Socialism and the Pope
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The rest of the Encyclical is absolutely mediocre and ridiculous. "No man can be a Socialist and a Catholic," is its theme, monotonously reiterated.
The 1902 Encyclical concluded Leo XIII.'s Anti-Socialist labors and enunciations of capitalist doctrines for Catholics. He died a year later and was succeeded by Pope Pius X., who continued the "good work" of Anti-Socialism, as Parkinson terms it in wonderful but unconscious self-revelation.
Pope Pius XI. follows faithfully in the Anti-Socialist footsteps of his predecessors, Leo XIII. and Pius X. The Catholic working-man may look to Rome for his religious inspiration if he wishes, but even so he should pause before accepting the absolute authority of the Pope as the interpreter of Christian faith and morals. Just as the Gods have nodded, so the Popes may err, and indeed, often have erred. It should be recalled that the Vatican Council of A.D. 1869, decided the question of papal infallibility, and that of the relative superiority of the Pope and the Council. After all the bishops who were opposed to the idea of papal infallibility had left the Council, under threats of excommunication, on July 18, 1870, by a vote of 535 prelates against 2, passed the decree of Papal Infallibility, which was confirmed immediately by the Pope. It was a coerced, senseless, and worthless vote: Stalinism in the Vatican. But it did not commend itself to John Henry Newman, whose name is one that the Catholic Church holds in honour.
Cardinal Newman regarded the decision of the Vatican Council as "a great calamity" and declared distinctly that "an aggressive, insolent faction" was responsible for it. He went so far as to address a letter to the leader of the English Catholic nobility, the Duke of Norfolk, in which he enumerated certain instances in which he would disobey the Pope's command. Supposing himself to be gravely exercised by such a mandate, he says, "I should look to see what theologians could do for me, what the bishops and clergy around me, what my confessor, what friends whom I revered; and if, after all I could not take their view of the matter, then I must rule myself by my own judgement and my own conscience." Surely such a position, so taken up, is utterly irreconcilable with the decree of papal infallibility; and strange it is to reflect that he who thus fell back upon the right and authority of private judgement, should have been made a cardinal. Such words as he left on record show that even among members of the Church of Rome, the doctrine of papal infallibility is not settled.
Newman's attitude was correct. The Council had the right to declare that the decision of the Pope, in all questions of faith and morals, or in any other question in relation to which the Church wanted to speak officially, was "final." It had no power to declare that it was infallible. That was beyond its powers, absolutely ultra vireos. The old Catholics, headed by Dr. Dollinger and Dr. Friedrich, challenged the decree of infallibility; but slowly they