Torturing the Ordinary Magisterium
December 2, 2007 § 6 Comments
Why wouldn’t the Church’s centuries-old approval of torture and execution of heretics constitute an infallible act of the ordinary Magisterium?
Here are the criteria in Lumen Gentium for an infallible teaching of the ordinary Magisterium:
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.
As far as I can tell, local or even universal juridical practices in medieval times have pretty much nothing to do with these criteria. The idea that juridical practice constitutes “authentically teaching matters of faith and morals” is just obvious self-serving nonsense, and the notion that all bishops were at any given time in agreement on the position “torture of heretics is morally licit” as a definitively held authentic teaching on faith and morals is risable.
Kevin Miller’s response to Fr. Harrison is worth quoting again in full here:
Considering that much of Harrison’s conclusion is logically dependant – not only on his history – but also on the assertion that it’s something like ecclesiologically impossible for the Church to have approved of something that turns out to be intrinsically evil (in effect, then, that when the Church, in what would otherwise be a non-infallible act, approves of action X, then this amounts to an infallible teaching that X is not intrinsically evil) – I’m not sure why a detailed response is necessary. “What is gratuitously asserted may be gratuitously denied.”
Or, to quote apologist Jimmy Akin on a different subject:
It cannot be clearly established that the bishops have even entertained in their authoritative teaching the question of whether [torture of heretics can be morally licit], much less that they have determined that the [acceptance] of this proposition is definitively to be held by all the faithful. [Editor’s note: redacted, see linked post for the original]
One might as well argue that the fact that Popes have historically paid unjust wages implies that paying unjust wages cannot be morally wrong, even though the Catechism says that it is:
2409 Even if it does not contradict the provisions of civil law, any form of unjustly taking and keeping the property of others is against the seventh commandment: thus, deliberate retention of goods lent or of objects lost; business fraud; paying unjust wages; forcing up prices by taking advantage of the ignorance or hardship of another.
People really need to stop appealing to silence, ignorance, and history – and most of all to their own tortured self-serving pseudo-reasoning – to justify their favored moral atrocities.