In Wellspring 24, the final paragraph read as follows –
More recent history has much to say about individuals who have claimed divinity or divine ordination. But the most notable example of this may be found, written clear for all to see, in The New York Catholic Catechism, “The Pope takes the place of Jesus Christ on earth…by divine right the pope has supreme and full power in faith and morals over each and every pastor and his flock. He is the true Vicar of Christ, the head of the entire church, the father and teacher of all Christians. He is the infallible ruler, the founder of dogmas, the author of and the judge of councils; the universal ruler of truth, the arbiter of the world, the supreme judge of heaven and earth, the judge of all, being judged by one, God himself on earth.”
I have been asked to look into this declaration, and have found that there is no such “New York Catechism”, but rather that some author had pieced together phrases from many different Catholic sources and presented it as coming with Catholic Authority. Therefore I am now rejecting it as spurious, and prefer rather to quote from actual Catholic documents. The following are presented for consideration, and do indeed suggest a form of magisterium which fits the definition of Antichrist – in other words, one who claims to come “in the place of Christ,” as presented in my thesis in Wellspring 24. I leave my readers to ponder and decide.
The infallibility of the pope was formally defined in 1870, although the tradition behind this view goes back much further. In the conclusion of the fourth chapter of its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Pastor aeternus, the First Vatican Council declared the following.
We teach and define that it is a dogma Divinely revealed that the Roman pontiff when he speaks ex cathedra, that is when in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, by the Divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals, and that therefore such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves and not from the consent of the Church irreformable.
So then, should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this definition of ours: let him be anathema.
— Vatican Council, Sess. IV, Const. de Ecclesiâ Christi, Chapter iv
The dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, which was also a document on the Church itself, explicitly reaffirmed the definition of papal infallibility, so as to avoid any doubts, expressing this in the following words:
This Sacred Council, following closely in the footsteps of the First Vatican Council, with that Council teaches and declares that Jesus Christ, the eternal Shepherd, established His holy Church, having sent forth the apostles as He Himself had been sent by the Father; and He willed that their successors, namely the bishops, should be shepherds in His Church even to the consummation of the world. And in order that the episcopate itself might be one and undivided, He placed Blessed Peter over the other apostles, and instituted in him a permanent and visible source and foundation of unity of faith and communion. And all this teaching about the institution, the perpetuity, the meaning and reason for the sacred primacy of the Roman Pontiff and of his infallible magisterium, this Sacred Council again proposes to be firmly believed by all the faithful.
Instances of infallible declarations
- Immaculate Conception
It was not until 1854 that Pope Pius IX, with the support of the overwhelming majority of Roman Catholic bishops, whom he had consulted between 1851–1853, promulgated the papal bull Ineffabilis Deus (Latin for “Ineffable God”), which defined ex cathedra the dogma of the Immaculate Conception:
We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful.
— Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, December 8, 1854
- Assumption of Mary
By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.
The primacy of the Roman Pontiff was challenged in 1517 when Martin Luther began preaching against several practices in the Catholic Church, including some itinerant friars’ abuses involving indulgences. When Pope Leo X refused to support Luther’s position, Luther claimed belief in an “invisible church” and called the pope the Antichrist.
Luther’s rejection of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff led to the start of the Protestant Reformation, during which numerous Protestant sects broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. The Church of England also broke away from the Catholic Church at this time, although for reasons different from Martin Luther and the Protestants.