When is a papal bull pure bullshit?
The Catholic Church claims the pope is infallible "in matters of faith and
morals." According to Catholic dogma, the pope is capable of speaking
he speaks ex cathedra, which means in his official capacity as
pastor and teacher
he speaks with the manifest intention of binding the entire
church to acceptance
the matter pertains to faith or morals taught as a part of
divine revelation handed down from apostolic times
by Michael R. Burch
Papal Infallibility, also called ultramontanism, is a fairly
recent doctrine, having been made part of Roman Catholic dogma in 1870, with the
decree Pastor Aeternus by the First Vatican 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 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. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman
Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.”
Papal infallibility was the brainchild of Peter Olivi, a Catholic theologian who
was accused of multiple heresies. His purpose, according to Austin Cline, may
have been "to prevent future popes from rescinding a ruling favorable to
Franciscans [his personal religious order] made by Pope Nicholas III (1277-1280)." But
papal infallibility seems to have soon become a Pandora's box, because "Nicholas
was willing to go along with this idea, but later popes rejected it outright ...
Pope John XXII (1316-1334) went so far as to call it 'a work of the devil ...
the Father of Lies' and in 1324 actually issued a papal bull condemning it as
How can popes be infallible when one papal bull calls another pope's "infallible"
bull the work of the devil?
But hold onto your hardhats, because things get even dicier. According to Cline,
"Catholic theology asserts that the entire church is infallible (and therefore
cannot err in matters of faith) when, from bishops to laity, it shows universal
agreement in matters of faith and morals. Evidently popularity produces truth.
Only a few persons in the church (those who hold its highest teaching office)
are believed to proclaim Christian doctrine infallibly: (1) the entire body of
bishops in union with the pope when it teaches with moral unanimity; (2) an
ecumenical council which receives papal approval; and (3) under certain
conditions, the pope alone."
But it's more than obvious that ecumenical councils with papal approval have
been wrong, because the Church has admitted such errors publicly.
For instance, Galileo was condemned to live the remainder of his life under
house arrest after a lengthy Catholic Church investigation into the charges of
heresy brought against him. The "Holy Office" called his theories "false and
contrary to Holy Scripture" and claimed he was "gravely suspect of heresy." Pope
Urban VIII instructed that Galileo "should be questioned as to his intentions
and that he should be menaced with torture." So clearly this was serious
business and there was a council that had the pope's approval to arrive at a
matter of faith. The Bible clearly says the earth is "immovable" (because the
hand of God set it in place), with "fixed foundations," "corners" and "pillars."
So this was a matter faith and divine revelation handed down from apostolic
times (the author of Revelation, said to be the apostle known as Saint John the
Divine, spoke of the earth having "corners" and of all eyes seeing Jesus descend
from the clouds, which can only happen on a flat planet.)
Some "experts" dispute the nature of Galileo's heresy, speculating that it had
to do with matters of faith, such as the nature of the Eucharist. But Galileo's
own testimony debunks such claims. Clearly what he recanted (in order to save
his life) was the idea that the earth orbits the sun, rather than vice versa. In
the fourth interrogatory, Galileo clearly addressed the charge against him:
"I have not held the Copernican system since I was ordered to
abandon it [referring to his censure in 1616]. But I am in your hands. Do with
me what you will. For some time before the determination of the Holy Office, and
before I received the command [in 1616], I had been indifferent as to the two
opinions of Ptolemy and Copernicus, and had held that both were disputable and
that both could be true in nature. But after being assured by the prudence of my
superiors, all my doubts ceased, and I held, as I now hold, the theory of
Ptolemy as true, that is the earth does not, and that the sun does move."
This "confession" explains why Galileo was not tortured: the inquisitors
were forbidden (by the regulations imposed on them) to use torture if a
"heretic" recanted. The purpose of torture was to bring the "heretic" back to a
"proper understanding of the faith." In order to save his life, Galileo
pretended not to believe the earth orbited the sun, and once his avowed
"beliefs" matched those of the Catholic Church, the inquisitors were not
permitted to torture him. Is threatening to torture a scientist and extracting a
retraction under extreme duress the justice of an "infallible" church, or the
bizarre machinations of a bunch of evil moronic quacks? (The question is
rhetorical, but for the sake of the many remaining quacks, I must state the obvious.)
In 1825, the Catholic Church admitted its error and apologized for the
condemnation of Galileo and his work in an official document written by Dom
Olivieri, the General of the Dominican order and commissary of the "Holy
In 1989, Pope John Paul II apologized for the Church's sins and pointed out that
the province of the Church is theology and revelation, not science or astronomy.
But as we will see in the matter of infant baptism, the Catholic Church is
hardly "infallible" in matters of theology and revelation . . .
The Catholic Church obviously knows more about "hell" and "limbo" than God and
his prophets, because the God of the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible) and his
prophets never mentioned a place of suffering after death called "hell." The
word Sheol was incorrectly translated as "hell" in the King James Version of the
Bible, but Sheol was obviously "the grave," not "hell," because:
Job asked to be hidden from suffering in Sheol
King David said that if he made his bed in Sheol, God would be there
The sons of Korah said God would redeem them from Sheol
Ezekiel and Paul agreed that all Israel would be saved, but Israel himself spoke
of joining his son Joseph in Sheol
Furthermore, anyone who has read the Old Testament knows that God and his
prophets never even mentioned the possibility of hell to Adam and Eve (the
original sinners), or to Cain (the first murderer), or to Noah (at the time of
the wickedness that led to the Great Flood), or to Abraham and Lot (at the time
of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah), or even to Moses (at the time of the
giving of the law and its punishments). Since hell was never mentioned to
even the worst people at the worst of times, obviously there was no
place of eternal suffering for anyone to fear. The subject never even came up. So how did the Catholic
Church come to condemn all the children of earth to an "eternal hell"?
That is, indeed, a mystery.
According to Josephus, the Pharisees (the sworn enemies of Jesus) were the
people who introduced the dogma of an "eternal hell" to the Judaism of their
And isn't it interesting that the ostentatious palace of the Vatican has come to
resemble the ostentatious temple of Solomon (a nonbeliever), which was later
rebuilt by Herod (another nonbeliever)? The first occurrence of the number 666
in the Bible is a reference to the weight in gold accumulated by Solomon each
year. That gold allowed Solomon to build his famous temple to a God, which
according to Ecclesiastes (of which he is said to be the author), he did not
But Solomon didn't condemn anyone to an "eternal hell," so it seems the Pope has
exceeded Solomon in audacity and heresy. How can the Pope condemn human beings
to a hell that God and the Hebrew prophets never mentioned, unless the Pope is a
To be fair, this would also make famous Protestants like Martin Luther, John
Calvin and Billy Graham heretics as well.
According to the Bible, neither Jesus nor Saint Paul ever mentioned the creation
or purpose of a place called "hell." The first Christian sermons, those of Saint
Peter and Saint Stephen, are recorded word-for-word in the book of Acts, which
is ostensibly the self-recorded history of the early Christian church. But even
though those sermons were addressed to the men who had unjustly murdered Jesus
Christ, a place called "hell" and the subject of eternal suffering was never
Paul (who said he received his gospel directly from
God) never mentioned a place called "hell" in his epistles. Isn't that odd? If
there really was a place called "hell," which was created by God long after the
Old Testament was written, this would have been the most important fact in
recorded history. Before hell was created, the wages of sin was death. But once
hell had been created, the wages of sin was something else entirely. And yet
there is not a single verse in the entire Bible in which God or any prophet or
evangelist ever discusses the creation of hell, or its purpose. As in the case of the
Cheshire cat, one can only say, "Curious and curiouser."
Once "Christian" theologians had decided that
everyone who didn't believe in Jesus had to go to a "hell" their God had never
mentioned, they had to "help" God
avoid sending babies and children who were too young to believe in Jesus to a
place of eternal suffering. While it seems laughable to suggest that a loving,
wise, just, all-powerful God would need human help to save innocent babies
(after all, according to the Bible Jesus saved the thief on the cross with a nod
of his head), Catholic theologians did not agree. So they invented the
non-Biblical dogma of infant baptism. According to them, any baby that was not
splashed with magical water by an even-more-magical priest could not be "saved."
But Jesus and his apostles had never mentioned the need for babies to be
splashed with water. Isn't it odd that Jesus, Peter, John, Stephen, Paul, and
the other apostles completely forgot to ever mention the need for babies to be
baptized? Was God so incompetent he forgot to ever mention hell, limbo and the
need for infant baptism, or did someone concoct the whole sordid mess long after
Jesus and Paul had left the planet? The answer is obvious.
Many years later, the Protestant theologians who broke with the Catholic Church
would face a similar quandary: if faith in Jesus was required for salvation, and
every human being was condemned to an eternal hell at birth because of
"original sin," how could babies and very young children possibly be saved?
Their solution was another non-Biblical dogma: "the age of accountability."
According to this mysterious dogma, at some unknown age a child who doesn't
believe in Jesus will suddenly go to hell if he sins. But God and Jesus, in all
their infallible wisdom, somehow completely forgot to mention the exact age of
accountability. It might be age thirteen, or twelve, or eleven, or ten, or nine,
or eight, or seven, or six . . . no one knows!
Catholic and Protestant theologians would spend the better part of 2,000 years
speculating about how innocent babies and children too young to believe in Jesus
might be "saved." But all the bizarre speculation was required only because they
had invented a "hell" that the God and prophets of the Hebrew Bible knew nothing
How can anyone take Catholic and Protestant theologians seriously? According to
the Bible, there is only a place called the grave (Sheol in Hebrew, Hades in
Greek). According to prophets like Ezekiel and apostles like Paul, all Israel
would be resurrected and saved in the end. This salvation was to be the work of
God, and human faith and works were never mentioned as being necessary for God
to save his creation. According the the famous Valley of the Dry Bones
vision of Ezekiel, the Israelites would believe in God after the miracle
occurred, not before. The Hebrew prophets said that even Sodom would be
restored. They said Jerusalem was worse than Sodom, and that even Jerusalem would
be restored. They said that chesed (mercy, compassion, lovingkindness)
would triumph over judgement, and that in the end even the lion would lie down
with the lamb.
Whether such things may be true is simply a matter of hope, or faith. According
to Saint Paul, hope is greater than faith, and love is greater than hope. In his
famous epiphany on Divine Love, in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul said that if God is
not love, then all the Bible is mere noise (clanging gongs and tinkling
cymbals). He said that if God is not love, he is nothing, despite all his wisdom
and power and knowledge. Whether there is a God who is loving and powerful and
wise is, of course, a matter of faith, or hope, or simply waiting to find out.
But one thing is obvious: if a loving, wise, just God had anything to do with
the writing of the Bible, there is no eternal hell. If there was, it would have
been incumbent on him to tell all humankind about the prospect of hell, in no
uncertain terms. But that didn't happen, and it still hasn't happened, to this