of your responses devolve into I am wrong by default because I am not the Pope, so I was not going to entertain the notion and simply flip it back at you because it is a meaningless charge.

            “You do realize that in that segment, St. Augustine is speaking:

            1. Of writings of individuals, not of Synods.”

            You do realize he was talking about Synods in Against the DOnatists, Book II, right? I was just showing that his ideas are consistent in his writings.

            “2. as a Bishop of the Catholic Church
            3. and is speaking in reference to himself.”

            Because only a Bishop can interpret Bishops? Perhaps, but he has a whole book about how he came to grips with understand the Scripture before being a Bishop. Victorinus was not a Bishop and he offered interpretations, interpretations that both Augustine and Jerome used, and rejected portions off on logical grounds, not on grounds of being ordained. Augustine in writing the Jerome was quite deferential, even though Jerome was NOT a Bishop. So, there’s a lot missing from your understanding.

            “You’ll need to point out what you are interpreting as St. Augustine giving anyone advice to disobey a Synod.”

            I don;t need to point that out because it is not my position.

            “If St. Augustine said that, St. Augustine was wrong. ”

            I am noticing a trend here. I’m wrong. Joe’s wrong. Augustine’s wrong. De Maria? Never wrong.

            “He certainly is not saying that in the excerpt you provided.”

            Actually, that’s explicitly what he said, but like I said to Al, if you refuse to accept the obvious, I let what Augustine wrote stand and give you the last word.

            “Very Catholic of you. Totally serious, non-rhetorical question. Whom do you obey? Which set of elders, I mean?”

            The one’s in my church.

            GOd bless,
            Craig

          17. Craig, you said:

            “Only the Scripture is infallible, synods are not.”

            Well, scripture is ONLY infallible ….IF Catholic synods, and councils, say so. This is what synods do, that is, they decide on doctrinal and disciplinary matters within the Church. They are creators and guarantors of infallibility.

            If the Church decreed that some spiritual work, or other, was NOT infallibly inspired…such as the Didache, for example, then it would not, be included into the canon of NT scripture. It would remain a mearly historical work of Christian antiquity.

            So, how can we discount Synods and Councils, as they are the CREATORS of canonicity and infallibility by their decisions made under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit?

          18. Al, I think you are making an error here:

            “So, how can we discount Synods and Councils, as they are the CREATORS of canonicity and infallibility by their decisions made under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit?”

            The Synod, Council, or anything else does not make the Scripture, or any Christian dogma (i.e. the Trinity), infallible doctrine. The Scripture, the moment it was penned, was infallible. The Trinity has been true for eternity. Neither wait until a Synod to all of the sudden become infallible truths.

            So, to argue that a Synod makes the Scripture infallible is, really, self-refuting as it is on the authority of Scripture that the Church has the power of keys, binding and loosing, and etcetera.

            It is more accurate to say that X Council or Y Synod recognized the infallibility of Scripture, because the Scripture was always infallible. Heck, you can even argue (though Augustine did not take this view) that the Council infallibly recognized the infallibility of Scripture. This is at least logically possible. But the Church is not the “Creator of infallibility” as you put it.

            God bless,
            Craig

          19. Craig,

            I think you responded to all my questions satisfactorily. Why you introduced the subject matter below, is a mystery.

            3. and is speaking in reference to himself.”

            Because only a Bishop can interpret Bishops?

            ??? Is that a doctrine you are introducing? Because I never heard of it.

            Perhaps, but he has a whole book about how he came to grips with understand the Scripture before being a Bishop. Victorinus was not a Bishop and he offered interpretations, interpretations that both Augustine and Jerome used, and rejected portions off on logical grounds, not on grounds of being ordained. Augustine in writing the Jerome was quite deferential, even though Jerome was NOT a Bishop.

            So, there’s a lot missing from your understanding.

            You mean, the understanding you have attributed to me. You have a knack for imagining things which others had never dreamed of and attributing it to them.

            “You’ll need to point out what you are interpreting as St. Augustine giving anyone advice to disobey a Synod.”

            I don;t need to point that out because it is not my position.

            Good. Then you’ll agree that St. Augustine considered Synods a big deal.

            “If St. Augustine said that, St. Augustine was wrong. ”

            I am noticing a trend here. I’m wrong. Joe’s wrong. Augustine’s wrong. De Maria? Never wrong.

            I’m noticing the trend that you don’t read very carefully. The very next words which I wrote amount to, “But St. Augustine never said that.”

            “He certainly is not saying that in the excerpt you provided.”

            Actually, that’s explicitly what he said, but like I said to Al, if you refuse to accept the obvious, I let what Augustine wrote stand and give you the last word.

            As will I. Any person who understands Catholic Doctrine will see the thoroughly Catholic lesson which St. Augustine provided there.

            “Very Catholic of you. Totally serious, non-rhetorical question. Whom do you obey? Which set of elders, I mean?”

            The one’s in my church.

            Just so you don’t think I’m tricking you, I’ll give my logic on the question. As for me, I would not obey the Catholic Church if I did not believe she were infallible. I would not believe her infallible, if I did not believe she was established and led by Jesus Christ.

            So, continuing with the serious, non-rhetorical question.

            Do you consider your church infallible? Because if you don’t, why would you deem her elders worthy of obedience? Do you care whether what you obey is right or wrong?

            GOd bless,
            Craig

            And you as well.

          20. OK Craig, I should have refined my answer a bit from : 1. “Well, scripture is ONLY infallible ….IF Catholic synods, and councils, say so.

            to, 2. “Well, scripture was ONLY CLASSIFIED INFALLIBLE ….BECAUSE Catholic synods, and councils, said so.

            Before the ‘closing’ of the canon, that Augustine refers to, books such as ‘Revelations’ were considered ‘spurious’ in nature, by many of the ECF’s. So, that particular book was ONLY included in the New Testament canon that we read today, BECAUSE the Early synods and councils of the Church, i.e.. Hippo and Carthage, changed the classification. That is, it was at the time of Augustine changed from a ‘spurious’ classification, to a ‘canonical’ classification.

            Here is just a short example derived from Eusebius’ Church History of how the Church, and many smaller heretical groups, were divided over the ‘canon’ of Scripture until the ‘closing’ of the canon during Augustines lifetime. Eusebius writes in Book 4 Ch.29:

            4. But a little later a certain man named Severus put new strength into the aforesaid heresy, and thus brought it about that those who took their origin from it were called, after him, Severians.

            5. They, indeed, use the Law and Prophets and Gospels, but interpret in their own way the utterances of the Sacred Scriptures. And they abuse Paul the apostle and reject his epistles, and do not accept even the Acts of the Apostles.

            6. But their original founder, Tatian, formed a certain combination and collection of the Gospels, I know not how, to which he gave the title Diatessaron, and which is still in the hands of some. But they say that he ventured to paraphrase certain words of the apostle, in order to improve their style.”

            There are many other similar texts in this Ecclesiastical History to demonstrate that it was the Synods and Councils of the Church that were needed to “close the canon” authoritatively for all future generations.

          21. Craig,

            It is more accurate to say that X Council or Y Synod recognized the infallibility of Scripture, because the Scripture was always infallible. Heck, you can even argue (though Augustine did not take this view) that the Council infallibly recognized the infallibility of Scripture. This is at least logically possible. But the Church is not the “Creator of infallibility” as you put it.

            Who wrote the New Testament?

            God bless,
            Craig

            You too.

          22. De Maria:

            “Who wrote the New Testament?”

            God, through men.

            “I think you responded to all my questions satisfactorily. Why you introduced the subject matter below, is a mystery.”

            It pertains to your reasons why Augustine can interpret Scripture, but lay people cannot. Prosper of Aquataine was a lay-brother who interpreted Scripture. Justin Martyr was a layman. Victorinus was a layman. Augustine wrote several books before being a bishop with interpretations. He wrote books before being a priest.

            So, your comment about why Augustine could interpret Scripture as a Bishop, and not anyone else, really doesn’t make sense.

            “??? Is that a doctrine you are introducing? Because I never heard of it.”

            What are you saying then?

            “Just so you don’t think I’m tricking you, I’ll give my logic on the question. As for me, I would not obey the Catholic Church if I did not believe she were infallible. I would not believe her infallible, if I did not believe she was established and led by Jesus Christ.

            So, continuing with the serious, non-rhetorical question.

            Do you consider your church infallible? Because if you don’t, why would you deem her elders worthy of obedience? Do you care whether what you obey is right or wrong?”

            No, my church isn’t infallible, and neither are leaders in the Catholic Church. Laity are called to obey leaders which sometimes have turned out on the wrong side of essential dogmas. Nestorius was Bishop of Constantinople. The laity had to submit to him. There have been all sorts of priests and bishops over the years that have certainly got things wrong. The fact men can be fallible does not give the laity a blank check to disobey them.

            God bless,

            Craig

          23. Craig Truglia says:
            October 14, 2015 at 11:26 pm
            De Maria:

            “Who wrote the New Testament?”

            God, through men.

            What Church did those men go to?

            It pertains to your reasons why Augustine can interpret Scripture, but lay people cannot.

            You continue to make up arguments which I never made. When did I say that laymen can’t interpret Scripture? Please provide the quote.

            Prosper of Aquataine was a lay-brother who interpreted Scripture. Justin Martyr was a layman. Victorinus was a layman. Augustine wrote several books before being a bishop with interpretations. He wrote books before being a priest.

            That’s wondeful! Are you having fun arguing against yourself?

            So, your comment about why Augustine could interpret Scripture as a Bishop, and not anyone else, really doesn’t make sense.

            What are you saying then?

            That St. Augustine never said that any Synod was, how did you put it, “not really such a big deal.”

            No, my church isn’t infallible,….The fact men can be fallible does not give the laity a blank check to disobey them.

            Thanks for the response. I just wanted to highlight the difference in our beliefs. So, you obey men even though you know that your church may be teaching error. It sounds to me as though you don’t care whether you are right with God? Does that sound fair?

            neither are leaders in the Catholic Church.

            But the Catholic Church is. And my position is that I would not obey the rulers of any church which is not infallible. The infallibility of the Catholic Church is a sure sign that it was established by Jesus Christ and is led by the Holy Spirit.

            God bless,

            Craig

            You too, Craig.

          24. “What Church did those men go to?”

            Eastern Orthodox Church.

            “You continue to make up arguments which I never made. When did I say that laymen can’t interpret Scripture? Please provide the quote.”

            It was in reference to your claim here:

            “Does St. Augustine teach that you or any individual has the right to judge which Synods contradict the Word of God and which don’t?”

            Your inference is that the answer is “no.” If your answer is “yes,” then we agree. The fact that there have been Arian councils and such in the past, it is incumbent upon the layperson TO interpret, from the Scriptures, if the council is teaching heresy or not.

            “That’s wondeful! Are you having fun arguing against yourself?”

            Do you think this sort of sarcasm is respectful and edifying to others? Why do you adopt such a combative, snide tone?

            “Thanks for the response. I just wanted to highlight the difference in our beliefs. So, you obey men even though you know that your church may be teaching error. It sounds to me as though you don’t care whether you are right with God? Does that sound fair?”

            A moment ago you were accusing me of reading things to quickly and misunderstanding things. Surely, you do not really think that can be my position. I am making a simple claim. Men can err, as can your Pope, Councils, and Synods. The possibility of them erring does not mean that you can disobey any of them. However, if it is a matter of conscience that any of these men in yours or mine church are wrong, then it is important to obey God rather than men.

            “And my position is that I would not obey the rulers of any church which is not infallible.”

            To quote Joe: “As a point of clarification, I’m not saying that all Synods are infallible, or that this one is infallible.” Even the Pope supposedly makes infallible statements under very specific circumstances, not all the time.

            So, what you are really saying is that the Catholic dogmas are infallibly taught and interpreted by the Catholic Church, other than due to circumstance they are not (which has happened several times in different councils and statements of Popes, apparently not speaking from the seat of Peter I guess.)

            Whether you admit it or not, you are making some sort of judgment call as you do not accept everything that every Catholic Bishop has ever taught.

            God bless,

            Craig

          25. Craig Truglia says:
            October 15, 2015 at 2:59 am
            “What Church did those men go to?”

            Eastern Orthodox Church.

            And yet, you aren’t an Eastern Orthodox, are you?

            That’s interesting. You believe that God gave the Eastern Orthodox authority to write and canonize the Bible. Yet you prefer a man made church.

            “You continue to make up arguments which I never made. When did I say that laymen can’t interpret Scripture? Please provide the quote.”

            It was in reference to your claim here:

            “Does St. Augustine teach that you or any individual has the right to judge which Synods contradict the Word of God and which don’t?”

            Really? I see neither the word layman nor Scripture in that sentence. What part of that claim led you to believe that I said that layman can’t interpret Scripture? Do you know what the term “Word of God” means to a Catholic?

            Your inference is that the answer is “no.” If your answer is “yes,” then we agree. The fact that there have been Arian councils and such in the past, it is incumbent upon the layperson TO interpret, from the Scriptures, if the council is teaching heresy or not.

            Who declared Arianism a heresy? A layman or the Catholic Church.

            “That’s wondeful! Are you having fun arguing against yourself?”

            Do you think this sort of sarcasm is respectful and edifying to others?

            Yes. Absolutely. Do you think misrepresenting what I said is respectful and edifying? I think its a sneaky tactic designed to make people think that you’re making a point when in effect you’re merely pretending.

            Why do you adopt such a combative, snide tone?

            Because you elected to misrepresent my position.

            A moment ago you were accusing me of reading things to quickly and misunderstanding things. Surely, you do not really think that can be my position. I am making a simple claim. Men can err, as can your Pope, Councils, and Synods. The possibility of them erring does not mean that you can disobey any of them. However, if it is a matter of conscience that any of these men in yours or mine church are wrong, then it is important to obey God rather than men.

            That is why I elect to obey the Catholic Church and no other. Because I believe it is through the Catholic Church that God speaks.

            “And my position is that I would not obey the rulers of any church which is not infallible.”

            To quote Joe: “As a point of clarification, I’m not saying that all Synods are infallible, or that this one is infallible.” Even the Pope supposedly makes infallible statements under very specific circumstances, not all the time.

            Ask Joe if he believes the Catholic Church is infallible in matters of Doctrine.

            So, what you are really saying is that the Catholic dogmas are infallibly taught and interpreted by the Catholic Church, other than due to circumstance they are not (which has happened several times in different councils and statements of Popes, apparently not speaking from the seat of Peter I guess.)

            Whether you admit it or not, you are making some sort of judgment call as you do not accept everything that every Catholic Bishop has ever taught.

            As I said, Craig, I’m merely juxtaposing our beliefs in order that they clearly contrast.

            I believe and obey a Church I believe to be infallible.
            You obey a church you know to be fallible.

            My logic is very simple, the only reason that the Catholic Church can be infallible is because it is led by God. Therefore, I know that the Catholic Church is led by God.

            The reason your church is fallible, is because it is not led by God. Therefore, you do precisely the opposite of what you said above. You obey men rather than God.

            God bless,

            Craig

            You too.

          26. Because the Church, through the grace of God AND the use of Synods, Councils and prolonged study, RECOGNIZED it as Sacred Scripture in the same way that Peter recognized Jesus as God and Messiah, when He received his new name ‘Peter’…”Rock”:

            “Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am?

            [16] Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. [17] And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. [18] And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. [19] And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.” (Matt.16:15)

          27. Al,

            “Because the Church, through the grace of God AND the use of Synods, Councils and prolonged study, RECOGNIZED it as Sacred Scripture in the same way that Peter recognized Jesus as God and Messiah, when He received his new name ‘Peter’…”Rock”

            Al, I hope you realize Peter was the “Rock” before it was recognized in the Scripture (it wasn’t written yet) or in a council (none happened yet.) In the same way, the Scripture always stood apart as Scripture, whether or not it was recognized.

          28. De Maria, I said, “Why do you adopt such a combative, snide tone?” You replied, “Because you elected to misrepresent my position.”

            First, reciprocity is not a virtuous trait, in fact it is sinful. So, you should repent of that.

            Second, I did not misrepresent your position, in fact you have misrepresented mine.

            Third, you adopt that tone in all of your replies, before anything is even addressed in you, so it strikes me as dishonest that you would cite the reasoning that you did.

            “That’s interesting. You believe that God gave the Eastern Orthodox authority to write and canonize the Bible. Yet you prefer a man made church.”

            You speak of misrepresenting positions, but what would you consider the above? I am a Protestant, I believe God wrote the Bible through men. Just because those same men went ahead and made an institution, I do not by necessity believe that the outward institution is protected from error for all time.

            For example, when I noted that a Christian must submit to religious authorities, yet at the same time, not do so if the authorities become heretical. You wrote, “Who declared Arianism a heresy? A layman or the Catholic Church.” But that does not address the actual issue. There were hundreds of self-described Catholic Bishops that adopted Arian Creeds and presumably taught the doctrine. Now, if you happen to go to one of their churches as a layman, it is incumbent upon you to reject the doctrine, even if such men have been set up as Bishops over you.

            This is not a hypothetical situation, it really happened in the 4th century,

            “Really? I see neither the word layman nor Scripture in that sentence. What part of that claim led you to believe that I said that layman can’t interpret Scripture?”

            Good, so we can agree then, let’s move on.

            “Ask Joe if he believes the Catholic Church is infallible in matters of Doctrine.”

            Of course he believes that. But he does not believe every Synod is infallible, and as others in the comments section here pointed out, there have been Arian councils in the past that put forward heretical creeds.

            “I believe and obey a Church I believe to be infallible.”

            Other than when it isn’t (i.e. heretical councils)

            “You obey a church you know to be fallible.”

            Which would be true of all man-made institutions as a whole.

            “My logic is very simple, the only reason that the Catholic Church can be infallible is because it is led by God. Therefore, I know that the Catholic Church is led by God.”

            It’s simple logic, but it is not a historical fact and the men who took part in the councils themselves did not teach it.

            God bless,

            Craig

          29. Craig Truglia says:
            October 15, 2015 at 2:59 am

            “What Church did those men go to?”

            Eastern Orthodox Church.

            Interesting. So, do you accept the Eastern Orthodox Canon? You do know they accept the Deuterocanonicals, don’t you?

          30. Craig Truglia says:
            October 15, 2015 at 11:06 pm
            De Maria, I said, “Why do you adopt such a combative, snide tone?” You replied, “Because you elected to misrepresent my position.”

            First, reciprocity is not a virtuous trait, in fact it is sinful. So, you should repent of that.

            Lol! Thou shalt not have a combative, snide tone? Lol! When did that make it into the Ten Commandments?

            Second, I did not misrepresent your position, in fact you have misrepresented mine.

            Are you on drugs? I just proved with quotes and everything that you have misrepresented my position. And you flat deny it. Combative snide tone hasn’t made it to the Ten Commandments, yet, but lying has always been one of the top ten, “thou shalt nots”.

            Third, you adopt that tone in all of your replies,

            Only when you misrepresent my position in yours.

            before anything is even addressed in you,

            Not true. There’s a saying, “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” To paraphrase, “if you don’t want people to disagree with you, don’t challenge their beliefs.”

            Here’s your problem. You want to throw your weight around as though you have some sort of authority. When people disagree with you, you accuse them of rudeness and appealing to Catholic authority. Yet, the only authority to which you appeal is your own.

            If my resistance to your ideas is insulting to you, its your problem, not mine.

            so it strikes me as dishonest that you would cite the reasoning that you did.

            It strikes me as dishonest of you to claim that you believe the Eastern Orthodox put the Bible together when you don’t hold to their canon.

            “That’s interesting. You believe that God gave the Eastern Orthodox authority to write and canonize the Bible. Yet you prefer a man made church.”

            You speak of misrepresenting positions, but what would you consider the above? I am a Protestant, I believe God wrote the Bible through men. Just because those same men went ahead and made an institution, I do not by necessity believe that the outward institution is protected from error for all time.

            Do you hold the Eastern Orthodox canon as infallible? Because if you don’t, then you lied when you said that you believed they were the ones who had identified the inspired canon.

            For example, when I noted that a Christian must submit to religious authorities, yet at the same time, not do so if the authorities become heretical. You wrote, “Who declared Arianism a heresy? A layman or the Catholic Church.” But that does not address the actual issue. There were hundreds of self-described Catholic Bishops that adopted Arian Creeds and presumably taught the doctrine. Now, if you happen to go to one of their churches as a layman, it is incumbent upon you to reject the doctrine, even if such men have been set up as Bishops over you.

            Says who? Have you not read in Scripture?
            James 3:1 My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.

            This is not a hypothetical situation, it really happened in the 4th century,

            Answer the question. Who declared Arianism a heresy? A layman or the Catholic Church?

            “Really? I see neither the word layman nor Scripture in that sentence. What part of that claim led you to believe that I said that layman can’t interpret Scripture?”

            Good, so we can agree then, let’s move on.

            We agree that you misrepresented my position. What else do we agree upon?

            “Ask Joe if he believes the Catholic Church is infallible in matters of Doctrine.”

            Of course he believes that.

            Good.

            But he does not believe every Synod is infallible,

            Who said that he did?

            and as others in the comments section here pointed out, there have been Arian councils in the past that put forward heretical creeds.

            And the Catholic Church declared Arianism a heresy. What does that have to do with the price of beans?

            “I believe and obey a Church I believe to be infallible.”

            Other than when it isn’t (i.e. heretical councils)

            Is that what’s bothering you? Wow! Talking to you is like pulling teeth.

            Jesus Christ established an authoritative Church to sort those out. He promised the Church would not fall. He didn’t say anything about not stumbling. Heretics have their role to play:

            1 Corinthians 11:19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

            “You obey a church you know to be fallible.”

            Which would be true of all man-made institutions as a whole.

            The Catholic Church was established by Christ and is led by Christ.

            “My logic is very simple, the only reason that the Catholic Church can be infallible is because it is led by God. Therefore, I know that the Catholic Church is led by God.”

            It’s simple logic, but it is not a historical fact

            Mighty strange comment from a person who claims to hold to sola Scriptura.

            As for me, I believe the history put forth by the institution which is called the Pillar of Truth in the innerrant Word of God. Not by any other.

            and the men who took part in the councils themselves did not teach it.

            That depends upon which council and when. All knowledgeable Catholics know that ecumenical councils held in union with the Pope, are infallible. Yeah, that includes St. Augustine.

            God bless,

            Craig

            You too.

      2. Al,

        “OK Craig, I should have refined my answer a bit from : 1. “Well, scripture is ONLY infallible ….IF Catholic synods, and councils, say so to, 2. “Well, scripture was ONLY CLASSIFIED INFALLIBLE ….BECAUSE Catholic synods, and councils, said so.”

        They were made a Canon (i.e. rule) yes, but they were not made Scripture, or any more revealed, or any more authoritative. They were authoritative before any synods. So, you are conflating the creation of a list of books and making it a rule (the Canon) with the subject of the actual infalliblity of the works themselves.

        God bless,
        Craig

        1. Craig,

          From what I’ve read, the ‘Book of Revelations’ was considered ‘authoritative’ by very few Bishops before it was included in the canon. And, of course, it was always ‘Scripture’, but was not recognized so by many Bishops. So, it took one or more Synods and councils to convince the many Bishops of the Church that it was indeed inspired scripture.

          Eusebius gives a hint of this with various so called of the ‘spurious’ and ‘rejected’ books, in his ‘Church History’, below. It was the Church and Synods which finally accepted, or rejected, the ancient Christian texts as they saw fit; and guided by the Holy Spirit they demonstrated this authoritatively by “closing the canon” at the Council of Carthage, as was referred to by your Augustine quote. So yes, all scripture was always scripture. But not all scripture was RECOGNIZED AS SCRIPTURE by a very large number of Bishops of the early Church.

          Eusebius:

          3. Among the disputed writings, which are nevertheless recognized by many, are extant the so-called epistle of James and that of Jude, also the second epistle of Peter, and those that are called the whether they belong to the evangelist or to another person of the same name.

          4. Among the rejected writings must be reckoned also the Acts of Paul, and the so-called Shepherd, and the Apocalypse of Peter, and in addition to these the extant epistle of Barnabas, and the so-called Teachings of the Apostles; and besides, as I said, the Apocalypse of John, if it seem proper, which some, as I said, reject, but which others class with the accepted books.
          5. And among these some have placed also the Gospel according to the Hebrews, with which those of the Hebrews that have accepted Christ are especially delighted. And all these may be reckoned among the disputed books.

          1. However, the Book of Revelation was Scripture all along. This shows that the recognition of men I the church can often be fallible while the books themselves are infallible. It mitigates against your point, unless you think by virtue of converging in a Synod and then Ecumenical Council a magic wand was waved and the men are made temporarily infallible in recognizing Scripture. This then begs the question concerning what Augustine mean that previous Ecumenical Councils are corrected by later ones, or Joe saying that “I’m not saying that all Synods are infallible.”

            I think it shows one of two possible things: the men are fallible as a matter of rule, or the men are infallible, only when they are not fallible. Strictly calling the Synods and such “infallible” does not seem to make sense.

          2. I can tell you, De Maria.

            Because the Church, through the grace of God AND the use of Synods, Councils and prolonged study, RECOGNIZED it as Sacred Scripture in the same way that Peter recognized Jesus as God and Messiah, when He received his new name ‘Peter’…”Rock”:

            “Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am?

            [16] Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. [17] And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. [18] And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. [19] And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.” (Matt.16:15)

          3. “This then begs the question concerning what Augustine mean that previous Ecumenical Councils are corrected by later ones”.

            This is a very vague statement. Everything depends on which exact canons are altar in the future. It is very easy to alter a canon, in a future synod, that is disciplinary in nature, such as the canons and regulations regarding married clergy, i.e.. in one century the priests are allowed to marry, and in another they are required to be celibate, and then again, it could be changed back if the church deems it proper for that era of Church history. This is to say, the Church has the power to both loose AND bind, as they see fit.

            But as far as DOGMA is concerned, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for the church to change such canons, or creeds, in future councils. So to understand what Augustine is saying, there is much more detail needed for an assessment of what can, and what cannot, be changed by an Ecumenical Council in the future.

            I’m sure a Catholic ‘canon lawyer’ could explain the finer points regarding such ecclesiastical issues.

          1. If you yourself understand, De Maria, never stop thanking God for the gift He has given you. It is an incalculable blessing to recognize not only Jesus as He is revealed in the Sacred Scriptures, but also Jesus as He is revealed before our eyes in His mystical Body here on Earth.

  10. I think you should take a look at the ‘History of Canon Law’ to get a better idea of how it developed. Like everything else in life it has it’s own historical development beginning with the Apostles and Letters of St. Paul. It developed gradually with writings such as the ‘Didache’, and then the ‘Traditio Apostolica’ of St. Hippolytus in about 218 AD, and the ‘Apostolic Constitutions’ in the 4th Century.

    Here is good link for a deeper study:

    http://faculty.cua.edu/pennington/Canon%20Law/ShortHistoryCanonLaw.htm#The%20Apostolic%20and%20Conciliar%20Age

  11. As a point of clarification, I’m not saying that all Synods are infallible, or that this one is infallible. As I mentioned earlier, I’m arguing for the broader principle that we need to stop freaking out about the (impossible) prospect that the gates of Hell are about to overcome the Church.

    But since the current Synod is obviously relevant, let’s clear up a few things. One of the first problems with the whole “the Synod might change Church teaching!” fear is that the Synod hasn’t been tasked with making any sort of pronouncement at all. Canonically, their role is advisory unless the pope decides otherwise:

    “Can. 342 The synod of Bishops is a group of Bishops selected from different parts of the world, who meet together at specified times to promote the close relationship between the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops. These Bishops, by their counsel, assist the Roman Pontiff in the defence and development of faith and morals and in the preservation and strengthening of ecclesiastical discipline. They also consider questions concerning the mission of the Church in the world.

    Can. 343 The function of the synod of Bishops is to discuss the matters proposed to it and set forth recommendations. It is not its function to settle matters or to draw up decrees, unless the Roman Pontiff has given it deliberative power in certain cases; in this event, it rests with the Roman Pontiff to ratify the decisions of the synod.”

    Could the Synod give bad recommendations? Yes. Would that change Church teaching one iota? No.

    Finally, there’s no contradiction between saying that the pope isn’t always infallible, even in his public pronouncements, and that he’ll never promulgate heresy. While “creeping infallibilism” is a real thing, and we don’t need to treat every papal formulation as the perfect articulation of the faith, it’s an untenable position to hold that the Magisterium could promulgate something heretical, and something that — if followed — would lead to the damnation of souls. It’s just not possible that someone could do what the Church instructs and then be damned for it. To hold the contrary would be to misunderstand the role of the Church in the mystery of salvation, a role that needs to be understood for the Church’s teaching about infallibility to be anything more than arbitrary power.

    1. There is a saying that “you don’t negotiate the non-negotiable”. For example: Mr. Obama negotiating with Iran. Iran’s position isthat it intends to develop nukes in order to annihilate Israel. How do you discuss and bargain with that? How do you meet them half way? By the very act of sitting down to the table, Mr. Obama legitimized the Iranian position, treating it as respectable. In the end, because he cared more about the optics of signing a “deal”, and his enemy didn’t yield on their demands, he agreed to give them everything they wanted. There are other examples of politicians failing to heed this principle: Kennedy being led by Kruschev into debating the status of West Berlin, etc.

      The critics of this Synod are pointing out that the same folly is at work there. Instead of being organized to discuss real problems facing families, the Synod’s main function is to make the heretical German proposal seem legitimate and respectable, as if they were just one possibly-correct side of a lively and completely legitimate debate. How are the bishops and cardinals supposed to debate this proposal? How do you negotiate or bargain with a position that is theologically impossible? Unless the synod ends with a mass excommunication and forceful new teaching, the message to laity is clear: the Church’s teachings about marriage are being moved from the “settled theology” category into “all opinions are open for discussion”. Pope Francis doesn’t need to make an ‘ex cathedra’ pronouncement, he’s sending a message by his actions.

    2. //we need to stop freaking out about the (impossible) prospect that the gates of Hell are about to overcome the Church.//

      I don’t think that”s what ‘s worrying Catholics. Of course, the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church. What ordinary people are worried about, IMO, is that they will wake up one day soon to find the Church gone, and, in her place stands a new church with teachings that go against every article of Faith the Church has taught since Apostolic times.

      I think THAT is what people are afraid of, an overturning of their peaceful everyday life. Will the new church, for instance allow them to believe in Christ as they have always done. Will not the new church force everyone to toe the New Morality, for instance, embrace Modernism and all?

      You will agree with me that this scenario does not mean that the gates of hell would have already prevailed. At any time that God wants, the new church can be overthrown and the true Church brought back.

      That’s no consolation for the average Catholic, however, who has to live through a possible new persecution.

      I’m sure you got my point, Joe.

      1. Abraham,

        That’s exactly the view that I’m saying is theologically impossible, since it assumes a heretical ecclesiology.

        It’s not enough to say that the Church will triumph in the end. If the forces of evil even temporarily destroys the Church and replaces her with a new one, the gates of Hell have overcome. “And the hand of Mid′ian prevailed over Israel; and because of Mid′ian the people of Israel made for themselves the dens which are in the mountains, and the caves and the strongholds” (Judges 6:2). Nevermind that Midian wasn’t finally victorious over Israel: when they temporarily conquered Israel, they (for a time) prevailed over them. Satan will never, not for a moment, prevail over the Church of Jesus Christ.

        I mean, just think about it: during the darkest of days in the Church’s past, there have been times in which a handful of orthodox bishops (always including the bishop of Rome) have had to stand up against a large number of heretical bishops (the latter group, in the case of Arianism, backed by the Roman Empire itself). It’s not a coincidence or mere luck that Arianism never even temporarily prevailed, despite its apparent numeric superiority and imperial power.

        Christ promises not to leave us as orphans (John 14:18), but to be with us always, even until the end of time (Matthew 28:20). Moreover, He sent the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth to remain with us forever (John 14:15) and to preserve us in the fullness of the truth (John 16:13).

        These promises become meaningless if the Church can even briefly, cease to possess the fullness of truth, or if she can, even briefly, be wiped out and replaced with a heretical anti-Church. The Reformers already tried these arguments, claiming that the Reformation was necessary because the Church had fallen (for a thousand years or so) into apostasy. Their argument wasn’t just wrong, but impossible. It remains just as impossible today.

        I.X.,

        Joe

      2. Quick point to add: presumably, in the scenario you’re laying out, it isn’t that the Pope and the Magisterium would declare “we hereby renounce the Roman Catholic Church, and are creating the Roman branch of the Anglican Communion” or whatever. So in practice the ecclesiological vision you’re advancing is that I have to obey the Church unless I think the Church is wrong… which quite quickly reduces to the whole “individual believer over the Magisterium” ecclesiology that the Reformers advanced.

        I get that, in this scenario, it probably “seems clear” to you that whatever the Church is proclaiming that you don’t like is contrary to Tradition, but understand that this is exactly like the Protestant argument that schism went from being sinful to mandatory once it became “clear” that the Church taught something contrary to Scripture. It’s easy to see in their case that the error lay not with the Church but the arrogation of individual interpretation of Scripture. It’s possible to make that same mistake in interpreting Tradition.

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