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Are all Church councils infallible? In the case of the Second Vatican Council, seen by some as an untypical one, Dr Frank Mobbs and John Young have raised some important issues.
Basically, what is right or wrong is not judged in the Church by majority rule. It is a matter of specific divine guardianship over the dogmatic utterances of the head of the Church. The vicar of Christ employs every possible human means to ascertain the truth enabling him to extend the continuous strand of apostolic teachings.
All doctrines taught infallibly have been implicitly contained in the original deposit of the faith; all have been explicitly held and acted upon by large portions of the Church without ambiguity.
In the chaotic decades following Vatican II has come an era of unprecedented novelty and frequent exercise of the ordinary universal Magisterium, contributing to a major crisis of faith. One recalls the lament of St Basil that 'only one offence is now vigorously punished, an accurate observance of our fathers' traditions'.
Here one finds comfort in the words of Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer of Brazil: 'Such is the value of tradition that even encyclicals and other documents of the ordinary teaching of the Sovereign Pontiff are only infallible in those teachings that are confirmed by Tradition, or by a continuous teaching under various popes and over a long period. If therefore an act of the ordinary Magisterium of a pope disagrees with the teaching guaranteed by the magisterial tradition of several popes and for a considerable time, it should not be accepted.'
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 21 No 7 (August 2008), p. 16
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