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Papal Infallibility: A Symbolic, Yet Problematic, Term
Homiletic & Pastoral Review ^ | March 30, 2012 | REV. JOHN T. FORD CSC

Posted on 04/29/2012 3:06:06 PM PDT by NYer

Although papal infallibility is commonly found in popular conversation, how well the term is understood is another matter.

“Christ giving Peter the keys of the kingdom” by Pietro Perugino

As Danny Garland, Jr., pointed out in his recent article on “The Development of the Dogma of Papal Infallibility,” the term “papal infallibility” has a centuries-old history that stretches from Peter John Olivi, in the thirteenth century, through John Henry Newman, in the nineteenth century, and down to the present. 1

In addition to being a well-known term with a lengthy history, “papal infallibility” is also highly symbolic: for Roman Catholics, it has often been a badge of self-identity—a way of distinguishing themselves from Anglicans, Orthodox and Protestants. Simultaneously, the pope’s infallibility has been a counter-symbol to those Christians who do not recognize the authority of the Bishop of Rome. Indeed, for many non-Catholic Christians, the term symbolizes everything that is wrong with Roman Catholicism.

Although papal infallibility is commonly found in popular conversation, how well the term is understood is another matter. One of the most entertaining discussions of the issue is found in a pub-scene in James Joyce’s Dubliners, where a group is stoutly discussing and strenuously defending the infallible teaching of the pope. In Joyce’s story, Mr. Cunningham summarized the doctrine with Hibernian exuberance: ‘But the astonishing thing is this: Not one of them (the popes), not the biggest drunkard, not the most . . . out-and-out ruffian, not one of them ever preached ex cathedra a word of false doctrine. Now isn’t that an astonishing thing?” 2

Cunningham went on to claim that one of the two prelates who voted against Pastor Aeternus at the Council was a German Cardinal, by the name of Dowling—presumably meaning Johann Joseph Ignaz von Döllinger (1799-1890), a German priest-professor at the University of Munich, who was not at Vatican I, but was excommunicated in 1871 for refusing to accept its teachings about infallibility. 3 Although Cunningham and companions can be credited for knowing the essentials of the doctrine, their theological method makes historians and theologians wince—at least if they know anything concerning the history and teaching of the First Vatican Council (1869-1870) about “infallibility.” As John Tracy Ellis once remarked: “It is doubtful that any event in the history of the modern Church ever gave rise to a greater flow of misinformation than the [First] Vatican Council.” 4

Unfortunately, Ellis was all too right. First of all, contrary to popular belief, Vatican I did not really define “infallibility,” at least, not in the sense of stating precisely what infallibility is. Rather, the Council described how infallibility is operative. What the Council actually did was to specify the conditions required for pope to exercise this authority of infallibility. He must: (1) Rely on the divine assistance promised to Peter; (2) Act as pastor and teacher of all Christians; and, (3) Invoke his supreme apostolic authority. In addition, the Council limited the type of teachings that can be taught infallibly to matters of faith and morals, held by the whole Church. Only if all these conditions are fulfilled, does the pope “enjoy” the infallibility given by Christ to the Church. Then, and only then, can such papal definitions be deemed “irreformable.” 5

Although the First Vatican Council did not give a precise definition of the nature of infallibility, its operative description suggests that the Council understood it to be an endowment or charism given by Christ to the Church, which can only be exercised by the pope under specific conditions. A charism ensures that the teaching of the pope, in a particular instance, is immune from error. In describing this divinely given gift of infallibility, the Council’s list of conditions serves a double purpose. First, the list specifies the conditions which must be fulfilled (i.e., if a pope truly wants to mandate a particular doctrine by using the charism of infallibility). Secondly, the list of conditions enables Christians to recognize when a particular teaching is being infallibly taught.

The fact that the vast majority of Church teachings are not taught under this charism does not mean that such teachings are unimportant. They do not have the same importance as teachings deemed infallible, which have a greater binding force, precisely because they are closely connected with the essentials of revelation. 6 Moreover, while teaching the Gospel is a daily responsibility of the Church, only rarely has the Church invoked infallibility in fulfilling its teaching mission. In fact, since Vatican I’s declaration on infallibility in 1870, there is only one clear-cut instance where a pope has taught infallibly: Pope Pius XII’s 1950 proclamation of Our Lady’s assumption. 7

Meaning of Infallibilitas
What is absolutely crucial to any discussion about “infallibility”—but all too often overlooked—is what the term actually means. In English, “infallibility” has simply been taken from the Latin, infallibilitas, without specifying its meaning. 8 As a result, many people use the term in a rather elastic sense—often meaning “immunity from error” or “inability of making fundamental mistakes in religious matters.” While such casual explanations may suffice for popular understandings, they have the potential for creating misunderstandings, among Catholics and other Christians.

In contrast, German-speaking theologians have tried to translate the term. The most common translation has been Unfehlbarkeit—“inability of erring.” However, this term is not completely satisfactory, since it can have a pejorative connotation. Unfehlbar can describe a person who thinks that he is incapable of making mistakes, which is obviously not the case here. Accordingly, unfehlbar can make the not-too-subtle suggestion that it is humanly impossible for anyone, including the pope, to claim to exercise “infallibility.” Such a dismissive connotation underpinned Hans Küng’s attack on “infallibility” on the centennial of Vatican I in 1970. 9

Some German-speaking theologians, such as Hans Urs von Balthasar, have opted for other understandings of infallibilitas, such as Letzverbindlichkeit, implying that a definitive response can be given to a specific doctrinal question. He states:

Heinrich Fries’ suggestion of Verbindlichkeit (binding power), which “at the highest level can become an ultimate binding power” (Letzverbindlichkeit) seems to me certainly worth considering. 10

The merit of interpreting infallibility as “ultimate binding power” or “judicial finality” is that a doctrinal decision pronounced under infallibility is final—at least, here and now, for this specific question, unless, and until, new questions are raised.

The understanding of “infallibility” as “judicial finality” has sometimes been popularized in American catechetics, comparing doctrinal declarations to decisions of the Supreme Court: whose decisions are judicially final as there is no higher court to which an appeal can be made. So, too, decisions under infallibility are ecclesially final, as a pope, or an ecumenical council, teaching with infallibility, has the definitive word about the specific doctrinal matter under discussion, with no further appeal possible. Nonetheless, change is possible in the future, that is, a new legal question may arise, resulting in the Supreme Court modifying a previous decision. Similarly, a new doctrinal question may be posed, resulting in a new doctrinal decision—not one contradicting the previous teaching, but one amplifying and developing it.11

In other words, just as “judicial finality” does not preclude the possibility of the Supreme Court modifying a previous Supreme Court decision, infallibility does not exclude the possibility that a later pope, or later council, might amplify and develop it further, and in that sense, change the doctrinal decisions of their predecessors. In this respect, the answer to one doctrinal question sets the stage for further questions, and for further doctrinal decisions in the future. For example, the responses of the ecumenical councils of the early church to a series of Trinitarian and Christological controversies may be seen as instances of this continual dynamic of definitive decisions, followed by new doctrinal developments and consequent clarifications. 12

Papal Infallibility
While papal infallibility is routinely used, not only in common conversation, but also among theologians, it should be emphasized that the First Vatican Council did not use the term. In fact, Vatican I deliberately changed the heading of the fourth chapter of Pastor Aeternus. The original draft read: “the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff,” which was changed to: “the infallible magisterium of the Roman Pontiff.” The importance of this terminological shift is two-fold. First, it avoided the implication that the pope possesses infallibility in such a personal way that all his statements come under infallibility. While Catholics generally take this for granted today, at the time of the First Vatican Council, there were people who felt that any and every doctrinal statement by the pope was a matter of infallibility. The English theologian, W. G. Ward (1812-1882), for example, was famously reported as desiring a daily exercise of infallibility by the pope: “I should like a new Papal Bull every morning with my Times at breakfast.” 13

Secondly, the reason for preferring the term “infallible magisterium” is that infallibility can be exercised not only by the pope, but also by the college of bishops in union with him; as the Second Vatican Council taught:

Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held. 14

Accordingly, just as Vatican I specified a list of conditions that the pope must follow in order to exercise the Church’s “infallible magisterium,” Vatican II indicated the conditions that the bishops must follow if their teaching is to be considered a collegial exercise of the Church’s “infallible magisterium.”

Infallible Statements
Another term, routinely used in discussions about infallibility, is the expression: “infallible statements.” Again, one must emphasize that this term was not used by Vatican I; rather, the Council used the term “irreformable definitions.” Many commentators on infallibility have ignored the difference, or have even claimed that the two expressions are equivalent. However, in addition to the need to respect the Church’s official terminology, a casual mixing of terms entails a number of philosophical and theological difficulties. For example, to speak of “infallible statements” suggests that such statements are absolute. In contrast, most philosophers insist that all statements are historically and culturally conditioned—expressions delimited by a particular time and place, and so not absolute, but relative. Similarly, many theologians today do not want to speak of “infallible statements” in order to avoid the doctrinal equivalent of “biblical literalism”: if God did not dictate the Bible word for word, why should one suggest that God dictates doctrinal decisions word for word?

Using terms, like “infallible statements” or “infallible teaching,” risks making the doctrine of infallibility both philosophically, and theologically, indefensible. It becomes an easy target for rejection. In effect, defenders of infallible statements, with the best of intentions, can inadvertently become the doctrine’s enemies, just as defenders of biblical literalism can unwittingly destroy the credibility of the Bible. In contrast, the expression “irreformable definitions” harmonizes readily with interpreting infallibility as “judicial finality” or “ultimate binding power” (Leztverbindlichkeit), as proposed by Hans Urs von Balthazar. 15 Key to this interpretation, however, is the meaning of “irreformable definitions”—which, at first glance, would seem to have the same meaning as “infallible statements” and, therefore, sharing the same philosophical and theological problems.

Why did the First Vatican Council use the term “irreformable definitions”? Apparently, the Council used this term as a way of rejecting Gallicanism—the seventeenth century doctrinal claim that all papal decisions are subject to the approval of local churches. According to the its proponents, no Vatican ecclesiastical decision could be considered authoritatively final unless, and until, it received the official approval of the Church in France. When Pastor Aeternus is read in the context of Gallicanism—an ecclesiological position well-known to the participants at Vatican I, though not so familiar today—the Council is effectively stating that definitions enunciated by the pope, when exercising infallibility, are not subject to any further approval or appeal. 16 In sum, “irreformable definitions” are not definitions that are philosophically “immutable” or theologically “unchangeable,” but decisions that are “judicially final.”

Lessons from History
The axiom that: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” has been repeatedly exemplified in the numerous discussions about infallibility in the half-century since Vatican II. There is not only a vast amount of material on the teaching of the two Vatican Councils about infallibility, but, unfortunately, many writers on infallibility have discussed what they presume the Church teaches, rather than carefully examining what the Church actually taught. 17 Sadly, there is a great deal that has been written about infallibility showing little or no familiarity with, much less critical analysis of, the texts of the two Vatican councils. Surprising as it may seem, some commentators have proposed interpretations about infallibility without analyzing the conciliar texts, much less studying the history of the Councils.

This failure to do the essential historical-theological homework means that many discussions of infallibility are like the conversation in Dubliners—eloquent and entertaining but exaggerated and often erroneous—leading some people to find “infallible statements” everywhere, while leading others to reject “infallibility” out of hand. Neither an outright denial of infallibility, nor an exaggerated extension of it to all church teachings, really serves anyone well. In effect, the many misconceptions about infallibility effectively distort the Church’s teaching, confuse believers, repel prospective converts, and create unnecessary ecumenical difficulties. 18

Pastoral Suggestions
Admittedly, changing terminology is always a difficult task. Like overcoming an addiction, one keeps falling back into accustomed habits of speech. Yet “papal infallibility” is one of those theological terms that has been misinterpreted so often that it might well be worth the effort to replace it with the terminology that Vatican I actually used: “the infallible magisterium of the pope.” Admittedly, this substitution requires a few more words, and people might be puzzled by the seemingly new terminology, but that reaction might be beneficial. This historical version might succeed in drawing people’s attention to what the two Vatican Councils actually taught, rather than what many people presume the Councils taught.

In addition, terms like “infallible statements” and “infallible teaching” might well be replaced with terms like “irreformable definitions” or “teachings of the Church’s infallible magisterium.” Again, such substitutions involve a few more words, but their use might prompt people to reflect on what the Church’s teaching really is. Last but not least, in explaining the doctrine of infallibility, it would seem not only appropriate, but extremely beneficial to use the short and succinct description of infallibility found in the Glossary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church whereby the pastors of the Church, the pope and bishops in union with him, can definitively proclaim a doctrine of faith or morals for the belief of the faithful.” 19

  • Danny Garland, Jr., “The Development of the Dogma of Papal Infallibility,” Homiletic and Pastoral Review 111/9 (June/July, 2011): 48-54, at 50; hereafter cited: Garland, HPR 111/9.
  • James Joyce, Dubliners (New York: Penguin Books, 1967), 168.
  • Dubliners, 169-170. For a comparison of the views of Döllinger and Newman on infallibility, see Wolfgang Klausnitzer, Päpstliche Unfehlbarkeit bei Newman und Döllinger: Ein historisch‑systematischer Vergleich, Innsbrucker theologische Studien 6 (Innsbruck‑Vienna‑Munich: Tyrolia, 1980).
  • John Tracy Ellis, “The Church Faces the Modern World: The First Vatican Council,” in The General Council, edited by William McDonald (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1962), 113‑145, at 135.
  • The First Vatican Council described conditions for papal infallibility in Pastor Aeternus, in Denzinger-Schönmetzer, Enchiridion Symbolorum §3073-3075 at:,_denziger,_enchiridion_symbolorum lt.pdf For English translation: “Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that 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 (mores) to be held (tenenda) 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 (pollere) in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.”
  • Although the prelates at Vatican I acknowledged that infallibility had been previously exercised by various popes, the Council did not provide a list of such teachings; accordingly, theologians differ about which papal decisions prior to Vatican I should be considered exercises of infallibility; for example, theologians disagree whether Unam Sanctam (1302) of Pope Boniface VIII should be considered an exercise of infallibility or not.
  • Although some theologians in the past considered canonizations an exercise of infallibility (e.g., Francis Kieda, “Infallibility of the Pope in His Decree of Canonization,” The Jurist 6 (1946): 401‑415), few do so today; this view in no way diminishes the importance of canonizations, but it does emphasize that the exercise of infallibility is limited to essential matters of Christian faith.
  • In fact, many theological terms in English have a Latin background: revelation, Trinity, magisterium, etc., however, if the meanings of revelation and Trinity are clear, some Latin terms, such as magisterium, have a spectrum of meanings in English.
  • Hans Küng, Infallible? An Inquiry, translated by Edward Quinn (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1971); unfortunately, the English translation did not always capture all the nuances of the German original. Among the numerous critiques of Küng’s Infallible?, see: Walter Brandmüller, “Hans Küng and Church History, Some Criti­cal Observations on ‘Infallible? An Inquiry’,” Homiletic and Pastoral Review 72 (1972): 10‑24.
  • Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church, translated by Andrée Emery (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 221-222, cited by Garland, HPR 111/9: 52; the theological problem of translating infallibilitas into German is an often over-looked factor in the “infallibility debate” initiated by Hans Küng in 1970.
  • Like every comparison, this one has limitations; for example, Supreme Court decisions may effectively revoke laws (e.g., laws that formerly permitted slavery); in contrast, a new dogmatic decision can not contradict previous decisions, although it may significantly reinterpret previous doctrinal decisions.
  • John Henry Newman discussed the relationship between doctrinal continuity and change in his seminal work, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (18461; 18783); for a comparative study of the differences between the first and third editions of Newman’s Essay, see: Gerard H. McCarren, “Development of Doctrine” in The Cambridge Companion to John Henry Newman, edited by Ian Ker and Terrence Merrigan (Cambridge University Press, 2010), 118-136.
  • Wilfrid Ward, Life of Cardinal Newman 2:213 (available at:
  • Lumen Gentium § 25 .
  • Again, see Garland’s citation of von Balthasar, HPR 111/9: 52.
  • For a detailed study of the Gallican background of the First Vatican Council, see Richard F. Costigan, The Consensus of the Church and Papal Infallibility: A Study in the Background of Vatican I (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2005).
  • See the now-dated survey of John T. Ford, “Infallibility: A Review of Recent Studies,” Theological Studies 40/2 (June, 1979): 273‑305.
  • See John T. Ford, “Differences about infallibility . . . too significant to be brushed aside as inconsequential,” in Church and Theology: Essays in Memory of Carl J. Peter, edited by Peter C. Phan (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1995), 111‑160.
  • Glossary, Catechism of the Catholic Church, at: This description refers to §891 of the Catechism, and adds: “This gift is related to the inability of the whole body of the faithful to err in matters of faith and morals” (§ 92).

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic
KEYWORDS: catholic; infallibility; infallible; papalinfallibility; pope; vatican1; vaticani; vaticanone
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To: presently no screen name
"GOD speaks infallibly through HIS WORD ..."

Yes, he does. But the WORD is much more that Scripture. God has always chosen men to speak through and continues to do so.

41 posted on 04/30/2012 5:03:03 PM PDT by Natural Law (The Pearly Gates are really a servants entrance.)
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To: Natural Law
But the WORD is much more that Scripture.

A LIE from the pit but never the less, you repeat it to me over and over and over and over again. Repetition, the catholic way, the brainwashing technique. It doesn't work on those 'in Christ'.

God has always chosen men to speak through and continues to do so.

When God SPEAKS It aligns Itself perfectly with Scripture because HE doesn't go against HIMSELF. That's how satan can't deceive God's own. For they KNOW HIS voice and will listen to NO OTHER.

You HAVE to believe the Vatican/the deception, you are BOUND to it. So like I said - stone wall.

I have nothing more to say on it to you, my job is done. I'll leave you with this as it proves the stone wall...

Matt 13, 13:14
"Here is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.

42 posted on 04/30/2012 5:49:57 PM PDT by presently no screen name
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To: Cronos
False -- scripture is inerrant, not infallible. Persons who read scripture are fallible or not, hence the wide differences in interpretation.

According to Dei Verbum Sacred Scripture is infallible.

I don't agree with their logic or their history, but there you have it. Of course this isn't the first time I've come across Catholics disagreeing on their own interpretation. But it does make things difficult for us Protestants to discuss this when Catholics don't even know. It's as if there are 10,000 different Catholic interpretations. ;O)
43 posted on 04/30/2012 5:52:16 PM PDT by HarleyD
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To: HarleyD; metmom; boatbums; caww; smvoice; presently no screen name

While some RCs affirm Scripture is infallible - incapable of teaching error or deceiving- because people misinterpret it - (like, yet some deny that and criticize evangelicals for not having an assuredly infallible interpreter for their supreme material authority, and relying on fallible human understanding.

However, RCs also misinterpret their supreme authority, the magisterium, and which is not considered to be Divinely inspired, while their decision to submit to it is a fallible one.

In addition, as said, they cannot know even how many infallible decrees there are, while Rome’s plethora of pronouncements, lack of perspicuity, and variance of interpretation among the magisterial interpreters of the magisterium necessitate great reliance upon their own fallible human understanding.

Moreover, the assurance promised and attained in Scripture did not await an assuredly infallible magisterium of men, else no one could have assurance that the God of Israel was the true God, and test truth claims, before the church of Rome infallibly proclaimed herself to be so.

But souls could know based upon the Scripture and the power of God it affirms and was established by, with Scripture, once written, being abundantly evidenced to be the supreme transcendent standard or earth for obedience and testing truth claims.

44 posted on 04/30/2012 7:55:57 PM PDT by daniel1212 (Come to the Lord Jesus as a damned+morally destitute sinner,+trust Him to forgive+save you,+live....)
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To: daniel1212
"But souls could know based upon the Scripture and the power of God it affirms and was established by, with Scripture, once written, being abundantly evidenced to be the supreme transcendent standard or earth for obedience and testing truth claims."


"But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith" (Romans 16:26)

45 posted on 04/30/2012 8:09:26 PM PDT by mitch5501 ("make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things ye shall never fall")
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To: presently no screen name; Religion Moderator
"A LIE from the pit but never the less, you repeat it to me over and over and over and over again."

Don't you think a discussion on a religion forum about the Gospel should be conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect and Christian love?

The WORD is the Logos. It is Jesus, the second person of the Trinity. The WORD is not a book.

"What an astonishing mystery! There is one Father of the universe, one Logos of the universe, and also one Holy Spirit, everywhere one and the same; there is also one virgin become mother, and I should like to call her 'Church.'" - St. Clement Of Alexandria,

46 posted on 04/30/2012 9:21:57 PM PDT by Natural Law (For God so loved the world that He did not send a book.)
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To: old republic
No, the Catholic Church says that these doctrines are equally infallible with scripture. (The Council of Trent itself infallibly defined the Biblical Canon so the Bible is itself part of those "special" doctrines defined as infallible).

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Although you say, "the Catholic Church says that these doctrines are equally infallible with scripture", the author of the article quoted seemed to be saying the "infallibly" defined ex-cathedra doctrines were more important than those doctrine spelled out specifically in Holy Scripture.

Additionally, the "church" as a body recognized the books and letters written by the Apostles or God's chosen prophets as they were written and dispersed throughout the Christian communities long before there was any "official" recognition of a New Testament "canon". Their "Stamp of Authority" was the authority of the very Apostles themselves and they were received universally, or nearly so, as the Word of God. These writings bore witness with the Holy Spirit within each believer that they WERE from God and their life-affirming and life-changing character only enhanced that assurance. From

    The Old Testament books were not the only ones which the apostles (by Christ’s own appointment the authoritative founders of the church) imposed upon the infant churches, as their authoritative rule of faith and practice. No more authority dwelt in the prophets of the old covenant than in themselves, the apostles, who had been “made sufficient as ministers of a new covenant “; for (as one of themselves argued) “if that which passeth away was with glory, much more that which remaineth is in glory.” Accordingly not only was the gospel they delivered, in their own estimation, itself a divine revelation, but it was also preached “in the Holy Ghost” (I Pet. i. 12); not merely the matter of it, but the very words in which it was clothed were “of the Holy Spirit” (I Cor. ii. 13). Their own commands were, therefore, of divine authority (I Thess. iv. 2), and their writings were the depository of these commands (II Thess. ii. 15). “If any man obeyeth not our word by this epistle,” says Paul to one church (II Thess. iii. 14), “note that man, that ye have no company with him.” To another he makes it the test of a Spirit-led man to recognize that what he was writing to them was “the commandments of the Lord” (I Cor. xiv. 37). Inevitably, such writings, making so awful a claim on their acceptance, were received by the infant churches as of a quality equal to that of the old “Bible “; placed alongside of its older books as an additional part of the one law of God; and read as such in their meetings for worship — a practice which moreover was required by the apostles (I Thess. v. 27; Col. iv. 16; Rev. 1. 3). In the apprehension, therefore, of the earliest churches, the “Scriptures” were not a closed but an increasing “canon.” Such they had been from the beginning, as they gradually grew in number from Moses to Malachi; and such they were to continue as long as there should remain among the churches “men of God who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

The main reason Trent was convened was to answer the challenges that the Reformers presented. One big part of those challenges was the place of authority given to the Holy Scriptures ABOVE the authority of the Pope and Magesterium. All doctrines of the church should be backed up and proved by Scripture. The "Church" did/does not have authority over God's word. It's the other way around.

You state that, "When the pope/Ecumenical Council promulgate an infallible definition, they cannot create/receive new revelations, they can only clarify whether a teaching has always been in or is compatible with the Deposit of Faith or not.". Yet, the one main doctrine the author of the article cites, there is only one clear-cut instance where a pope has taught infallibly: Pope Pius XII’s 1950 proclamation of Our Lady’s assumption", is nowhere found in Holy Scripture, was not taught "orally" by the Apostles - even John who was given the duty of caring for Mary - and was not even proclaimed as "infallible" doctrine until nearly two thousand years after the time of Christ. The claim, that the Pope does not "create or receive" new doctrine, is refuted in this one instance where this newly recognized "gift" was actually used, though, there have been many other doctrines created with such assumed authority. It seems that this "symbolic" term/idea/concept was devised as a sort of "hedge" against future challenges to their authority which is why many non-Catholic Christians reject it.

47 posted on 04/30/2012 9:27:21 PM PDT by boatbums (God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.)
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To: presently no screen name
A LIE from the pit but never the less, you repeat

Do not accuse another Freeper of telling a lie, it attributes motive, the intent to deceive - it is "making it personal."

Words such as "false" "wrong" "error" do not attribute motive and are therefore not "making it personal."

Discuss the issues all you want, but do not make it personal.

48 posted on 04/30/2012 9:43:25 PM PDT by Religion Moderator
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To: Natural Law; presently no screen name
The WORD is the Logos. It is Jesus, the second person of the Trinity. The WORD is not a book.

Yet our very own Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, used the self same word, logos, when he was specifically talking about God's written word:

Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. (Mark 7:13)

Another interesting factoid about the word "logos" is:

Note: A Greek philosopher named Heraclitus first used the term Logos around 600 B.C. to designate the divine reason or plan which coordinates a changing universe.

We also know that this very word in John, "denotes the essential Word of God, Jesus Christ, the personal wisdom and power in union with God, his minister in creation and government of the universe, the cause of all the world's life both physical and ethical, which for the procurement of man's salvation put on human nature in the person of Jesus the Messiah, the second person in the Godhead, and shone forth conspicuously from His words and deeds." (

In the Old Testament, the phrase "Word of God" or "Word of the Lord" was used quite a few times. One time was in I Chronicles 17:3, "And it came to pass the same night, that the word of God came to Nathan, saying,". The Hebrew word used is "dabar" and it means:

1) speech, word, speaking, thing

    a) speech

    b) saying, utterance

    c) word, words

    d) business, occupation, acts, matter, case, something, manner (by extension)

In the Authorized Version, this Hebrew word is used 1439 times and is translated as word 807 times; thing 231 times; matter 63 times; acts 51 times; chronicles 38 times; saying 25 times; commandment 20 times and misc 204 times. The WORD can most definitely be a "book" - one that contains the very words of God - though we all know it encompasses much, much more.

49 posted on 04/30/2012 10:15:09 PM PDT by boatbums (God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.)
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To: HarleyD
you are wrong. The statement from the Dei Verbum is just what's in the "" --> i.e. “the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation.”

As I've said before, the non-apostolic folks make up their own wrong interpretation not only of the Bible but any and all other things.

The dei verbum says

His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (see Eph. 1:9) by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature (see Eph. 2:18; 2 Peter 1:4). Through this revelation, therefore, the invisible God (see Col. 1;15, 1 Tim. 1:17) out of the abundance of His love speaks to men as friends (see Ex. 33:11; John 15:14-15) and lives among them (see Bar. 3:38), so that He may invite and take them into fellowship with Himself. This plan of revelation is realized by deeds and words having in inner unity: the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation manifest and confirm the teaching and realities signified by the words, while the words proclaim the deeds and clarify the mystery contained in them. By this revelation then, the deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines out for our sake in Christ, who is both the mediator and the fullness of all revelation.

50 posted on 04/30/2012 10:24:37 PM PDT by Cronos (**Marriage is about commitment, cohabitation is about convenience.**)
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To: mitch5501
"But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith" (Romans 16:26)

Of course, that is referring to the OT....

51 posted on 04/30/2012 10:33:16 PM PDT by Cronos (**Marriage is about commitment, cohabitation is about convenience.**)
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To: Religion Moderator

Repeating what I see as a lie and is not saying he is lying. There is a difference but the thin skinned will usually see wrong where there is none.

Thanks and your advice is noted.

52 posted on 04/30/2012 10:44:17 PM PDT by presently no screen name
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To: boatbums
"The WORD can most definitely be a "book" "

More precisely a book may be a small subset of the Word, but it is never the Word. To suggest otherwise is a form of idolatry. Peace be to you.

53 posted on 05/01/2012 12:34:28 AM PDT by Natural Law (For God so loved the world that He did not send a book.)
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To: boatbums; metmom; caww; smvoice; presently no screen name

**Partial list of references to Divine written revelation being written (Scripture) and references to it, substantiating the claim that as they were written, the written word became the standard for obedience and in establishing truth claims. In full, the New Testament is counted to have 263 direct quotes from and 370 allusions to the Old. The following list does not include all of the former, and rarely includes simple allusions to Scripture, but supplies a multiplicity of viewable references (see here for popup viewing on mouse hover) to what was written or quotes thereof: Ex. 17:14; 24:4,7,12; 31:18; 32:15; 34:1,27; 35:29; Lv. 8:36; 10:10,11; 26:46; Num. 4:5,37,45,49; 9:23; 10:13; 15:23; 16:40; 27:23; 33:2; 36:13; Dt. 4:13; 5:22; 9:10; 10:2,4; 17:18,19; 27:3,8; 28:58,61; 29:20,21,27; 30:10; 31:9,11,19,22,26; 33:4; Josh. 1:7,8; 8:31,32,34,35; 10:13; 14:2; 20:2; 21:2; 22:5,9; 23:6; 24:26; Jdg. 3:4; 1Sam. 10:25; 2Sam. 1:8; 1Ki. 2:3; 8:53,56; 12:22; 2Ki. 1:8; 14:6; 17:37; 22:8,10,13,16; 23:2,21; 1Ch. 16:40; 17:3,9; 2Ch. 23:18; 25:4; 31:3; 33:8; 34:13-16,18,19,21,24; 34:30; 35:6,12; Ezra 3:2,4; 6:18; Neh. 6:6; 8:1,3,8,15,18; 9:3,14; 10:34,36; 13:1; Psa. 40:7; Is. 8:20; 30:8; 34:16; 65:6; Jer. 17:1; 25:13; 30:2; 36:2,6,10,18,27,28; 51:60; Dan. 9:11,13; Hab. 2:2;

Mat. 1:22; 2:5,15,17,18; 3:3; 4:4,6,7,10,14,15; 5:17,18,33,38,43; 8:4,17; 9:13; 11:10; 12:3,5,17-21,40,41; 13:14,15,35; 14:3,4,7-9;19:4,5,17-19; 21:4,5,13,16,42; 22:24,29,31,32,37,39,43,44; 23:35;24:15; 26:24,31,54,56; 27:9,10,35; Mark 1:2,44; 7:3,10; 9:12,13; 10:4,5; 11:17; 12:10,19,24,26 13:14; 14:21,47,49; 15:28; Lk. 2:22,23.24; 3:4,5,6; 4:4,6-8,10,12,16,17,18,20,25-27; 5:14; 7:27; 8:10; 10:26,27; 16:29,31; 18:20,31; 19:46; 20:17,18, 28,37,42,43; 22:37; 23:30; 24:25.27,32,44,45,46; Jn. 1:45; 2:17,22; 3:14; 5:39,45-47; 6:31,45; 7:19,22,23,38,42,43,51,52; 8:5,17; 9:26; 10:34,35; 12:14,15,38-41; 15:25; 17:12; 19:24,28,36,37; 20:9,31; 21:24; Acts 1:20; 2:16-21,25-28,34,35; 3:22,23,25; 4:11,25,26; 7:3,7,27,28,32,33,37,40,42,43,49,50,53; 8:28,30,32,33; 10:43;13:15,27,29,33,39; 15:5,15-17,21; 17:2,11; 18:13.24,28; 21:20,24; 22:12; 23:3,5; 24:14; 26:22; 28:23,26,27; Rom 1:2,17; 2:10-21,31; 4:3,7,17,18,23,24; 5:13; 7:1-3,7,12,14,16; 8:4,36; 9:4,9,12,13,15,17,25-29,33; 10:11,15,19; 11:2-4,8,9,26,27; 12:19,20; 13:8-10; 14:11; 15:3,4,9-12,21; 16:16,26,27; 1Cor. 1:19,31; 2:9; 3:19,20; 4:6; 6:16; 7:39; 9:9,10; 10:7,11,26,28; 14:21,34; 15:3,4,32,45,54,55; 2Cor. 1:13; 2:3,4; 3:7,15; 4:13; 6:2;16; 7:12; 8:15; 9:9; 10:17; 13:1; Gal. 3:6,8,10-13; 4:22,27,30; 5:14; Eph. 3:3,4; (cf. 2Pt. 3:16); Eph. 4:8; 5:31; 6:2,3; (cf. Dt. 5:16); Col. 4:16; 1Thes. 5:27; 1Tim. 5:18; 2Tim. 3:14,16,17; Heb. 1:5,7-13; 2:5-8,12,13; 3:7-11,15; 4:3,4,7; 5:5,6; 6:14; 7:17,21,28; 8:5,8-13; 9:20; 10:5-916,17,28,30,37; 11:18; 12:5,6,12,26,29; 13:5,6,22; James 2:8,23; 4:5; 1Pet. 1:16,24,25; 2:6,7,22; 3:10-12; 5:5,12; 2Pet. 1:20,21; 2:22; 3:1,15,16; 1Jn. 1:4; 2:1,7,8,12,13,21; 5:13; Rev. 1:3,11,19; 2:1,8,12,18; 3:1,7,12,14; 14:13; 19:9; 21:5; 22:6,7;10,18,19 (Note: while the Bible reveals that there is revelation which is not written down, (2Cor. 12:4; Rv. 10:4) yet interestingly, a study of the the phrase “the word of God” or “the word of the Lord” shows that it revelation that is called that normally was subsequently written down. Nor was the oral truth referred to in 2Thes. 2:15 that of amorphous eons-old traditions which results in different interpretations such as the Roman Catholics and EOs example, but what Paul referred to was known instruction by a manifestly Divinely inspired apostle, who manner was to reason out of the Scriptures, (Acts 17:2) and whose words were examined for veracity by Scripture. (Acts 17:11) And there is no proof that this truth also was not subsequently written down. Note also that establishing truth claims is shown to be done both by way of doctrinal conformity to what had been written, and secondarily by the manner of effectual and often manifest supernatural attestation by the power of God which Scripture reveals the Truth of God being given (and most overtly to the authority of those who added new teachings to Scripture), and obedience to it, to the glory of God, though the many references to this aspect, such as Josh. 3:7 (cf. Is. 63:12); 2Ki. 18:6,7; Mk. 16:20; Jn. 5:36; 14:11,12; Acts 4:33; 15:7-18; Rm. 15:19; Gal. 4:6; 1Thes. 1:3-10, Heb. 2:3,4, are not provided here).

54 posted on 05/01/2012 6:10:00 AM PDT by daniel1212 (Come to the Lord Jesus as a damned+morally destitute sinner,+trust Him to forgive+save you,+live....)
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To: HarleyD; metmom; boatbums; caww; smvoice; presently no screen name; Quix; sasportas

I think it depends upon whether the meaning of "infallible" is restricted to men definitively proclaiming a doctrine of faith or morals, or being a source incapable of deceiving or being in error. And of course, RCs (as well as Prots) debate the precise meaning of inerrancy.

The issue of whether Scripture is infallible has been inconclusively debated much on Catholic forums, as I know of no "official" (that also being an issue of some debate) teachings that explicitly states that Scripture is infallible or is not infallible, though i think papal affirmations of it weigh stronger in the direction of infallibility.

I think the assertions by RCs that Scripture is not infallible are often driven by the desire to elevate the authority of the Roman magisterium above Scripture, which in fact, it effectively presumes even though it comes short of claiming Divine inspiration.

As the Catholic Encyclopedia states,

Inspiration signifies a special positive Divine influence and assistance by reason of which the human agent is not merely preserved from liability to error but is so guided and controlled that what he says or writes is truly the word of God, that God Himself is the principal author of the inspired utterance;

but infallibility merely implies exemption from liability to error. God is not the author of a merely infallible, as He is of an inspired, utterance; the former remains a merely human document. —

However, this definition does not leave Scripture to be less than infallible unless one holds that it is liable to teach error, while it claims infallibility for a human document lacking Divine inspiration (but not protection) in contrast to Peter's confession and the rest of Scripture.

A Catholic poster who argues on "Catholic answers" forum ( for Scripture being infallible sees denying infallibility to Scripture as being based on faulty logic and "uncharitable, especially given the number of times that This Rock has used the word “infallible” in exactly the same way." as,

This Rock has used “infallible” to describe decrees, statements, definitions, dogmas, documents, doctrines, professions of faith, teachings, catechisms, canonization, Sacred Tradition, the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and even the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas.

I think the reason some RCs teach that Scripture is infallible is because they see it as impossible for it not to be so if God is the author of it, (CCC 105) and "the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures," (CCC 107) and is otherwise stated by their church to be inerrant.

And as said, the premise of some that it cannot be infallible because it can be misunderstood is also true of the Magisterium, which has infallibly declared that it is (conditionally) infallible.

55 posted on 05/01/2012 12:01:41 PM PDT by daniel1212 (Come to the Lord Jesus as a damned+morally destitute sinner,+trust Him to forgive+save you,+live....)
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To: boatbums

Rome rarely has infallibly defined a Scripture text, and within the (often general) parameters Rome provides RCs have much liberty to use texts to support her teachings ( often engaging in much extrapolation), though her teachings do not depend upon the exegetical weight of Scriptural evidence, not are the arguments or reasoning's behind an infallible decree necessarily infallible themselves.

As for disagreeing, besides which teachings belong are infallible (thus requiring "assent of theological faith") being open to interpretation, most of what RCs believe and practice is said to come from the Ordinary magisterium (requiring "religious submission of will and intellect"), and Catholics argue whether one may withhold assent from some of its teachings. Donum Veritatis does allow for conscientiously withholding of assent to a non-irreformable magisterial teaching (presuming he knows it is), though he is he is to refrain from speaking publicly, and be teachable and willing to submit to correction.

Conscience also is given a high priority in determining what a soul can assent to, though conscience does not constitute an autonomous and exclusive authority for deciding the truth of a doctrine.

"Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority there still stands one's own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. Conscience confronts [the individual] with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even of the official church" (Pope Benedict XVI [then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger], Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, ed. Vorgrimler, 1968, on Gaudium et spes, part 1,chapter 1.).

Understanding, and explaining inconsistencies becomes more difficult when examining all of what popes and Rome have taught, including canon law, which once forbade laymen from engaging in the kind of debate seen here.

"...Hence it is that the study of Canon Law is beset with almost inextricable difficulties, the door is open to disputes and litigations, consciences are troubled with a thousand anxieties, and people are driven to despise the law." (General Legislation in the New Code of Canon Law, pp. 70,71)

56 posted on 05/01/2012 12:41:59 PM PDT by daniel1212 (Come to the Lord Jesus as a damned+morally destitute sinner,+trust Him to forgive+save you,+live....)
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To: mitch5501

Good verse, which corresponds to.

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) “ (Romans 1:1-2)

But the RC will argue that Scripture came out of the mode of revelation that is oral Tradition (which partly is true before being penned), and thus it is concluded that rather than Scripture being the part of Tradition that has been manifest and established as the assured word of God due to its Heavenly qualities, they are equal, but by which logic the ground is equal to the wheat, as are the tares, and Mary is equal to Christ - which is almost what they make of her.

57 posted on 05/01/2012 3:27:40 PM PDT by daniel1212 (Come to the Lord Jesus as a damned+morally destitute sinner,+trust Him to forgive+save you,+live....)
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To: daniel1212

Scripture most certainly was the product of Tradition, which is how it is rightly claimed both Scripture and Tradition are the Word of God. I honestly don’t see a problem with that viewpoint.

58 posted on 05/01/2012 4:48:50 PM PDT by FourtySeven (47)
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To: FourtySeven; daniel1212
Scripture most certainly was the product of Tradition, which is how it is rightly claimed both Scripture and Tradition are the Word of God. I honestly don’t see a problem with that viewpoint.

The problem I see with the viewpoint that Scripture is the "product" of Tradition is that anyone can come along and claim all manner of things were traditionally held or taught and expect that they must also be accepted as equal to Scripture in authority. Another problem with that viewpoint is that much of inspired Scripture is revelation, meaning it was not known or held by anyone before it was revealed by the prophets of the Lord and written down. When the Apostle Paul wrote of the revelation he received directly from Jesus Christ, he communicated those newly revealed truths to the churches by epistles written by his own hand or dictated to others writing for him. These were then copied and distributed throughout the Christian communities.

Paul admonished the Colossians, for example, in Colossians 4:16, "And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea." He told the Thessalonians, "I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren." (I Thess. 5:27) and "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle." (II Thess. 2:15) and also, "And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed." (II Thess. 3:14)

St. Peter, also wrote in his epistle, "This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour". Just as their example of the Old Testament called the "Law and the Prophets" was written down, so they also followed to ensure that the truths revealed to them through the Holy Spirit were perpetuated in the faith until this very day. Just as the writers of the books included in the Old Testament were inspired by God and guided by Him, so also do the writers of those books that make up the New Testament and the collection of those sacred writings we call The Holy Bible is one of the greatest gifts we have from God. Orally communicated "traditions" are far too dependent on fallible humans and, unless they are provable by the Bible, are not auhoritative for a Christian.

59 posted on 05/01/2012 7:56:37 PM PDT by boatbums (God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.)
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To: daniel1212
I think it is quite interesting, though maybe not well known or understood by the laity, that there are many areas where the magesterium admits non-infallibility and leaves open the possibility for further correction of error. From the site, we learn:

    All other teachings of the Magisterium, other than those that fall under one of the three modes of infallibility, are, without exception, ordinary and non-infallible, and are subject to the possibility of error, even on matters of faith and morals, but never to such an extent that any error, or set of errors, could lead the faithful away from the path of salvation.

    These teachings of the Ordinary Magisterium are referred to by then Cardinal Ratzinger, with particular wording, as “the non-infallible teaching of the Magisterium” and “non-irreformable magisterial teaching,” in the document issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith called 'The Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian,' n. 28 and 33. This wording demonstrates Cardinal Ratzinger's understanding that not all Magisterial teachings are infallible or irreformable.

    In the same Address to the U.S. Bishops cited above, Pope John Paul II said: “With respect to the non-infallible expressions of the authentic magisterium of the Church, these should be received with religious submission of mind and will.” Clearly, the term religious submission of will and intellect refers to the ordinary non-infallible teachings of the Magisterium and is a different degree and type of assent than the divine and Catholic faith due to infallible teachings.

    Therefore, the Magisterium can teach both infallibly and non-infallibly. Heresy is the denial or obstinate doubt of the infallible teachings and also of those ordinary teachings which are essential to salvation; heresy is a refusal to give the full assent of faith due to those teachings. The denial or doubt of non-infallible teachings in general might also be sinful and culpable, but the sin is not generally the sin of heresy and is a lesser matter, because the assent required is a lesser degree of assent.

    The teachings of the Ordinary Universal Magisterium (i.e. the Universal Magisterium) are certainly infallible, but these are distinguished from the non-infallible, non-irreformable teachings of the Ordinary Magisterium themselves, whose number and extent cannot be trivial. Those who claim that nearly every teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium actually falls under the Universal Magisterium are in effect extending infallibility to the Ordinary Magisterium itself, because the teachings they claim to be infallible under the Universal Magisterium have not in fact been taught universally by the Church. Such persons also err grievously by reducing the kind and number of the teachings of the Ordinary Magisterium, so that no ordinary teachings are left of any significance.

This article from the link concludes with:

    This distortion or denial of the First Vatican Council's definition on Papal Infallibility is a heresy against the true Catholic Faith. This heresy is spreading among conservative Catholics today, many of whom now think that the Ordinary Magisterium, or the Ordinary Papal Magisterium, is always infallible or always inerrant, even when the conditions required by the First Vatican Council have not been fully met. A number of prominent priests, theologians, and lay leaders hold to this heretical view and have been teaching it to the faithful as if it were a doctrine of the Church.

So, I wonder how many "faithful" Catholics can even know what teachings they are being given are, by their own estimation, fallible or infallible? I know when I was Catholic there was no room for doubts of anything I was taught and to question was deemed a sin. Why the need for such legalese for something, admittedly, was only actually used once???

60 posted on 05/01/2012 8:17:32 PM PDT by boatbums (God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.)
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