“But let no one try to trick you by saying that ‘the controversy is not about religion but about customs,’ as the ancient schismatics did, or that the Apostolic See is not dealing with the cause of Catholic communion and faith but is simply pained by the insult of being apparently despised by its critics since the dissidents do not rest from scattering such statements as these to deceive all the simple-minded.”
— Pope St. Gelasius (r. 492-496), Ep. 18, to the bishops of Dardania, no. 6 (cited by Pius IX in Quartus Supra (1873), §50, n. 65).
“If any one saith, that the canon of the mass contains errors, and is therefore to be abrogated; let him be anathema.
“If any one saith, that the ceremonies, vestments, and outward signs, which the Catholic Church makes use of in the celebration of masses, are incentives to impiety, rather than offices of piety; let him be anathema.”
— Council of Trent, Session 22, Canon VI and VII.
“Nor can we pass over in silence the audacity of those who, not enduring sound doctrine, contend that ‘without sin and without any sacrifice of the Catholic profession assent and obedience may be refused to those judgments and decrees of the Apostolic See, whose object is declared to concern the Church’s general good and her rights and discipline, so only it does not touch the dogmata of faith and morals.’ But no one can be found not clearly and distinctly to see and understand how grievously this is opposed to the Catholic dogma of the full power given from God by Christ our Lord Himself to the Roman Pontiff of feeding, ruling and guiding the Universal Church.”
— Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quanta Cura (8 December 1864), §5.
“But since discipline is the rampart of faith, the Apostolic See needed to restore discipline. It has certainly never abandoned this most serious duty even in adverse times when it could attend only to transitory needs while it awaited more the favorable times.”
— Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quartus Supra (6 January 1873), §20.
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A: “I believe the Bible teaches that believers must receive communion as bread and wine, under both ‘species’, as Catholics call them.”
B: “Well, the Church, the Catholic Church, teaches that the faithful may receive the Eucharist under only one species without sinning. In fact, denying the efficacy of one or the other single species is condemned by the Church! [cf. Council of Trent, Session 13, Canon III]”
A: “Yes, but that’s just a disciplinary matter, so the Church can’t be infallible about something like that. At least, that’s what Vatican I taught. I’ve been in lots of debates with Catholics about papal infallibility, and it always boils down to ex cathedra infallibility in matters of faith and morals only. A mere disciplinary matter like liturgical rubrics can be as fallible as my attempts to explain quantum physics.”
B: “Bravo, at least you got Vatican I right!”
A: “I try.”
B: “But that’s irrelevant in this case, because the real presence of Christ in both species, or one of them singly, is a matter of 0.”
A: “I suppose so, but it’s also a liturgical rubric–a merely disciplinary issue. Wow, speaking of quantum physics, ever hear of superposition?”
A: “Meaning, like, an ecclesial canon can be both disciplinary and doctrinal– both a matter of praxis and of faith.”
B: “Well, canons per se are infallible, because they are formal declarations of the Church in an extraordinary act of conciliar infallibility ratified by the Bishop of Rome. So I’d prefer to call liturgical matters ‘rubrics’ rather than ‘canons’.”
A: “I think you’re just splitting hairs. Are you saying that receiving the Eucharist under one species is a ‘mere rubric’? I thought you just said it was dogmatic!”
B: “Well, yes, everything outside of that, or the maleness of the priesthood, or the matter of the eucharistic elements, or the words of consecration, which are dogmatic–everything outside of those hard-and-fast canons are ‘mere rubrics’.”
A: “So rubrics can be fallible but canons are infallible, right?”
A: “Sort of like, speed limits are infallible, as far as the authority of the state goes, but speedometers in citizens’ cars can be fallible?”
A: “I mean that the rubrics help the Church conform to the dogmatic canons, even in liturgical matters, just like speedometers help citizens obey the speed limit in their cars. If the speedometers are fallible and unreliable, what good is an infallible speed limit? The conformity of the driver with the law would vary from car to car, just as the conformity of rubrics with dogmatic worship would vary from age to age, council to council. The speedometers have to be just as reliable as the laws, even if the state (or, Church) can choose to alter their units from, say, miles per hour to kilometers per hour to 里 per hour.”
B: “What is a ‘lee per hour’? Anyway, I think you’re missing the p–”
A: “Not only that, previous councils are chock full of canons–infallible canons–that deal only with disciplinary matters. How could the Church impose those ‘disciplinary’ canons as infallible norms on the faithful, on pain of excommunication, if the Church is not infallible in disciplinary matters as well? Hang on, let me Google something…”
A: “Yeah, that’s it… From the Council of Florence, cited at Vatican I, I quote: ‘The Roman pontiff is the true vicar of Christ, the head of the whole church and the father and teacher of all Christians; and to him was committed in blessed Peter, by our lord Jesus Christ, the full power of tending, ruling and governing the whole church.’ [Council of Florence, session 6. S Bernard, Ep. 190 (PL 182, 1053).] Wait, wait, let me Google something else, a real doozie…”
A: “Naw, on second thought, it’s too long to read out loud, so let me just e-mail it to you later, yeah?”
A: “Anyway, my point is, the Catholic Church teaches that the Roman pontiff’s full power as teacher of the whole Church coalesces with and includes ‘ruling and governing’–i.e., making rules for–the whole Church in the authority of Peter. Rules, as in disciplines. If the Pope decrees fallible, even faulty, disciplines, don’t you have a right to resist him, politely, at least?”
B: “Yes, certainly. St. Thomas teaches that clearly in his glosses on Galatians 2, when St. Paul opposed St. Peter ‘to his face,’ as the trads like to say. At times, even a layman has the duty to oppose fallible decrees of the Pope, as long as it doesn’t touch on faith and morals.”
A: “Well, I’m still not sure you’ve clarified how discipline can’t be disciplinary–or, to recall Vatican II, how doctrine can’t ‘subsist in’ discipline–, since the only way the Church honors the orthodox faith about Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist is by upholding a discipline like bread and wine of a certain rubrical stature, priests of a certain phenotypic character, and, again, of regulating for communion under one species. To flout those disciplines just is to flout the doctrine which they embody. Faulty discipline is just the smoke that rises from false doctrine, as true discipline rises from true doctrine.”
B: “Whoa, now…”
A: “Sorry, I’m not done. I kind of lost my train of thought there. Let me get back to the resistance thing. You said that, as long as you don’t oppose decrees that pertain to ‘faith and morals’, you have the right, maybe even the duty to oppose the Pope or bishops about disciplinary or ‘prudential’ matters.”
B: “Yes. That seems right. Otherwise, as one friend put it, Catholics are just mindless robots, and you can count me out.”
A: “Well, I’m not Catholic, so don’t get me started, heheh. But here’s my point: I thought we agreed that previous councils infallibly promulgated canons and decrees, including many that pertain to disciplinary, liturgical, and even–gasp!–prudential matters. So are you saying that anyone at the close of those councils could pick and choose which canons and decrees they would accept, as long as they only rejected the disciplinary ones?”
B: “Okay, no, if you put it that way, no. But I’m talking about run of the mill discipline, like motu proprios, and bulls, and off-the-cuff homilies, things like that.”
A: “So Luther could have rightly resisted Leo X’s bull Exsurge Domine? Isn’t that what kicked off the whole Reformation, roughly speaking–that he was wrong to spurn that ‘mere’, run-of-the-mill bull?”
B: “Look, all I know is, the Pope, and therefore the Church, is infallible of matters of faith and morals only–”
A: “But he can infallibly ratify Church councils that infallibly canonize and decree matters of discipline and prudence?”
B: “Yeah, pretty much.”
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“So anyway here’s that email I mentioned earlier today… It’s from Quartus Supra by Pius IX, from 1873… IOW, AFTER VATICAN I and therefore fully aware of the infallible-in-faith-and-morals distinction yet… still… pretty hardcore for ‘mere discipline’ I say… If you’re gonna follow the pope… you need to follow him, no? And if you believe Christ gave him the power to rule and govern the flock as an expression of his teaching, shouldn’t that entail obedience and compliance across the board, short of ‘mortal sin’? Just sayin’… Anyway, the quote I meant with my bolding…
Christ Himself, however, the God who “is charity,” openly declared that those who do not listen to the Church should be regarded as gentiles and publicans. And Our predecessor St. Gelasius answered Euphemius, Bishop of Constantinople, when he stated that “the flock ought to follow the shepherd who calls them back to safe pastures, rather than the shepherd follow the flock as it wanders off the road.” For “the people must be taught, not followed: and if they do not know, we must impress on them what is permitted and not permitted, rather than give them our approval.”
Definition of a Schismatic
12. But the neo-schismatics say that it was not a case of doctrine but of discipline, so the name and prerogatives of Catholics cannot be denied to those who object. Our Constitution Reversurus, published on July 12, 1867, answers this objection. We do not doubt that you know well how vain and worthless this evasion is. For the Catholic Church has always regarded as schismatic those who obstinately oppose the lawful prelates of the Church and in particular, the chief shepherd of all. Schismatics avoid carrying out their orders and even deny their very rank. Since the faction from Armenia is like this, they are schismatics even if they had not yet been condemned as such by Apostolic authority. For the Church consists of the people in union with the priest, and the flock following its shepherd. Consequently the bishop is in the Church and the Church in the bishop, and whoever is not with the bishop is not in the Church. Further more, as Our predecessor Pius VI warned in his Apostolic letter condemning the civil constitution of the clergy in France, discipline is often closely related to doctrine and has a great influence in preserving its purity. In fact, in many instances, the holy Councils have unhesitatingly cut off from the Church by their anathema those who have infringed its discipline.
Authority of the Holy See
13. But the neo-schismatics have gone further, since “every schism fabricates a heresy for itself to justify its withdrawal from the Church.” Indeed they have even accused this Apostolic See as well, as if We had exceeded the limits of Our power in commanding that certain points of discipline were to be observed in the Patriarchate of Armenia. Nor can the Eastern Churches preserve communion and unity of faith with Us without being subject to the Apostolic power in matters of discipline. Teaching of this kind is heretical, and not just since the definition of the power and nature of the papal primacy was determined by the ecumenical Vatican Council: the Catholic Church has always considered it such and abhorred it. Thus the bishops at the ecumenical Council of Chalcedon clearly declared the supreme authority of the Apostolic See in their proceedings [IOW, to defect from the disciplinary authority of the pope is to defect from his authority as teacher, as Peter]; then they humbly requested from Our predecessor St. Leo confirmation and support for their decrees, even those which concerned discipline.
14. Indeed, “the successor of blessed Peter, by the very fact that he is such, has been assigned the whole flock of Christ, so that together with his bishopric he receives the power of universal rule. Then the other bishops must be assigned their portions of the flock so that they can rule over their flock.” If the supreme authority of this assignment to blessed Peter and his successors is rejected, the very foundations and prerogatives of the patriarchal churches in particular would be shaken. “Even if Christ willed that Peter and the other leaders have something in common, the other leaders have this only through Peter.” …
15. Accordingly, then, unless they abandon the unchanging and unbroken tradition of the Church which is so clearly confirmed by testimonies of the Fathers, the neo-schismatics can in no way convince themselves that they are Catholics even if they declare themselves such. If We did not thoroughly know the clever and subtle deceits of heretics, it would be incomprehensible that the Ottoman regime still regards as Catholics people it knows to be cut off from the Catholic Church by Our judgment and authority. For if the Catholic religion is to continue safe and free in the Ottoman dominion as the Emperor has decreed, then the essence of this religion should also be allowed, for instance the primacy of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff. Most men feel that the Church’s supreme head and shepherd should decide who are Catholics and who are not.
16. But the neo schismatics declare that they do not oppose the Catholic Church’s principles in the least. Their sole aim is to protect the [disciplinary?] rights of their churches and their nation and even the rights of their supreme Emperor; they falsely allege that We have infringed these rights. By this means, they fearlessly make us responsible for the present disorder. …
17. We do not wish to recall that after the schism succeeded, the fortunes of the Eastern Catholic Churches declined; then God overthrew the empire of the Greeks in punishment for the sundered unity of His Church. Neither do We desire to recall the energetic efforts of Our predecessors, as soon as it was possible, to call back the straying sheep to the one true flock of Christ the Lord. But even if the results did not fully match the efforts expended, still by God’s mercy some churches of the different rites did return to the truth and Catholic unity of the Church. These the Apostolic See received in its arms like newborn infants and took particular care to strengthen them in the true Catholic faith and to keep them completely free from all stain of heresy.
Also, this from Pope Zosimus:
Although the tradition of the Fathers has attributed such great authority to the Apostolic See that no one would dare to disagree wholly with its judgment, and it has always preserved this [judgment] by canons and rules, and current ecclesiastical discipline up to this time by its laws pays the reverence which is due to the name of PETER, from whom it has itself descended . . . ; since therefore PETER the head is of such great authority and he has confirmed the subsequent endeavors of all our ancestors, so that the Roman Church is fortified . . . by human as well as by divine laws, and it does not escape you that we rule its place and also hold power of the name itself, nevertheless you know, dearest brethren, and as priests you ought to know, although we have such great authority that no one can dare to retract from our decision, yet we have done nothing which we have not voluntarily referred to your notice by letters . . . not because we did not know what ought to be done, or would do anything which by going against the advantage of the Church, would be displeasing.