Admittedly, there is a lot of conflicting information circulating and claiming itself to be `truth.' But, whose fault is it if an individual refuses to make the effort to learn the truth? Lies will always have an element of truth in them. It is not the element of truth that deceives, but the hidden lie that destroys. There is no more reason to be gullible in matters of religion than there is to be gullible in shopping for a used car _ or a new one if you can afford it.
Jesus has given warnings; the Apostles have given warnings; and the Church has continuously given warnings against false teachers. Today, our Bishop gives warnings against false teachers and is in turn accused of being a `false teacher' by those whom he is bound in duty to expose for religious fraud.
However, did the Apostles (the first Bishops) fare any better? The entrenched heretics persecuted them and tried to eliminate the truth by eliminating them. Obviously, they did not succeed.
Yet, so many people fail to heed these warnings. Not only do they refuse to heed the warnings, but they go a step further: they actually embrace and defend the error.
Jesus warns us as He warned the people of His day. Jesus also showed the Apostles what they must do when people will not listen to them:
"Then having summoned the twelve apostles, he gave them power and authority over all the devils, and to cure diseases ..And whoever does not receive you _ go forth from that town, and shake off even the dust from your feet for a witness against them" (Luke 9,5). And we read in St. Matthew: "And whoever does not receive you, or listen to your words _ go forth outside of that house or town, and shake off the dust from your feet.
Amen I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that town" (Matt. 10, 14-15)."
Anyone who has been validly baptized into the true faith and desires to persevere in it, must be prepared to make an effort to follow the sound doctrine of the Church as it is faithfully taught by the Bishop who is the successor of the Apostles.
In the previous issue of The Seraph, the moral grounds for conscience were indicated. Plainly said, it is a matter of conscience. Those who wish to abuse their conscience may do so at their own peril. Those, however, who desire to follow their informed conscience will do well to ponder the following most common fallacies in reasoning.
The assumption here is that those in error are not obstinately clinging to their error. We all make mistakes because our knowledge is limited. But, no one is excused for errors that are deliberately embraced when evidence to the contrary is produced.
Perhaps the best approach to preparing oneself to detect false argumentation is to know the typical fallacies used to hide the truth.
Then, after having presented in an orderly fashion the fallacies, we will apply them to some of the commonly used arguments used against genuine Catholics.
Formal errors are violations of the rules governing the basic forms of reasoning. Material errors are errors of fact or faulty use of ideas and words. If these latter have a deceptive resemblance to truth and are used for the purpose of misleading, they are sophisms. If they are not used intentionally, they are simply called fallacies.
We have encountered both examples of fallacies in the speech and writings of laymen and clergy. These two fallacies are known as Fallacies in Language and Fallacies in Matter.
Briefly: Fallacies in language are the following:
I. FALLACIES IN LANGUAGE.
1. Amphiboly: This means using phrases or entire sentences ambiguously.
2. Composition: Taking together what should be taken separately.
3. Division: The opposite of composition; taking separately what should be taken conjointly.
4. Accent or Prosody: a deliberate ambiguity due to false accent or false emphasis.
5. Figures of Speech: Here a conclusion of identity or similarity of meaning is drawn between one diction and another, due to their similarity of construction.
II. FALLACIES IN MATTER.
1. Accident: The confusion of accidental and essential characteristics of a thing.
2. Absolute and Qualified Statements: Arguing from a generally true statement to a specific case; or from a special case to the general class.
3. Ignoring the Issue: Proving what is not to be proved, not proving what is to be proved, disproving what has not been asserted.
4. Begging the Question: Assuming as true the very thing to be proved.
5. Consequent: Arguing from the falsity of the antecedent to the falsity of the consequent, or from the truth of the consequent to the truth of the antecedent.
6. False Cause: Assigning a wrong cause to a certain effect.
Now, let us proceed to the application of these forms of erroneous argumentation to some of the more common accusations made against those who hold that the individuals who have been presented to us as genuine and true Vicars of Jesus Christ are not true Popes.
There should be no need for new labels. Nevertheless, without labels we would never know what is in a can of soup, would we? It should, however, be enough to be able to say someone is a genuine Roman Catholic without requiring any other descriptive adjective.
Heretics are the ones who need labels. They need them to distinguish their particular sect from another; and they need to label Roman Catholics as much as they can.
We Roman Catholics are forced to use labels for the sake of distinguishing ourselves from the many false Roman Catholics who have the means to constantly place themselves before the public eye with their false claims to be "Roman Catholic." It's all very sad.
Here is what might be called a `typical' series of arguments, or, reasons, used against sedevacantists
1. "When Peter was in error, St. Paul following our Lord's prescription for correcting one found in error had not found it necessary to reach the point where St. Peter had he not been willing to heed the Church would then and only then have cause to have been treated as a `heathen and a publican'." (Note: By the way, this is how the argument was presented).
How does the sedevacantist answer this argument?
The sedevacantist would say: Sir, you are arguing beside the point, confusing what is accidental with what is essential.
You are also contradicting yourself because in this first argumentation you acknowledge that a Pope could be deposed: You say: " St. Paul had not found it necessary to reach the point where St. Peter had he not been willing to heed the Church would then and only then have cause to have been treated as a `heathen and a publican.' It is obvious that you hold it to be true that St. Peter might have been excommunicated. And you attribute the fact that he was not excommunicated to his "willingness" to be corrected. But, apart from arguing beside the point, namely, that the incident concerning St. Peter has nothing to do with the present situation,
Excommunication and being `treated as the heathen and publican' are one and the same thing. Excommunication severs one from the Mystical Body.
Let us return for a moment to St. Peter's `error' _ an `error' which you would have us believe is of such enormity that had St. Peter not willingly accepted correction by the `Church' (That is, St. Paul?), he would have been excommunicated.
What were the circumstances surrounding St. Peter's `error'? St. Peter did not deny any doctrine nor did he promote false doctrine. It was merely a case of human respect motivated not by false doctrine, but by temporarily allowing himself to be influenced by the superficial `holiness' of the circumcised.
The case was as follows: Peter had well understood the freedom of the Gospel _ he knew that it was no longer obligatory for believers of the Old Testament to avoid eating with the uncircumcised. To this day, this council is given to Talmudists based on the Talmud.
Peter had no problem eating with the non-circumcised (i.e., `Gentiles.'). But, when some of the circumcised Judeans who had accepted Jesus as the longed-for Messiah came from James, Peter felt pressured by their obvious glances and comments. Lacking the courage to stand up to these `rigid' converts who would have the Mosaic Law observed, Peter began to separate himself from the non-circumcised.
It was for this that St. Paul rebuked him to his face. This is what St. Paul said to Cephas (St. Peter): "I said to Cephas before them all: If thou, though a Jew, livest like the Gentiles, and not like the Jews, how is it that thou dost compel the Gentiles to live like the Jews?" (Gal. 2,14).
A second fallacy is the confusion of what is accidental and what is essential.
The transition from practices of the Old Testament to the freedom of the New Testament was not as easy as some may believe. Those who have been forced by conscience to reject the usurpers of the papal throne since the death of Pope Pius XII can certainly understand the difficulty St. Peter had.
It is not easy for a loyal Catholic to deny someone whom the whole world visibly perceives to be the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. The pain of the sedevacantist is more real than that of those who would compromise their faith just to be able to mouth their hypocritical and false allegiance to anti-popes.
2. Argument: Assuming that the quotation is correct, the following is alleged to condemn the position of the sedevacantist: "It is lawful to resist him (the Pope) if he assaulted souls, or troubled the state, and much more if he strove to destroy the Church. It is lawful, I say, to resist him BY NOT DOING WHAT HE COMMANDS AND HINDERING THE EXECUTION OF HIS WILL. It is not lawful, however, to judge him, to punish him, or depose him." (Card. St. Robert Bellarmine, de Rom. Pont.)
Answer: Pope Paul IV wrote in his Papal Decree "Cum ex apostolatus":
"We declare that if ever a Bishop, Archbishop, Patriarch or Primate, a Cardinal or a Legate, or even a Sovereign Pope, had, before their elevation to the Cardinalcy or Pontificate, deviated from the Catholic Faith or fallen into heresy, the promotion or elevation _ even if it had taken place with the unanimous assent of all the Cardinals _ is INVALID and NULL, without value and one cannot say that it is valid because the person concerned accepts the office, receives the consecration and then enters into possession of the government and administration [of the office], or by the homage rendered to him by all; one cannot accept him as legitimate, and none of his acts of power or administration may be deemed valid whether Bishops, Cardinals or Sovereign Popes.
All their words, deeds, and actions, their administration and all that proceeds from them _ all these are without value and have no authority or command over anyone. These men, so promoted and elevated, will be by the same fact deprived of all dignity, place, honor, title and power." (Papal Bull of Pope Paul IV).
This Papal Bull was issued by Pope Paul IV, February, 1559. St. Robert Bellarmine was not yet even a priest when this Papal Bull was proclaimed. In fact, Bellarmine was still a student and was ordained in 1570.
If Bellarmine wrote these words, he must surely have been familiar with the Papal Bull "Cum ex apostolatus". Since he was writing on the Roman Pontiff, he would not have dismissed the reigning Pope of his time.
As an obedient ecclesiastic, St. Robert Bellarmine would not have dared to contradict a Papal Bull proclaimed well before his own entrance into public life.
Furthermore, the decree of Pope Paul IV continues to find effect in the Canon Law of 1918. The Church's law confirms the mind of the Church in this matter. Pope Pius XII stated to the clerical students in Rome in his address that the Code of Canon Law is the guide-line for the practical government of the Catholic Church. He said:
"Canon law likewise is directed to the salvation of souls; and the purpose of all its regulations and laws is that men may live and die in the holiness given them by the grace of God." (June 24, 1939).
And what does the Church officially teach on this subject? Under the heading of Tacit Resignation, the Church says:
"There are certain causes which effect the tacit resignation of an office, which resignation is accepted in advance by operation of law, and hence is effective without any declaration" (Canon 188).
There then follow a list of those causes which effect such a tacit resignation. One of them is the following: "if he has publicly fallen away from the Catholic Faith."
In the light of what the Church has officially declared before St. Bellarmine and after him, it should be clear that St. Robert Bellarmine's opinion can only remain a curiosity. Of course, it should be understood that we assume that the quotation from St. Bellarmine is accurate.
3. Argument: This type of argument brings up a series of quotations from either past popes or other ecclesiastics.
Here are some of these statements:
A) "Pope Honorius I (625-638 A.D.) was condemned for negligence in addressing the heresies extant when he was Pope at the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 681." The Sixth Ecumenical Council (III Council of Constantinople) took place forty years after the death of Pope Honorius I.
It is assumed that the argument would seek to establish the point that a Pope can be a heretic and still be a Pope, because, supposedly, Pope Honorius I was a heretic but yet was not deposed.
This argument is false because it begs the question. It has never been proven that Pope Honorius I was a heretic. The proponents of such arguments assume to be true the very thing that is to be proven.
On the contrary, historians are divided on the question of the orthodoxy of Pope Honorius I and his condemnation by the Sixth Ecumenical Council. However, the following must be admitted:
1. That it is certain in his letters to Sergius (the basis for the accusations) contain no heresy or false doctrine.
2. Pope Honorius' language expresses true Catholic doctrine albeit in language that may have been designed not to brusquely alienate the Monophelites.
3. The letters that allegedly served to condemn Pope Honorius I contained no decision "ex Cathedra" which is evident from the fact that Honorius enjoined silence on both parties and forbade any further discussion of the question.
Therefore, no doctrine is defined in these letters as obligatory on all Catholics, but only a rule of discipline is enjoined, namely, the precept of silence.
Pope Honorius' condemnation was confirmed by Pope Leo II because of Honorius' neglect . He had made himself morally responsible for the spread of heresy, by neglecting to publish decisions against it.
There was no error or false decision of Honorius that could ever be condemned by the Sixth Council. Should this have been so, the Council would have contradicted itself. For, in accepting the Letter of Agatho as a rule of faith, it recognized that the Holy Roman See had never failed, but had in all time the privilege of teaching only the truth.
This argument is also an argument `beside the point.' Pope Honorius I was not a heretic.
But the point at issue in the position of the sedevacantists is that "Pope John Paul II" and the previous Popes before him _ all the way back to Pope Pius XII (excluding Pius XII), were all guilty of heresy.
Once again, the position of the sedevacantists is unshaken.
4. Argument: The following list of statements concerning a Pope are recruited to draw the false conclusion that (As the English- teacher-turned-theologian Mr. Michael Davies) "a Pope is a Pope is a Pope." - Whatever that means .
a) The Fourth Council of Constantinople (860 A.D.) taught that "in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has ever been preserved free from stain."
b) The Third Council of Constantinople (680 A.D.) declared that "Peter's Apostolic Church has never departed from the way of truth into any error whatsoever."
c) The bishops of the Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.) responded to the reading of Pope Leo's dogmatic letter to his representative Bishop Flavian with the unanimous outburst of faith: "Peter has spoken through the mouth of Leo."
5. The Council of Ephesus (431 A.D.) called Pope Celestine (422-32 A.D.) the "guardian of the Faith who teaches right doctrine because he is the successor of Blessed Peter the Apostle, the head of the whole faith, and the head of the Apostles."
There are many more similar statements made through the centuries extolling and defending the office of the Pope. To each and every one of these advanced statements, we can only say: Why do you burden us with what we already know and believe? No legitimate Pope is denied by the sedevacantists.
Each and every citation proves nothing against the thesis that the Roman Catholic Church has ceased to have a visible Vicar of Jesus Christ since the death of Pope Pius XII.
Once again we are faced with fallacies. In this last series we encounter another very common and dangerous fallacy: the absolute and qualified statements fallacy. In this fallacy, the opponent argues from a generally true statement to a specific case, or from a specific case to the general class.
It is generally true that the Popes of the Catholic Church were legitimate. However, this cannot be stated absolutely and without limitation. Otherwise, the series of anti-popes listed in every history book would have to be accepted as true Popes.
But, the contrary is true. Therefore, not everyone who is presented as a Pope is a true Pope.
5. Argument: Yet another argument confuses the papacy with the person occupying that office. The papacy will endure until the end of time, but no individual Pope endures until the end of time. Thus, the sedevacantist does not reject the papacy as a divinely instituted office, nor does he reject all the Popes from St. Peter to the last legitimate Pope, Pope Pius XII; the sedevacantist does reject the recent and present usurpers of the throne of Peter.
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