|Dom Cuthbert Butler|
PAPAL INFALLIBILITY DOES NOT IMPLY "FANTASTIC DESPOTISM OR ABSOLUTISM"
by Hamish Fraser
The following is an expert from pp 342-343 of 'The Vatican Council 1969-1870' by Dom Cuthbert Butler of Downside Abbey
"The last speaker was Freppel. He had been professor of theology in the Catholic faculty of the Sorbonne, and one of the theologians called to Rome to prepare for the Council; and during the Council he had been made Bishop of Angers. Ullathorne commends the high quality of his speeches. He dealt with the principal objections that had been raised.
"The right of the Patriarchs are by ecclesiastical law, those of the Pope by divine law, and what is of divine law cannot be limited by what is of ecclesiastical law. ('Bravo; first rate!) We are making a dogmatic, not a disciplinary, decree, and it would cause confusion to bring in what is only of ecclesiastical law.
"Ordinary and immediate are no new terms for the Pope's universal jurisdiction; the former was used by the Fourth Lateran Council, the latter by St Thomas. When Popes have said they may not act counter to the canons, does that imply that they are bound by the canons? I distinguish: as a legislator by his own law, yes; as an inferior to a superior, no. Every legislator in every kind of government is bound to observe the laws he has made or confirmed, unless and until they are lawfully abrogated; this by natural and divine law, because the common good and right order in any society require it. (emphasis added) But the Pope has the power, for good cause, to dispense, or change, or abrogate any canons.
"This distinction excludes the fantastic despotism, or absolutism, that we have heard spoken of. Absolutism is the principle of ulpian in the Roman law, that the mere will of the Prince is law. But who has ever said that the Roman pontiff should govern the Church according to his sweet will, by his nod, by arbitrary power, by fancy, that is, without the laws and canons? (emphasis added) We all exclude mere arbitrary power; but we all assert full and perfect power. Is power arbitrary because it is supreme? Are civil governments arbitrary because supreme? Or a General Council confirmed by the Pope? Let all this confusion of ideas go! Let the doctrine of the schema be accepted in its true, proper, genuine sense, without preposterous interpretation. (Applause)"
In effect...the Pope is by far the most constitutional monarch of all time.
This does not mean that he is impotent as in the case of the British monarchy. But then it is in no sense a monarchy properly so called. It is rather a mere "traditional" figleaf deliberately retained to disguise the democratic absolutism of a Jacobin parliament which refuses to respect either the most hallowed national traditions or the laws of God Himself. The impotence of the British monarchy is indeed such that it has been said that it is as much as the King's life is worth to refuse to sign his own death warrant.
By contrast, the Pope is a very real monarch who is subject to no human person, institution or organisation whatsoever, not even an oecumenical council of the universal Church.
But while supreme, the Pope's power is not arbitrary. For he must operate within the very narrow sphere the boundaries of which have been delineated by Revelation, by defined dogma, and by the consistent ordinary magisterium of his predecessors.
As is stated in the Catholic Dictionary (Virtue and Co. Ltd, 1951): "It must not be supposed for a moment that the Pope is an absolute monarch. He cannot....annul the constitutions of the Church ordained by Christ. His power of definition is limited by a multitude of previous definitions due to his predecessors, to the councils, to the ordinary exercise of the Church's magisterium through the pastors united to the Holy See."
Note by editor of The Eye Witness:
The above piece by Hamish Fraser was written in 1978, when the odd actions of Popes like Paul VI were causing no little consternation in the Catholic world. But it reads as if it might have been written for the current Pontiff himself.
It is important to republish important pieces like this if for no other reason than to educate ourselves on something that should be obvious, and for reminding papolaters of all stripes - including the new Modernist papolaters for whom Francis is the only Pope in history worth listening to - that papal despotism is not the norm. Theological idiots like Cupich, Wuerl, Kasper and others, who could not quote a historical Pope to save their souls, hang on every confusing word of the present occupant of Peter's throne, and wish to hornswaggle us into thinking the man's words are divinely inspired and infallible. A reading of Dom Cuthbert's remarks easily put those people in their place.