Sunday, January 11, 2015

Infallible, not Impeccable

The choice is between orthodoxy and orthopraxis: i.e. is the Church infallible in her Faith or impeccable in her actions? Having made your decision, you will have to stand by the consequences. Thus, Fathers, I do not appeal to your obedience and loyalty. I appeal to your Faith and rely on your heroism.
— Bryan Houghton, Mitre and Crook, 1979, p. 74.

The visible church, the Kingdom, the community of the People of God – whatever you like to call it – is not the source but one of the objects of Faith; neither is she the sole nor even the primary object thereof. What she is, on the other hand, is the guardian of the Faith by divine authority. As such she is infallible in proclaiming what the Faith is. Being composed of mortal men, however, she is lamentably fallible in putting the Faith into practice. This capacity for practical error is just as present in the Church's administration as in her individual members. The Church is infallible but not impeccable. Where there is conflict between her Faith and her practice, as is clearly the case today, the faithful have no alternative but to cling to her Faith and discard her practice. My position is surely as reasonable as it is clear: I judge the Church's fallible practice in the light of her infallible Faith. In theory, my dear Harry, you are either maintaining that the Church is impeccable – which is nonsense – or that one should cling to her practice and abandon her faith. Fortunately, however, we none of us live by theories and I know that Harry Dobson is just as good a Catholic as he knows is
   His devoted friend,
      Edmund Forester.

Ibid., p. 190.

"Wait for me downstairs," said Testastorta quite quietly. "I don't want to pray for this man but I want him to pray for me." Apart from the nun, he and I were left alone with Edmund. He did not hurry. When he got up, he turned to me. "I believe you were his most intimate friend. He was a wonderful man but too trusting, too trusting. His death is quite providential. A casuist of Gaucher's calibre could entangle an angel. I'll tell you: he wasn't going to tackle Forester about his famous Ad clerum at all but about a letter in which he said that he judged the Church's fallible practice in the light of her infallible Faith. You mustn't say that in our days. You invent the faith to suit the practice."
Ibid., p. 209.