Is This Communion Wafer Kosher?

Have you been following the saga of the Catholic Church bizarre indifference to basic public relations? Like this pope Ratzinger, a former Hitler youth, from Austria, who is extremely conservative, you’d think he’d be taking steps to distance himself from suggestions and insinuations of anti-Semitism. To be clear, it is extremely unlike that this pope is a full-on anti-Semite. But this stuff swirling around –  passion plays, rehabilitating excommunicated holocaust deniers – its bad press, it makes the pope, his church, seem kind of, uh, unseemly. It’s just uncouth to, you know, hate on the Jews in 2009.


So then today, news that Ratzinger got it, figured out that he should do something about all this unpleasantness. So he has asked one of these holocaust-denying priests to say, “I’m sorry.” Okay and whatever, this story was being ignored because, hey, the Catholic Church is always sputtering a bunch of recidivist horseshit, nothing new there. But this, from the Times, is of real interest:

A statement issued on Wednesday by the Vatican Secretariat of State said that Bishop Williamson “must absolutely, unequivocally and publicly distance himself from his positions on the Shah,” or Holocaust, which it said was “unknown to the Holy Father at the time he revoked the excommunication.”


Does Papal infallibility only apply sometimes? Like sometimes God is using the pope as a vessel, speaking through him, but other times (like when the Church is facilitating anti-Semitism, as it does from time to time), well, God isn’t so much speaking through the Pope, actually. Because this statement, it says that when Ratzinger un-excommunicated the holocaust denying Bishop, the holocaust denying was “unknown to the Holy Father at the time.” In other words, when the Pope does this kind of big deal thing, un-excommunicating, that God sat that one out, wasn’t paying attention? Is that what Rome means to suggest? I’m not expert here, but Rome is suggesting either that God sat this one out or that God isn’t so concerned about the rehabilitation of excommunicated anti-Semites, but Rome has to do this face-saving-demand-an-apology business because, again, its 2009 and you can’t overtly hate Jews.







One Response to “Is This Communion Wafer Kosher?”

  1. Roderick Says:

    “Does Papal infallibility only apply sometimes?”

    Yes, actually, that’s quite right. The Pope is only intermittently infallible. Pastor Aeternus, the 1870 decree of the First Vatican Council which defined the doctrine of papal infallibility, said:

    “when the Roman Pontiff speaks ex cathedra, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals”

    If he’s not speaking ex cathedra, then he’s not infallible. For those of us who are not RC, the difficulty would seem to be in determining which of his statements satisfy the conditions. And, of course, when he defines a doctrine, it should be something which has always been true and always essential to the catholic faith. Some of us who are Anglican get a bit nervous about this doctrine because Pastor Aeternus goes on to say that “such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.” Which makes us wonder whether or not he is free to just make stuff up.

    But with respect to day-to-day facts of history and politics, he is not regarded by the Roman Church, as far as I understand, as being infallible.

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