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Statements, Declarations and Infallible Utterances: A Reply to Professor Martinich

  • Patrick McGrath (a1)


In his article ‘Infallibility’ (Religious Studies, March 1980) A. P. Martinich has argued that the logical character of infallible utterances has been generally misunderstood. Opponents and supporters of the doctrine of papal infallibility have both assumed, he claims, that infallible utterances are statements; but this is incorrect, for such utterances are not statements, but declarations. Consideration of this point, he believes, would enable us to see that the doctrine of papal infallibility is both coherent and correct.



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page 469 note 1 Infallibility’, Religious Studies, Vol. 16 (1980), pp. 1819.

page 470 note 1 Ibid. p. 21.

page 471 note 1 Ibid. p. 21.

page 472 note 1 Ibid. p. 22.

page 473 note 1 claims, Martinich (‘Infallibility’, p. 16) that ‘foes’ of papal infallibility often argue that the doctrine is incoherent, but the only example that he cites is an article of mine in which I argued precisely the opposite point. More curiously still, he attributes this article, both here and elsewhere in his paper, to ‘Philip McGrath’.

page 473 note 2 Infallible? An Enquiry, (London, 1971), p. 141.

page 474 note 1 Ibid. pp. 124–5.

page 474 note 2 The relevant part of the Vatican I definition reads as follows: ‘We teach and define that it is a dogma divinely revealed: that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra… is possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed for defining doctrine regarding faith or morals: and that therefore such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable of themselves and not from the consent of the Church’.

page 475 note 1 The First Vatican Council declared that ‘if anyone shall say that the Roman Pontiff has the office merely of inspection or direction, but not full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the Universal Church…or that this power which he enjoys is not ordinary and immediate, nor over each and all the Churches and over each and all the Pastors and the faithful; let him be anathema’. But the Council of Constance stated that ‘the Holy Synod of Constance… declares that being lawfully assembled in the Holy Spirit, constituting a General Council and representing the Catholic Church militant, it holds power immediately from Christ and that anyone of whatsoever state or dignity, even the papal, is bound to obey it in matters which pertain to the faith’.

page 477 note 1 Butler, B. C., ‘The Limits of Infallibility’, The Tablet, ccxxv, 399.


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