When the Church teaches us an article of Truth of Morals, that teaching is the outcome of a long deep study and analysis of the theme. First of all and before teaching us, the Church asks for enlightenment to the Holy Spirit. The truths that the Holy Spirit unveils to the Church are sometimes difficult to understand, especially to those who did not study theology. Nevertheless, that should not be a cause of mistrust and disagreement among Christians, due to the fact that these articles of Faith and Morals are dogmas. On the contrary, each and every teaching of the Ministry of the Church should be welcomed with gratitude and happiness and put into practice right away, as if Jesus Himself had given it to us.
“Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me” (Luke 10, 16).
Unfortunately, many insecure Catholics are shaken in their faith when people from different religions deny the truths of our faith, truths that are firmly consolidated in the Church. That should encourage all Catholics to plunge into a serious study of their faith. Saint Peter affirmed to the first Christians that:
“Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing. For: “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep the tongue from evil and the lips from speaking deceit, must turn from evil and do good, seek peace and follow after it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears turned to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against evildoers.” Now who is going to harm you if you are enthusiastic for what is good? But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil” (The First Letter of Peter 3, 8-17).
I want to insist on this point: even if you do not understand quite well the teachings of the Church, you should always welcome them and try to understand their meaning. Cardinal Ratzinger, Mayor of the Congregation of Faith at the Vatican, affirmed that: “dogmas are not chains but rather windows open to the infinite”. Unfortunately, some modern theologians (perhaps more modern than theologians) hastily try to challenge everlasting dogmas and even contradict their truths.
It is important to realize that infallibility does not mean impeccability. We all know that the members of the Church commit sins, most of the times against their own will. Nevertheless, that has nothing to do with the Infallibility of the Principles of the Church, which are a matter of Doctrine and not a matter of personal behavior of the members of the Church. The Church is infallible concerning the guidance She gives to her children all through the pathways of the Saving Truth. Jesus sends His Holy Spirit to His Church to guarantee that the Pope shall not make Doctrinal mistakes, when the Pope teaches ex cathedra, which means in a definite and decisive way (N.T. ex cathedra, Latin = “from the chair”, with full authority, especially of papal pronouncement). The Pope teaches Articles of Faith and Morals to the Catholics in the name of the Church and always ex cathedra. Sins belong to mankind and Grace belongs to God.
Saint Augustine teaches us not to be discouraged in face of the sins of members and children of the Church:
“Do not be misled by that, dear brothers. If you do not want to be disappointed and if you want to sincerely love one another, then know that each and every state and profession of the Church has a good amount of fakers…There are false Christians but there are also many irreproachable ones.”
The Infallibility of the Church does not apply to scientific fields like Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Astronomy and so on. The Church receives the assistance of the Holy Spirit exclusively in questions of Faith and Morals, which by their own nature are definite and compulsory to the Faithful. They are equivalent to the Body of Dogmas proclaimed by the Popes or Councils with the Pope. For example, Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady in 1854. Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of Our Lady in body and soul to Heaven in 1950. Pope John Paul II proclaimed the priestly Orders exclusively for men in irrevocable definite character in his Apostolic Letter “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis” on May 22, 1994. Concerning the priestly Orders, the Pope settled the matter with these words:
“In order to solve any doubts concerning that most important matter, that belongs to the very constitution of the divine Church, and due to my Ministry of Confirmation to my brothers (Luke 22, 32), I declare that the Church does not have by no means the right of granting priestly Orders to women, and that this sentence must be considered as definite by all of the Faithful of the Church.”
“Then an argument broke out among them about which of them should be regarded as the greatest. He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and those in authority over them are addressed as ‘Benefactors’; but among you it shall not be so. Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. For who is greater: the one seated at table or the one who serves? Is it not the one seated at table? I am among you as the one who serves. It is you who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father has conferred one on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22, 24-32).
The question of priestly Orders in the Church is thus closed and solved forever, because we have a “definite” statement of the Pope on the matter. Unfortunately, soon after the Pope’s statement, many members of the Church manifested their disapproval. The Sacred Congregation of Faith had to make a pronunciation and affirm that this is an ex cathedra definition issued by the Pope and therefore it cannot be contradicted or re-examined.
Professor Felipe Aquino
Professor Felipe Aquino is a widower, father of five children. On TV Canção Nova he presents the program “Escola da Fé” [School of faith] and “Pergunte e Responderemos” [Ask and respond], on Radio he presents the program “in the heart of the Church”. On weekends he preaches deepening meetings throughout Brazil and abroad. He wrote 73 books of Catholic background by publishers, Loyola and Cleopas and Canção Nova. His teacher’s page:www.cleofas.com.br Twitter: @pfelipeaquino