When a Pope solemnly proclaims a dogma, which is a very rare event, the infallibility exclusively applies to the final sentence: it does not apply to pro and con arguments and conclusions that may be inferred from the dogma. There is no uniform rule to the final written composition of a Dogmatic Document: Popes have been using terms like “We proclaim”, “We define”, “We decree”, “We declare” and so on.
Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary in his Dogmatic Bull “Ineffabilis Deus” of December 8, 1854 with these words:
“We declare, decree and define that the doctrine according to which the most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin, was revealed by God and therefore all Christians must constantly and firmly believe in it.”
It is worth noticing that the Pope affirmed that this piece of truth was “revealed by God”, in other words, it has always existed in the Depositary of Faith although it is not explicitly worded in the Bible.
Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of Mary to Heaven in the Apostolic Constitution “Munificientissimus Deus” of January 11, 1950. Before 36 Cardinals, 555 Patriarchs, Bishops, Archbishops and around a million faithful, Pius XII solemnly declared that:
After having once more lifted Our beseeches to God and invoked the lights of the Holy Spirit…We proclaim, declare and define as dogma of faith revealed by God that: the Immaculate Mother of God, Forever Virgin Mary, after having finished Her earthly days, was raised to Heavenly Glory in body and soul.”
In the text above the Pope repeats the expression “revealed by God”. How can God reveal an article of faith if it is not explicitly written in the Bible? Although it is not written in the Revelation of the Gospel, it belongs to the Oral Tradition of the Church. Those who reject this Oral Tradition miss an important part of God’s Revelation to mankind and consequently will have great difficulty in understanding this process.
Some of the Papal documents do not make it clear whether or not they contain a definition “ex-cathedra”: in cases like that, theologians admit that these documents are not compulsory sentences to Christian Faith, though Christians have the serious duty of believing in these statements because of their Shepherd’s authority.
Prof 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