This page will be devoted to explaining the authority of the Pope and
examining the phenomena of "attacking" the Pope. It seems that if 
anyone does not bow down in humble submission to every word or desire
of the Pope, and says that the Pope is "wrong' in any way, then that
person is "attacking" the Pope. 
 For instance, and I use this example because it is generally well
known, Fr. Nicholas Gruner, who for many years called for the reveal-
ing of the Third Secret, was frequently accused of "attacking" the Pope
because of his not revealing the "Third Secret" of Fatima. Now, Father
Gruner, who all too reasonably asks that a photocopy of the original
writing of Sister Lucy be released, is still accused of "attacking"
the Pope. Some people can't win.
 There are other cases of people being accused of "attacking" the Pope.
There seems to be a lot of confusion, even among Catholics, about what
the Pope is, and what his authority is. Some Catholics point to the 
Bible and Vatican I (the pertinent sections of these will be posted 
later), and proclaim the Pope has supreme authority. The Pope does
indeed have supreme authority over the Church, but his authority is NOT
Pope can make or change laws, but only of the Church. He does not have
the authority to change the laws of God. He can't change the Ten 
Commandments. So, his authority, while supreme, is still LIMITED.
He cannot declare all Catholics to be excommunicated, for example.
He also cannot change anything in the natural law. But the way some
Catholics talk, the Pope is incapable of error no matter what he says
or does. And to them, anyone who thinks differently, is "attacking"
the Pope.

This page is primarily in response to Stephen Hand and his seeming
obsession with "integrists" and "integrism". Until just within the 
past few months, these terms were hardly known. All of a sudden, Mr.
Hand is screaming about "integrests" and "integrism". 


Authority in the Church

In this section, I present information that explains what the author-
ity of the Church (and Pope) is. The first part is taken from a book
entitled: "What is the Church?" The second part will be from a book
entitled: "The Teaching of the Catholic Church". The third part will
be from "The Catholic Encyclopedia" copyright 1911 edition, which is
available online at:

1st part - This is from the book "What is the Church?" pp.112-124.

"What is the Church?" by Andre de Bovis, SJ
Translated from the French by R.F. Trevett  Copyright 1961
Nihil Obstat: Joannes M.T. Barton, S.T.D., L.S.S. Censor Deputatus
Imprimatur: E. Morrogh Bernard, Vicarius Generalis, Westmonasterii,
 die VIII Septembris MCMLXI
Volume 48 of the Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Catholicism


 To consider the exercise of authority in the Church is not to cease
to contemplate her mystery, it is to examine the ways in which the 
mystery of the Church enters into everyday life through the particular
operations of her magisterium and her jurisdiction.
 The hierarchy operates in various ways. Sometimes its authority is
exercised in pronouncements on matters with which the magisterium is
DIRECTLY concerned, truths, that is, which involve faith and morals
and are contained in the deposit of Revelation. These truths form the
doctrine of salvation and are the PROPER domain of the magisterium. At
other times, authority intervenes in matter which are intimately con-
nected with dogma without being formally vouched for by the deposit
of Revelation. These truths are the SECONDARY and INDIRECT subject of
the magisterium. 3 Finally, at other times, the authority of the 
Church intervenes in TEMPORAL QUESTIONS. Thus, for instance, it gives
a judgment on the desire of colonial peoples for independence. In the
latter case we would point out that there is an exercise of the magis-
terium in so far as a doctrinal judgment is involved, and at the same
time, there is an exercise of JURISDICTION in so far as the practical
directives must be followed. 4

The magisterium

 Before examining the concrete conditions in which the magisterium is
exercised, we must point out that not every word uttered by the pope
is an exercise of the infallible magisterium, even when he is speak-
ing officially. This is all the more true in the case ofa bishop since
no bishop has the power to put forward by himself and infallibly the
truths of faith. Only the whole episcopal body in communion with the
Sovereign Pontiff has received the right to declare authentically and
infallibly what truths must be believed.
 We now proceed to examine the two ways in which the infallible teach-
ing Church is given, namely, the extraordinary and the ordinary magis-

The extraordinary magisterium

 The form of the magisterium with which Christians are most familiar
is the extraordinary magisterium, precisely because it is exercised
with great solemnity, either by the pope alone or by the bishops in
communion with the pope and gathered around him or his legates.
 The extraordinary magisterium is exercised by the pope alone when the
bishop of Rome, speaking EX CATHEDRA as doctor and pastor of all 
Christians, proclaims the truths in matters of faith and morals which
are to be believed because revealed by God. No mistake is therefore 
possible, since the pope is under the authority of the Word of God in
Jesus Christ. He puts forward nothing that is not contained in the 
deposit of public revelation and this deposit was closed at the death
of the apostles. The task of the magisterium is therefore in general
not to "reveal" something hitherto unknown to the Church, but to   
"propose" to our faith what has been revealed by God. Thus, in the
exact sense of the term, dogmas are not identical with "The Word of
God", they are the authentic interpretation in human language of the
Word of God contained in the revealed deposit.
 We must not therefore imagine that revelation is continued through
the pope. The Sovereign Pontiff is certainly assisted by the Holy
Spirit when he proposes the truths of faith, but the assistance of the
Holy Spirit does not in any way constitute a continuous revelation, it
is only a guarantee against error and the help given to distinguish 
those truths to which it is necessary to draw the Church's attention.
Whatever he does in this sphere, the Sovereign Pontiff does by virtue
of his authority, and the approval of the faithful or of the episcop-
ate is not a condition required for the validity of his teaching.
 The pope obviously speaks EX CATHEDRA when he announces his intent-
ion of speaking as head of the universal Church. Yet no particular
formula is required to make this clear and there is no kind of proto-
col in this matter. All that is necessary is that the intention of 
the Sovereign Pontiff to bind the whole Church should be sufficiently
clear. This was the case when Pius IX proclaimed the Immaculate Con-
ception of the Blessed Virgin in 1854 and when Pius XII in 1950 def-
ined her Assumption. 
 The extraordinary magisterium is exercised by the bishops in union
with the pope at ecumenical Councils. The latter are constituted DE
JURE when there is ameeting of all the cardinals and all the diocesan
bishops. It is not necessary for them all to be physically present for
the Council to be valid. But what is indispensable if a Council is to
be legitimate and its teachings valid is union with the pope and evid-
ence of this provided by the physical presence of the Sovereign Pont-
iff or by that of his representatives. Councils exercise the extraord-
inary magisterium when they solemnly "propose" truths which are to be
believed in matters of faith or morals and when their intention of
binding the whole Church is sufficiently evident. The Vatican Council
exercised the magisterium in this way when it defined the Sovereign
Pontiff's primacy of jurisdiction and his infallibility.

(NOTE: Obviously the Council referred to here is Vatican I. I would
also like to point out that this text shows the reality of whether or
not Councils are infallible, which proves there is no way that Vatican
II was an infallible Council, as were the previous general Councils.)

The ordinary magisterium

 The ordinary magisterium, on the other hand, differs from the extra-
ordinary in that it is not confined to such determined periods of time
and to a few documents, as are ecumenical Councilss and EX CATHEDRA
definitions. The ordinary magisterium is exercised continually in the
Church. From the beginning popes and bishops have had to teach the 
faithful committed to their care. In many and various ways,in sermons,
books, exhortations and letters, they have proposed, and continue to
propose, truths to be believed. Sometimes their doctrinal teaching
appears in a condemnation, sometimes in the form of a declaration of
adhesion to a condemnation already pronounced, but more frequently the
teaching is presented under the form of a positive explanation either
by the popes and the bishops providing this teaching themselves or by
their instructing someone else to do so. The acts of the ordinary
magisterium are therefore varied and innumerable and take the form of
Encyclicals, liturgical documents, sermons, Lenten pastoral letters,
speeches, allocutions, censures, approbation given to books or catech-
isms, decisions of the Roman Congregations, etc. The sum total of
these acts extending over the whole history of the Church constitutes
the exercise of the ordinary magisterium.
 But under what conditions does a particular doctrine enunciated by an
act of the ordinary magisterium demand the assent of supernatural
faith? Only if the ordinary magisterium infallibly proclaims that this
particular doctrine is revealed by God. But how are we to know that 
the magisterium has made an infallible pronouncement? In fact none of 
the acts of the ordinary magisterium, considered in itself and in iso-
lation, is infallible, whether it is a papal Encyclical or the placing
of a book on the Index. How then are we to recognize that on any par-
ticular point the ordinary magisterium has made an infallible pro-
nouncement? The answer is that the ordinary magisterium proposes tea-
ching on faith and morals infallibly when it is unanimous in this tea-
ching. It is sufficient moreover for this unanimity to be merely a
moral one. In other words, the ordinary magisterium cannot err when it
shows universal agreement about a given doctrine.
 This, for example, is the case with the proposition "the Church is 
the Body of Christ". In isolation from the rest, none of the documents
containing this assertion constitutes the infallible expression of the
ordinary magisterium, even if it emanates from a pope like Boniface
VIII. In fact, history shows that there is unanimity in all the acts
of the ordinary magisterium that deal with this doctrine. Since this
unanimity exists, we have to say that the ordinary magisterium infall-
ibly teaches that the Church is the Body of Christ. This proposition
is therefore a truth of faith.
 Although the notion of the infallibility of the ordinary magisterium
is in itself fairly simple, the identification of the cases in which
the ordinary magisterium is exercised infallibly is somewhat less so.
Let us suppose that a well-educated Christian is looking through Pius
XII's Encyclical Humani Generis, for instance, and that he reads the
sentence which states that human reason can, absolutely speaking, 
reach a knowledge of a personal God. Let us suppose that the reader
then asks himself what degree of assent he has in conscience to give
to this proposition.
 The character of the document will not enlighten him. An Encyclical,
in fact, may contain teachings of very different value. Thus, our 
well-educated Christian will be well advised to consult on this point
the Vatican Council which treated of this matter. But the Vatican
Council, which "defined" that human reason is capable of knowing God,
does not state in so many words that the knowledge in question is 
that of a PERSONAL God. In order to decide what degree of assent has
to be given to the statement in the Encyclical Humani Generis it
would be necessary to investigate the whole corpus of the acts of the
ordinary magisterium and to make certain that there is unanimity on
thos point. But it is not difficult to realize that only professional
theologians can undertake such a task. And so our Christian left to
himself will be unable to decide whether this proposition from Humani
Generis demands an assent of faith or only an inner intellectual ad-
 Of course, anyone reading an Encyclical will be able to recognize in
passing many truths of faith. But it is not certain that he will be
able to do this in every case. Still less will he be able to tell in
every case whether any given truth of faith (for example, the satis-
faction for our sins that was made by Christ) has been taught by the
extraordinary or the ordinary magisterium. True, the practical import-
ance of this distinction is only secondary as far as the Christian
life is concerned, since the only essential point is that we should
know that a truth of faith is involved.
 More complex cases may arise. Let us suppose that a Catholic scien-
tist reads this other sentence in Humani Generis: "We cannot at all 
see how this doctrine (the hypothesis according to which the human 
race is descended from several primitive couples, the hypothesis known
as "polygenism") can be reconciled with the teaching on original sin
put forward by the sources of revelation and the acts of the eccles-
iastical magisterium." The scientist askd himself whether this statem-
ent asserts that faith and the polygenist hypothesis are incompatible.
Certainly it does not do so directly, since the passage only says that
we cannot see how to harmonize faith and the polygenist hypothesis. 
There is clearly a distinction here and it is an important one. But 
the layman, even if he is well-educated, cannot grasp the precise im-
plication of this distinction. Only the professional theologian will
succeed in doing so. And sometimes theologians themselves cannot reach
complete agreement. This, in fact, is the case with the passage we are
considering. In any event, however, these divergent views do not en-
title us to regard the passage we have quoted as without force.
IFF OR BY AN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL. All TEACHING put forward by a pope or
a bishop in the exercise of his duty, and out of loyalty to that duty,
has a right at least to our respectful assent. (emphasis mine).

Some examples of doctrinal teaching

 One difficulty cannot fail to suggest itself to our minds. Certain
decisions of ecclesiastical authority, precisely because they demand
our assent and obedience, have in fact delayed the spread of scien-
tific and historical truths. This cannot be denied and the case of 
Galileo is the outstanding example. There are others also which are 
not so well known to the general public. Even though such cases as 
that of Galileo do not involve infallibility, people are disturbed and
irritated by them. How can they continue to respect the authority of
the Church when they consider facts such as these?
 It must be regretfully admitted that at certain periods Churchmen 
have not been far-sighted enough to see beyond their own times and to
understand that the scientific explanation of the revolution of the 
stars, for instance, has no essential connection with the truths of
Revelation, andthat certain discoveries are not opposed to Catholic
doctrine - for example, that it is possible under certain conditions
to understand the hypothesis od evolution in a Christian sense. Or
again it may be regretted that the delay thus caused in the propo-
gation of some truth should have damaged the Church's reputation in
eyes of men. At the same time, if we are to take a realistic view, we
must modify our regret by taking into account what was and what was
not possible at the time.
 In any case, the essential mission of authority in the Church is not
the advancement of science, even among theologians. Nor is its mission
to provide a technical and adequate interpretation of the work of any
given author when it refuses to accept his thought or condemns it. Its
mission is to preserve the integrity of the faith and the fervour of
charity in the Christian people, when certain doctrines oppose them.
Thus authority rejects heterodox ideas as they are understood by the
Christian people in the current circumstances or as they may easily 
be understood by people who are not capable of discrimination in such
matters. This was the method used by the Council of Trent in the case
of Luther. By acting in this way, the Church is faithful to her miss-
ion and fulfills the demands of Christian prudence, even though the 
prohibitions issued cause delay in the spread of certain hypotheses 
which the future will prove to have been correct (it may prove the
exact opposite to be the case). The Church, we repeat, has not the 
duty of advancing science and scholarship, but the duty of leading 
the faith of the Christian people to the Truth. If certain statements
of Loisy on revelation could not be understood or assimilated without
danger to faith when Loisy was writing, then they had to wait. Later
thought will show whether or not any given scientific innovation will
have to be condidered as a definitive truth. By insisting on delay in
the teaching of these discoveries, even when they are in the sphere of
religion, the Church is not failing in her essential mission. She is
following a prudent course. It may well be that Churchmen have some-
times been too prudent or not intelligent enough. It must be allowed
that these delaying tactics have sometimes been prompted in part by
less honourable motives and considerations which were only too human.
They have placed those whom they have affected in extremely painful
positions. All periods of the Church's history show examples of this.
 But once we have admitted and deplored these facts, we still have to
understand why the Church cannot and must not show a premature enthus-
iasm for human discoveries. What matters it that the truth which God
Himself has entrusted to the Church must not be corrupted. Eternity
is of more importance than time; the fulness of truth is more import-
ant than any partial enlightenment.

Practical directives

 The utterances of the pope and the bishops are not concerned only 
with statements about faith or morals. By virtue of the supernatural
mission which our Lord has entrusted to her, the Church cannot fail
to require that the temporal order should be established with justice
and a justice which approximates increasingly to charity, the sover-
eign law of our existence. The Church therefore strives to bring the
Christian virtues to bear on the affairs of the terrestrial city, to
make them incarnate. Thus she would raise the level of temporal real-
ities that they may become conditions favourable to the faith of
Christians and the conversion of non-Christians. The Church cannot
forget that God's will must be done "on earth as it is in heaven".
 So the Church suggests and sometimes imposes directives in the field
of action. At times she condemns and forbids certain activities. At 
other times, she encourages or earnestly exhorts her children. Thus
from the nineteenth century onwards, as the industrial invasion modi-
fied the relations between man and man, the Church has intervened much
more frequently, through her pope and bishops, in temporal affairs.
We need only refer in this connection to protests against internatio-
nal violence, the approval given to aspirations for independence among
colonial peoples, the warning uttered against premature nationalizat-
ion, the assertion of the right to property under certain conditions.
Many other instances could be quoted in the political, economic, soc-
ial and international spheres.
 Whatever form these interventions may take, the hierarchy makes them
only in so far as Christian faith and morals are in question. The sole
reason for these ecclesiastical directives can only be to direct the
progress of the Christian people (and with them, the whole of mankind)
towards our Lord with increased certainty and effectiveness. And this
progress is threatened whenever a temporal order is established which
directly opposes supernatural values or which rejects a purely natu-
ral value without directly attacking Christianity. To reject the in-
dissolubility of marriage, or to deny the equality of the various hum-
an races, is to bar our access to supernatural realities. Submission
to the natural order is a necessary condition if men are to hear the
voice of the Holy Spirit. And it is certain that the institutions of
of a temporal order may paralyse men's consciences, stifle and deform
them either through fear or through excess of well-being. In the pre-
sence of dangers such as these, in the presence of contempt for or
ignorance of God's will, the Church cannot keep silent. She has to
speak whenever she thinks that she can give advice useful in the con-
duct of human affairs. And who better than she can do this? She alone
has a complete and disinterested knowledge of man and of his real
 But these interventions in the temporal order are not the main func-
tion of the magisterium. As directives for concrete action they cannot
be infallible. They nevertheless claim a respectful acceptance. They
also demand obedience, if the Christian is in a position to take act-
ion, and in proportion to the gravity of the issues.
Necessary distinctions

 Yet we must be careful not to "inflate" the governing authority.
 Christian thought, as we have said, recognizes in ecclesiastical
leaders the representatives of Christ. WE MUST NOT CONCLUDE THAT THE
DIRECT REVELATION OF GOD'S DESIGNS, as when Abraham heard God give him
the order: "Go forth out of thy country." WE MUST NOT CLAIM THAT THE
igence, competence and skill as God has given them; He DOES NOT mirac-
ulously transform their imperfections into good qualities. He compen-
sates for them (which is quite a different thing) by ways and means
which we discern with difficulty or not at all. In spite of these in-
sufficiencies, whether hidden or obvious, it is through such agents
that Christ governs his Church. Through them he works out His plan of
the Holy Spirit assists the hierarchy to preserve it from blunders in
its exercise of power. But the Holy Spirit has never promised to 
guarantee it against every blunder in the sphere of government. The
possibility of erroneous decisions remains. Weakness and ignorance 
have been responsible for them. If the possibility of blunders does
not affect our duty to obey, they will give rise to painful and diff-
icult problems. There are famous instances in the past and present. 
 But one fact remains certain and sacrosanct. Nothing can shake it,
not even the possibility of error: God wants us to obey his delegates
when they give LEGITIMATE orders. The Son of God wrought the salvation
of the world by His submission to His Father, sometimes directly,
sometimes, indirectly by his obedience to men and to human institu-
tions. And since He made the Church His Body, he decreed that the
obedience which began in the Head should continue in the Body, that in
the Body as in the Head it should be redemptive obedience. Obedience
is therefore integrated with the Church's very existence, it is a vit-
al law in Christ's Body.

2nd part - This is from the book "The Teaching of the Catholic Church:
 A Summary of Catholic Doctrine" pp. 719-720.

"The Teaching of the Catholic Church: A Summary of Catholic Doctrine"
arranged and edited by Canon George D. Smith, D.D., Ph.D.
 Volume II  Copyright 1927,1928,1929,1930,1931 and 1948.
Nihil Obstat: EDVARDVS CAN. MAHONEY, S.T.D. Censor Depvtatvs
Imprimatur: E. Morrogh Bernard, Vicarivs Generalis Westmonasterii:

(Note: Previous to the portion of the book I am posting, was text
describing the Church's doctrinal and jurisdictional authority.)

 The Church's doctrinal and jurisdictional authority, which we have
briefly examined, is vested also in the Roman Pontiff. It is with
regard to the first of these, as touching the Pope's office as 
teacher, that he enjoys the charism of infallibility. On this point
it will suffice to quote the words of the Vatican definition: "We
teach and define it to be a dogma divinely revealed that the Roman
Pontiff, when he speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when acting in his off-
ice of pastor and teacher of all Christians, by his supreme Apostolic
authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held
by the whole Church, through the divine assistance promised him in
Blessed Peter, he enjoys that infallibility with which the Divine 
Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine concern-
ing faith and morals; and therefore such definitions of the said
Roman Pontiff are irreformable of themselves, and not from the consent
of the Church.
 Every word of this pronouncement was weighed and debated by the Fath-
ers of the Vatican Council. It should be studied with equal care by
those who would grasp the Church's teaching on Papal infallibility. 
Much of the hostility to which it has given rise has its source in ig-
norance or misunderstanding of the scope and limitations clearly indi-
cated in the definition itself. An EX CATHEDRA definition is one in
which the Pope employs the fulness of his apostolic authority to make
a final and irrevocable decision (definit) on a question of faith or
morals, with the clear intention of binding all the faithful to its 
acceptance, as involving, directly or indirectly, the deposit of 
faith. It will be OBVIOUS that this DOES NOT necessarily include the
normal teaching authority by which he is frequently addressing the 
faithful, either directly or through the medium of the Roman Congre-
gations. Teaching of the latter kind, though it is to be received with
all reverence, DOES NOT enjoy the charism of infallibility. THE HOLY
DEFINING ANYTHING AS OF FAITH. In NONE of these activities does he 
enjoy, within the terms of the definition, IMMUNITY FROM ERROR. The
same may be said of the occasions when the Pope expresses his mind
MOTU PROPRIO, i.e. by initiating a question mimself, or, it may be, in
response to queries submitted by him by others. Teaching which is,
technically, non-infallible may be imparted in Pontifical Decrees and
Instructions and in Encyclical Letters, for all of which the Pope is
the responsible author. His authorisation of the decisions of the
Roman Congregations, notably that of the Holy Office and, of equal
authority within its prescribed limits, the Biblical Commission, is 
not to be regarded in the light of a solemn definition. To these deci-
sions, on account of their great weight, a respectful internal assent
is demanded of the faithful; but they are not necessarily irreformable
and have not the sanction of infallibilty behind them.
 Of the Pope's legislative, or jurisdictional, authority it will be
enough to remark that all the power of rulership possessed by the
Church is vested in his office; adding that while he is subject to
none, save God himself, all the members of the Church, not excluding
the Bishops, are subject to him. He may appoint and depose Bishops and
send Legates, with authority delegated by him, wherever he deems fit.
In a word, his jurisdictional authority is supreme. But, though auth-
oritarian and absolute WITHIN ITS OWN SPHERE, the Papal power CANNOT
be fairly described as ARBITRARY OR DESPOTIC. The Pope is as subject
as the least member of the faithful to the prescriptions of the divine
and natural law; from these he can dispense neither himself nor any
member of his flock. His jurisdictional authority is such that the 
canons and positive laws of the Church have no coercive sanction in
respect to his actions, but they have for him their directive force
none the less; and he is bound to use his great powers with the char-
ity and prudence of one ever conscious of his grave responsibility 
before God. To enable him to do so - how otherwise could he hope to
succeed? - he enjoys the assistance of the Holy Spirit, as a guarantee
that his rulership will be "unto edification and not unto destruct-
ion." 1
 Finally, be it remembered that nothing we have said concerning the 
successor of St. Peter militates against the supreme power over the
Church exercised by Christ Himself. He is the Head of the Church in
his own right; Peter and his successors only in the virtue of the 
power received from Him. Thus the Pope is the VICAR (i.e. reperesent-
ative), not the successor, of Christ. Christ is Head as Redeemer and
Mediator of all men; "and therefore," writes Pius XII, "this Body has
only one principal Head, namely Christ, who, continuing Himself to
govern the Church invisibly and directly, rules it visibly through His
personal representative on earth." 2  Christ is the Head of all men 
throughout all time, 3  the successor of Peter only of those living
under his Pontificate. Christ is Head alike of the Church militant on
earth, suffering in Purgatory, and triumphant in Heaven; the Pope's
headship is concerned only with the Church militant. The Pope, as
visible Head, rules the Church visibly; but Christ, though hidden,
rules it still, bringing to bear upon His Mystical Body all those un-
seen influences, of grace and light and strength, which can emanate
only from the Incarnate Son of God and His life-giving Spirit.

1  2 Cor. xiii: 10
2  MCC 38
3  Summa Theologica, III,  Q. viii, art.3.

3rd part -    

This is the the link to the Catholic Encyclopedia article on the Pope,
which discusses his authority and jurisdiction. Scroll down to number
III and IV for the text on this.

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