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Bismarck's reactionEdit

Contested section added, removed, re-added.

Removal seems to be on the basis that Non Expedit was not an infallible statement, although there is no contest of the claim that Bismarck was concerned by it. I've re-added this as I consider it relevant: if Non Expedit had concerned Bismarck, then any use of dogmatic infallibility would worry him even further! If political reaction to the power of Papal influence, or Papal infallibility, is considered relevant to this article (i.e. we're covering external politics, not merely theology), then this would seem to belong here. Andy Dingley (talk) 10:19, 3 August 2013 (UTC)

I applaud your decision to bring this question up on the Talk page.
It is undoubted that Bismarck attacked the dogma of papal infallibility (as, I think, did Gladstone and many others). But are you correct in saying that "Bismarck feared that Pius IX and future popes would use the infallibility dogma as a political weapon for manipulating Catholic voters"? Are you, above all, correct in making Wikipedia declare it an absolute fact, not just an opinion, that "this was no idle fear". Just think: in what concrete way could any pope "use the infallibility dogma as a political weapon for manipulating Catholic voters"? Take present-day Pope Francis and the United States or Argentina, for instance. You surely know what papal infallibility means. If so, you do not think that "Papal infallibility" is more or less the same thing as "Papal influence".
That there is no need for this questionable explanation of Bismarck's attack on the dogma is shown by writers who do not posit such a difficult-to-imagine use by popes of the dogma of infallibility. Take: "Bismarck regarded the dogma as an insult to German Protestants and a potential threat to the emerging authority of the German state" (source); "If it is asked: how could the dogma of papal infallibility imperil the relations between Germany and the Church of Rome?, the answer is clear. Germany was a nation in which Protestant principles were dominant. This dogma seemed to Protestants to be anti-Protestant to the core!" (source); or "The First Vatican Council became notorious to liberals everywhere in Europe because it resulted in the Declaration of Papal Infallibility" (source).
(You of course realize that "a potential threat to the emerging authority of the German state" can refer to matters that in the Kulturkampf Bismarck treated as coming under state authority and the Church in Germany saw as exclusively religious.)
I am sure you are quite capable of revising the paragraph in such a way as to make it acceptable. Esoglou (talk) 16:26, 3 August 2013 (UTC)
If you had bothered to read "Bismarck's confidential diplomatic circular to German representatives abroad," Berlin, 14 May 1872. In: F.B.M. Hollyday, Bismarck, (Great Lives Observed, Prentice-Hall (1970) pp. 42-44, you would have seen that it was prompted precisely by the promulgation of infallibility dogma. I am glad that Andy Dingley restored this section. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Italus (talkcontribs) 23:37, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
Andy Dingley, whom I wrongly supposed to have been the person who made the insertion into this article that I see was yours, doubtless has more sense than to insist that one person's interpretation of one book is sufficient basis for presenting an opinion as a fact. Since Hollyday's book is not freely available, I must ask you to quote Hollyday's statement that Bismarck feared that the popes (not just the Catholic Church, in particular the Catholic Church in the newly extended territory that he ruled) would use the infallibility dogma (not just their papal authority in general) to manipulate Catholic voters. That is one request. But more important is the request that (supposing Bismarck really had this notion) you provide good grounds for your declaration that this notion was in fact "no idle fear". Even if Hollyday did say what you attribute to him, would that mean that Bismarck's alleged fear of the popes' use of the dogma was any better founded than the idea Biesinger in his Reference Guide to Germany from the Renaissance to the Present (p. 517) attributes to Bismarck of a link between German unification and the Catholic Church's definition of the doctrine? Surely, even if Bismarck thought it was because of German unification that the Church defined the doctrine, you can't really think that was in fact the Church's reason for defining it and declare that his idea "was no idle notion". Alan Farmer also says that it is debatable whether Bismarck really believed that the anti-Prussian political alignment in the Reichstag was a papal-inspired conspiracy of malcontents bent on destroying the Reich, or whether he was only putting forward that idea as a politically useful weapon in what David Gibson calls his strategy to eliminate the Catholic Church's political and social influence in the Prussian-dominated German state, from which he had already succeeded in excluding Catholic Austria.
Maybe I am wrong. Show me. Esoglou (talk) 09:25, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
I have added a quotation in the article. Scanned segments of Hollyday's book are at . Other scanned segments can be found if you search for other keywords.Italus (talk) 16:27, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
The quotation you have given doesn't say Bismarck feared the popes "would use the infallibility dogma as a political weapon for manipulating Catholic voters": it speaks instead of relations between the popes and governments. I think you should rephrase your statement to correspond to what your source says.
You have made no attempt to deal with what I called the more important question: On what grounds do you say that the fear that you attribute to Bismarck was well founded? That statement seems to be just an expression of your own personal judgement alone. That's what is most crying out for sourcing, and it would be doing so even if you found a reliable source for your statement about what it was that Bismarck feared. You shouldn't have removed the "dubious" tag without, as requested, discussing the question. Will you respond now? Esoglou (talk) 20:15, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
A competent editor should read Hollyday's entire translation of Bismarck's confidential circular and determine if what I have posted in the article is relevant.Italus (talk) 21:10, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
A Wikipedia editor who follows Wikipedia rules puts into Wikipedia only what is explicitly stated in a reliable source (see WP:STICKTOSOURCE. He does not, by synthesis or otherwise, impose his own personal interpretation, and if his first edit is found not to correspond to what the cited source states explicitly, he modifies his edit to make it correspond. So please:
  1. Quote in any language the part of the famous Papstwahldepesche that you think explicitly says that Bismarck feared that the popes "would use the infallibility dogma as a political weapon for manipulating Catholic voters";
  2. Cite any reliable source that declares well founded the fear that you attribute to Bismarck.
You know that, if you fail to support an edit by citing an explicit statement by a reliable source, or if you refuse to modify the edit to make it correspond to what a cited source actually says, the edit must be deleted from Wikipedia. Esoglou (talk) 08:23, 7 August 2013 (UTC)
In the scanned segment from Page 6 at , Hollyday wrote: "Bismarck's attention was also riveted by fear of what he believed to be the desire of the international Catholic church to control national Germany by means of the papal claim of infallibility, announced in 1870. If, as has been argued, there was no papal desire for international political hegemony [...]"Italus (talk) 17:32, 7 August 2013 (UTC)
That snippet too says nothing about popes manipulating Catholic voters. And since you are still making no attempt to justify placing in Wikipedia your personal opinion about whether the fear you attribute to Bismarck was or was not well founded, your unsourced comment on that question must now be removed. Esoglou (talk) 19:20, 7 August 2013 (UTC)
According to you, what does the snippet say? Perhaps, in my first sentence, I should replace "manipulating Catholic voters" with "establishing international political hegemony" or with "controlling national Germany." I appeal to a competent editor to decide.Italus (talk) 22:17, 7 August 2013 (UTC)
It is indeed an excellent idea to modify your first sentence so that it will reflect something that either Bismarck or Hollyday did say and attributing the statement to whoever said it, perhaps quoting that person's exact words. Esoglou (talk) 12:01, 8 August 2013 (UTC)

A Really Badly Written ArticleEdit

I'm an ex-Catholic with a good Catholic education. I've read this article twice now, and if I didn't already understand papal infallibility I wouldn't have a clue as to how it functions after reading this. The article is so bloated with useless repetitions, yet so uninformative about how infallibility has been used and how often — for instance only twice in the last 160 years — that there is no easily available answer to the questions most non-Catholics would have about the doctrine contained in this piece. May I suggest a summary at the beginning that at least includes the fact that most popes have explicitly chosen NOT to use ex cathedra speech, as well as the fact that since the doctrine was proclaimed in 1870, it has been invoked exactly once (declaring the bodily assumption of Mary the mother of Jesus into heaven). I think many non-Catholics incorrectly assume that Catholics believe whatever the pope says is by definition infallible. Gillartsny (talk) 17:45, 13 September 2015 (UTC)

@Gillartsny: I agree. Many articles about the Catholic Church have similar problems. A couple of editors who seem to promote other religions add lots of explanations about why the Catholic Church is wrong and the articles devolve from an explanation of what something is into critique of why something isn't so. How about if you edit this article down? –BoBoMisiu (talk) 01:36, 15 September 2015 (UTC)

Removed contentEdit

The following was removed in this edit from Papal infallibility § Denial by Catholics (I added additional outbound links etc. on this talk page to the removed content).

Ideas of papal infallibility broader than that defined as dogma by the First Vatican Council have been explicitly denied even by popes. Thus the claim of infallibility advanced by Franciscan Spirituals in the 14th century, and that has been attributed also to 13th-century Peter Olivi,[1] with regard to a statement by Pope Nicholas III was rejected by Pope John XXII.[2][3][4] The terms in which John XXII condemned the position of the Franciscan Spirituals "...left a way open for later theologians to re-formulate the doctrine of infallibility in different language,"[5] as Guido Terreni, a member of Pope John XXII's court,[4] did in 1330 in terms "closer to the nineteenth century doctrine of papal infallibility than any that had been developed earlier"[6] and closely anticipating the doctrine of the First Vatican Council.[7]


  1. ^ Jackson, G. L., (207) Catholic, Lutheran, Protestant: a doctrinal comparison of three Christian Confessionsp185.[self-published source]
  2. ^ Hasler, A. B., (1981) How the Pope Became Infallible: Pius IX and the Politics of Persuasion (Doubleday; Garden City, NY),pp 36–37
  3. ^ Tierney, B., (1972) Origins of Papal Infallibility 1150–1350 – A Study on the Concepts of Infallibility, Sovereignty, and Tradition in the Middle Ages (E J Brill; Leiden, Netherlands), p171
  4. ^ a b Thomas Turley, "Infallibilists in the Curia of Pope John XXII" Journal of Medieval History (April 1975), 1 (1), pp. 71–101 (Abstract)
  5. ^ Tierney, p. 171
  6. ^ Tierney, p. 250
  7. ^ Mark E. Powell, Papal Infallibility: A Protestant Evaluation of an Ecumenical Issue (Eerdmans 2009 ISBN 978-0-8028-6284-6), p. 34
  • Catholic, Lutheran, Protestant by Jackson is WP:SELFPUBLISHed ( and needed to be removed.
  • How the Pope Became Infallible (1981) by Hasler has no Google Book preview.
  • Origins of Papal Infallibility 1150–1350 (1972) by Tierney has a chapter titled "John XXII and the Franciscans" (pp171ff) so this is reliable content
  • the abstract of "Infallibilists in the Curia of Pope John XXII" in Journal of Medieval History (1975) by Turley states:

    In 1324 the idea of papal infallibility was saved from condemnation at the hands of Pope John XXII through the influence of a small group of infallibilists in John's curia. [...] John Regina of Naples, whose argument in 1324 that infallibility was an "ancient teaching of the church" appears to have been decisive in averting Pope John's condemnation. The existence of this group [...] before 1324 revises the suggestion of recent research that the Franciscan, anti-papal conception of papal infallibility which surfaced in the early 1320's served as the inspiration for the development of a curial, pro-papal conception in the late 1320's. The curial conception was not a response to the Franciscan conception, but an independent, parallel development. [...]

  • Papal Infallibility (2009) by Powell discusses Tierney's opinion and Powell wrote:

    Tierney's historical presentation is intended to serve as a critique of the contemporary doctrine. However, he notes that within a half- century of Olivi's proposal, Bishop Guido Terreni presented a doctrine of papal infallibility more like the one adopted at Vatican I. In fact, Francis Sullivan remarks that Terreni "so closely anticipated the doctrine of Vatican I that in the judgment of B.M. Xiberta, the Carmelite scholar who edited his work, 'if he had written it after Vatican I he would have had to add or change hardly a single word.' " Thus we can say that the doctrine of papal infallibility defined at Vatican I had its origins in the fourteenth century and was itself part of a long development of papal claims.

So, it actually shows more than one thread of historical development into the 19th-century expression of the concept and not a denial of the concept. Nevertheless, removing the good sources – Tierney (1972), Turley (1975), and Powell (2009) – is a bad idea and should be incorporated into the Papal infallibility § Theological history. E.g. Tierney discusses the 19th-century Manning vs Döllinger polemics (pp9–13?) and discusses the period 1150–1250 (pp14–57?) which the article glosses over. –BoBoMisiu (talk) 15:25, 11 November 2015 (UTC)

Reworked to be less polemicalEdit

I have rearranged the article, revised and added heads (for "objections), removed some duplicated material complained about above, clarified who the objections were from, and removed a strange crypto-historical section that another editor had marked as 'speculative'. I have made sure the key section on the conditions was more tightly focussed.

I have added a section near the top on "limitations", because it is something that seems frequently missed in the fun (both by partisan untrapapist Catholic commentators and anti-papist Protestants neither of whom want to emphasize limitations), In fact, it suggests that many people who mention Pastor aeturnus have not actually read it: and indeed I have seen material on the WWW that clearly misstates the text. I have added texts and links to several papal encyclicals.

I think this makes the article much clearer. There is still a problem that a lot of the stuff is clearly written in Catholic-ese or Protestantian rather than modern plain English. I think the head section is horrible still, for the default case of a person coming to the page to get a good quick understanding: maybe the content is good, but it is not in a friendly idiom, to me at least: it looks like a 1950's priest's examination answer. Rick Jelliffe (talk) 12:35, 18 May 2018 (UTC)

I have also rearranged and added a note to the Catholic Objections sections. The previous list missed the basic point that when people at different times talked of infallibility, they meant different things. The argument about infallibility's limits and conditions and scope was going on. The Jansenist debate about 'fact' versus 'rights' for example. Under George III, it was all about regime change. Furthermore, the list was arranged purporting to show that people objected, when in fact most of the pre-1870 articles are just stating the truth that at that time there was no definition that required anyone to assent to Papal Infallibility. So I have rearranged things more strictly by order of year, and put in some subheadings because it was too long and rambling otherwise. I think it is much easier to follow now. Rick Jelliffe (talk) 15:09, 18 May 2018 (UTC)

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