Papal Bulls and Encyclicals
Pope Pius XII stated in Humani Generis, that Papal Encyclicals, even when they are not ex cathedra, can nonetheless be sufficiently authoritative to end theological debate on a particular question:
|“||It is not to be thought that what is set down in Encyclical letters does not demand assent in itself, because in this the popes do not exercise the supreme power of their magisterium. For these matters are taught by the ordinary magisterium, regarding which the following is pertinent: “He who heareth you, heareth Me.” (Luke 10:16); and usually what is set forth and inculcated in Encyclical Letters, already pertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their acts, after due consideration, express an opinion on a hitherto controversial matter, it is clear to all that this matter, according to the mind and will of the same Pontiffs, cannot any longer be considered a question of free discussion among theologians.
The end of the theological debate is not identical however with dogmatization. Throughout the history of the Church, its representatives have discussed whether a given Papal teaching is the final word or not.
In 1773, Father Lorenzo Ricci, hearing rumours that Pope Clement XIV might dissolve his Jesuit order, wrote "it is most incredible that the Deputy of Christ would state the opposite, what his predecessor Clement XIII stated in the Papal Bull Apostolicum, in which he defended and protected us." When a few days later he was asked if he would accept the Papal Breve, reverting Clement XIII and dissolving the Jesuit Order, Father Ricci replied, whatever the Pope decides must be sacred to everybody.
In 1995, questions arose as to whether the Apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which upheld the Catholic teaching that only men may receive ordination, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith. Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of Our ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) We declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.
Critics of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis point out, that it was not issued under the extraordinary papal magisterium as an ex cathedra statement, and so is not considered infallible in itself. Its contents are, however, considered infallible under the ordinary magisterium. The American Cardinal Avery Dulles, in a lecture to US bishops, stated that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is infallible, not because of the Apostolic Letter or the clarification by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger alone but because it is based on a wide range of sources, scriptures, the constant tradition of the Church, and the ordinary and universal magisterium of the Church: Pope John Paul II had identified a truth infallibly taught over two thousand years by the Church. Many Catholics believe that it meets all the criteria of an infallible ex cathedra pronouncement, even aside from its repetition of universal magisterial teaching.
Read more about this topic: Roman Catholic Dogma
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