Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Disciplinary Infallibility of the Church


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F. M. De Zulueta, S.J. Letters on Christian Doctrine (First Series), The Ten Commandments of God and the Precepts of the Church. Revised in Accordance with the New Codex of Canon Law by H. Davis, S.J. (St. Beuno’s College) Vol. 1, Ninth Edition, London, Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1922, pp. 323-324:


The Church was established by Jesus Christ not only to teach and explain unerringly the revealed Law of God, but also to make laws for the spiritual good of her subjects. Thus, Our Lord said to the Apostles in general: ‘Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound also in Heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth shall be loosed also in Heaven.’ (St. Matt. xviii, 18.)

In these words Our Saviour authorizes the rulers of His Church to bind us morally by means of laws, and likewise to release us from obligations imposed by law. The whole end and purpose for which He founded the Church was to forward the spiritual interests of souls in this world, and so to guide them to Heaven hereafter. Such, then, being the duty assigned to the Church by Christ, she must also have received from Him the corresponding right and power to make such laws as she sees to be necessary for securing those interests.

As a complete and independent spiritual kingdom the Church is competent to make such laws. In other words, she is endowed by her Divine Founder with legislative as well as teaching authority. Thus, while she exercises her power to ‘teach all nations‘ when explaining the Ten Commandments of God, and claims our assent to her teaching, she makes use besides of her authority – equally received from Christ – when framing other laws of her own, and lawfully claims our whole-hearted obedience to them.

But our duty towards Church legislation does not end with mere obedience. Since the Church of Christ has the premise of infallibility for her moral guidance as well as for her doctrinal teaching, it forms part of a Catholic’s duty to recognise as good and righteous the laws which the Church makes for the conduct of all her subjects. For if they could be morally bad the Church would be capable of leading her entire flock morally astray, and so her infallibility in morals would cease.
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