Excommunication, Papal Infallibility and the Reproductive Health Bill
By: Bishop Edward P. Malecdan
The Reproductive Health (RH) bill has reached the plenary debate and amendments in the 15th Philippine Congress. The debates are marked with intense passion such that arguments sometimes lose their supposed decency and decorum. Name calling is rampant from both sides of the fence with polemic and toxic languages used quite regularly.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is by far the most vocal and vigorous group opposed to the bill. It declared an “all out war” against the measure shortly after withdrawing from a dialogue on the issue with Malacanang last May. Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said that because the bill supports the use of artificial birth control and makes available the methods of family planning not in accordance with the church teachings, “It’s natural for us to declare an all out war against the RH bill.” To the bishops and their lay supporters the bill is intrinsically evil especially as it allows birth control methods not approved by the church.
This is the second time that the Roman Catholic (RC) hierarchy opposed the passage of a bill. The first time was in 1956 when Republic Act 1425 was introduced in the Senate to make Jose Rizal’s books, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, compulsory reading in Philippine schools. The RC bishops came out swinging with a strong pastoral letter against the bill and opposed it with equal determination. To the bishops, the two novels, are heretical and reading them was detrimental to the people’s faith especially the young students. Senator Claro M. Recto, a proponent of the bill “accused the Catholic hierarchy of being more tolerant than the Spanish friars whom Rizal have attacked” in his novels. On the other hand Senator Decoroso Rosales” warned that rather than make students read Rizal’s novels, Catholic schools throughout the country, numbering more than 6,000, would close.” Recto retorted: “They are making too much profit (from the schools) which they can ill-afford to give up”. The bill passed after a debate then colored with unpalatable languages as the debate today on RH bill 4244.
In its determination to prevent RH bill from passing, the CBCP is using all forms of media outlet and has adopted tremendous propaganda to voice its opposition. In fact it was also able to organize a “people power” demonstration last August 5 at the EDSA shrine which organizers called “prayer rally”. Priests preach against the bill in church pulpits to the consternation of some parishioners such as Senator Panfilo Lacson and Sylvia Europa Pinka who complain that their priests are engaging in “disinformation” and go to the extent of telling lies in their sermons to influence the people’s thinking. Proponents of the bill as well as their supporters are branded as modern “terrorists” for supporting a bill that allegedly encourages and supports abortion. The dividing line is drawn because right or wrong, the claim for themselves the moniker “pro-life”, while marking their opponents as “anti-life”. However, the bill’s number 5 provision under letter j, in Section 3 provides “that abortion is illegal and punishable by law” and “the government shall ensure that all women needing care for post abortion complications shall be treated and counseled in a humane, non-judgmental and compassionate manner.” The bill clearly declares abortion unlawful. Why some people stubbornly insist that it is promoting abortion is hard to understand.
Moreover, no less than the former Manila Archbishop Cardinal Rosales said those who are pro-RH bill are “immoral” people “without conscience”. Fr. Jerry Oblepias of Laguna called President Aquino a person with a “falsified conscience” for not listening to the voice of “thousands” of Roman Catholics who reject the bill because it is “anti-life and antifamily”. Whatever he meant by falsified conscience is not hard to decipher. It is derogatory. Even the prolific and accomplished writer and constitutionalist, Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J., is accumulating pejorative “titles” for himself such as, “heretic” and “Judas” because of his position in favor of the passage of the bill and his logical refusal to join the opposing party. Also, he was “urged” by some members of a barangay “to leave the Church” which to Bernas was an “insane” suggestion. But patient as ever, he took time to respond and explain why he is pro RH bill, spelling out 12 direct to the point reasons. His number three reason is of interest for this essay where he says: “… I am dismayed by preachers telling parishioners that support for the RH bill ipsofacto is a serious sin or merits excommunication! I find this to be irresponsible.”
On the other hand, those opposed to the RH bill, especially the bishops are given names such as hypocrites and modern day Pharisees. They are also referred to as people of the dark ages who need to adjust to this modern world. Hence, they are simply out of touch with what is happening in the country today and so are callous, unrealistic and insensitive to the needs of the times especially the poor and suffering mothers and their children. William M. Esposo in his “Is there a hidden agenda behind the Day of Penance?” is only one of some if not many people who openly express their observations and criticisms of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) and the CBCP in relation to their method of opposition against the bill. Esposo does not hesitate to call some Catholic Church leaders as “Talibans” and people “who encourage Catholic Talibanism” which he also connects with the ill treatment of the church of the highly regarded artist Mideo Cruz and his aborted exhibit at the CCP last year.
In the midst of these heated and sometimes emotional debates, the CBCP has placed its full weight against the bill with the use of all it has at its disposal, including threats of excommunication. President Aquino was threatened with ex-communication as early as 2010, and 192 professors of Ateneo University were threatened with investigation and possible expulsion from the school for their “heretical” views in support of the bill. So with some professors of La Salle University.
Excommunication is a terrible thing that can happen to anyone and is a source of power and authority exercised by the RCC especially the Pope, bishops and other clergy. An excommunication may be “greater” or “less” depending on how the church gauges the offence committed by a person to be excommunicated. Once a person is excommunicated on a greater level, all his rights and privileges as a Roman Catholic are withdrawn by the church except perhaps the Holy Unction and the “viaticum” or communion for the dying. As briefly described by Cross and Livingstone a greater excommunication means to be “deprived … of the right to administer or receive the sacraments and of all intercourse, public or private, with his fellow Christians, and of all rights and privileges in the church of any kind whatsoever, save only the last rites”.
An excommunication under the level of “less” would deprive the offender “of the right to administer or receive the sacraments.” But whether it is great or less, excommunication is very dehumanizing and therefore a terrible imposition especially to a devout Roman Catholic. It also reflects how potent and psychologically coercive it is as a form of correctional punishment.
An example of excommunication was the case of King John of England who ruled from 1199 to 1216. Innocent III who was then the Pope appointed Stephen Langton to be the Archbishop of Canterbury in London. King John refused to recognize the Pope’s appointment claiming that appointment of bishops and archbishops was the prerogative of the king of the country. As a result England was placed under an “interdict” in 1208 by the Pope. The interdict was another papal weapon which meant that no church rite was to be conducted all over England such as baptism or the burial of the dead. One can imagine how messy a place could be if placed under an interdict.
The following year, King John was excommunicated and threatened by the Pope with deposition. The interdict, excommunication and fear of deposition were too much for the king to bear. The king had no other recourse but to submit to the Pope’s authority which extended even over the rulers of nations such as England. He was restored only as a Christian King in good standing when he went to apologize to the Pope in the winter of 1213. Innocent III was then in his mansion in the Alps Mountains in France and poor King John had to stay at the door of the vacation house with his family shivering overnight until the doors were opened the following morning – a humiliating experience. As a result of the apology and recognition of papal authority, England and Ireland were placed under the Pope’s suzerainty. This meant that both countries had to pay required financial dues to the Pope and the Vatican as the Pope’s vassals. The Pope’s authority to appoint bishops and other high officials for the churches in both countries was further enhanced. This illustrates how effective excommunication was at that time. It was a period when the Pope was enjoying an immense and encompassing power unparalleled in history. His was the authority to control the rulers and governments of Christian nations.
King John’s experience was the exact opposite of what happened during the time of Pope Clement VII (Pope from 1523 to 1534). Clement was the Pope when kings and governments were more powerful than the church or the Pope. King Henry VIII of England and his parliament requested Clement to dissolve Henry’s marriage with Catherine of Aragon on the ground that Catherine was the former wife of Henry’s older brother Arthur which is against biblical teaching. Henry firmly believed he was being punished by God for marrying his brother’s widow and so all of his children with Catherine died in infancy except Mary. Then too, there was a national concern that due to old age Catherine cannot produce a male heir to the throne. A queen was not yet acceptable as a leader in England but which can happen with Mary at the helm of the realm if Henry dies without a male heir. It was expedient that Henry should have a second wife with hope of a boy child which cannot be done without divorcing Catherine.
But the Pope at that time was impotent to dissolve the marriage, he being a virtual prisoner of Charles V, the uncle of Catherine and emperor of the so-called Holy Roman Empire which included Italy and Rome. Because of the Pope’s situation Henry went on to divorce Catherine upon the advice of universities in Europe and the English Church hierarchy. For this, Henry was excommunicated by the Pope. However, it did not have any effect at all because the state was dominant over the church that time and Henry had the backing of a nationalistic people who loved their King. With boldness, Henry responded by intimating that he might excommunicate the Pope in return.
In 1570, Queen Elizabeth I, Henry’s daughter was also excommunicated by Pope Pius V. Part of the implication of this, as it was in the excommunication of her father, was that all her subjects no longer owed their allegiance to the queen and that she was to be isolated by her subjects. The Pope’s action was not at all effective for the same reasons that her father’s excommunication had no impact. The queen was supported whole heartedly by the English people who were at this time mostly Anglicans in faith and practice. The people were willing to offer their lives in defense of the queen as they actually did in July 1588. That year, the English navy defeated the supposedly “invincible” Spanish Armada blessed by the Pope to restore Roman Catholicism in England and to punish “the queen of all heretics”, Elizabeth I. In addition, the conspiracy hatched by another Pope, Gregory XIII, for a Roman Catholic priest to initiate the assassination of the queen also failed.
In the Philippine setting, Fr. Gregorio Aglipay was a victim of excommunication by the Manila Archbishop Nozaleda on May 5, 1898 for alleged usurpation of authority. For the people who espoused a church with Filipino leadership and not under the control of the Pope and the friars the excommunication did not matter at all. He also had the support of the Philippine Revolution which espoused separation of church and state. When the Iglesia Filipina Independiente was proclaimed and inaugurated on August 3, 1902 Aglipay was readily accepted to be its first Obispo Maximo.
It would be interesting to follow up the case of Bishop Joseph Yue Fusheng who was consecrated last July 6, 2012 in Harbin, China without the approval of Pope Benedict XVI. The Pope protested against the consecration and excommunicated the new bishop. How Fusheng’s constituents would respond to the Papal action determines the efficacy of the excommunication of a clergy in China at present. If the people continue to support the bishop despite the excommunication, the papal sanction is rendered null and void from the very beginning. If this happens it will contribute to the dwindling influence of the Papacy over the RCC in China. Perhaps, for the Chinese the church in Hardin consecrated a bishop for its own area not for any other jurisdiction.
In our time and age President Benigno Aquino III is not bothered and cowed by the threat of excommunication. It is taken lightly if not defied outright. The president who is a Roman Catholic continues his unbridled support for the bill. The most important thing going for the President is that he has the support of most Filipinos according to consistent Weather Station surveys. Without the backing of the Filipinos he will probably buckle down, fall on bended knees and seek forgiveness from the church and probably the bishops and the Pope as King John did hundreds of years ago. Definitely, times have changed through the years. Fr. Favie Faldas, recognizing that the RCC continues to lose its influence among young people in this internet age said: “People are now aware that you can go against the Church. Before, nobody speaks against the Church. Now, others have the courage to come out and speak their mind”. The most intelligent senator of the Republic, Mirriam Defensor Santiago (although sometimes emotional) also said: “… if Catholics simply obeyed the bishops in the past, many Catholics now are no longer willing to give blind obedience to the Church”.
A very frank statement about her faith and relationship with the RC hierarchy comes from Patricia Evangelista who said:
The Church claims its majority of like-minded Catholics, an imaginary 90 percent whose numbers are drawn from the numbers of baptismal certificates and little else. Yet it is a 90 percent that includes people like myself, many of us women, Catholic-born, Catholic-educated, baptized under the cathedral of Holy Mother Church, who live and work in a universe that has taught us that discrimination is discrimination, even if the commandment comes from the Pope himself. I believe in God, but I do not believe in the CBCP. The Church has ghosts standing in its ranks. It is why the battle cry of millions sounds oddly like a chorus of hysterical voices from the pulpit.
One would venture to say that advances in scientific education and the availability of varied literary resources (i.e., the use of books like Rizal’s novels) have a lot to do with this new found freedom of expression among many Filipinos. But this is another story.
Another source of authority and power of the Pope as well as the bishops formulated after the reformation of the 16th and 17th centuries was the doctrine of Papal Infallibility. This was declared by the First Vatican Council under Pope Pius IX in 1870 and affirmed by the Second Vatican Council almost one hundred years later. It was meant to solidify the waning influence of the Pope which was at that time deteriorating because of the strict observance of the separation of church and state adopted by new and independent nations which also resulted in the loss of lands owned by the church as what happened in Spain and a few Latin American countries. The Pope himself did not recognize and acknowledge the making of Italy as a nation in 1870 together with Germany, and he did not set foot out of the Vatican until the 1970’s.
Not all bishops and clergy of the RCC approved of the infallibility doctrine. Fr. Johann Joseph Dollinger, a church historian, was excommunicated for refusing to accept the doctrine. There were a few German and Austrian bishops who refused to accept the declared Papal infallibility and the Pope’s claim to universal jurisdiction of all Christendom. They also thought it unfair that the Council already decided upon these sensitive matters making the bishops stamp pads for approval when the council was officially convened. They left the RCC and joined the Church of Utrecht which separated from Rome and the Pope in 1724 and formed themselves as the Old Catholics of Europe which exists to this day. The Anglican Church of England as well as other Anglican and Episcopal Churches worldwide have Concordat of Full Communion agreements with the Old Catholic Churches as well as with the Catholic Eastern Orthodox Church.
By the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, the RCC “declared that the Pope was infallible when he defined that a doctrine concerning faith or morals was part of the deposit of divine revelation handed down from apostolic tradition and was therefore to be believed by the whole church”. It means that the Pope who is the Supreme Pontiff, when he speaks “ex cathedra” (seated in his throne), is infallible in defining doctrines and morals. As the recognized guardian of the faith the Pope does not commit mistakes when he pronounces bulls and encyclicals for the RCC. Also, his pronouncements are irreformable and must be regarded by the faithful as gospel truths as indicated by the above quotation. By Papal Infallibility the Pope was made the final arbiter of doctrine and morals for the church. The only person who can make changes in the contents and interpretation of the pronouncements is none other than the Pope himself.
An illustration of the practice of infallibility was the case of Galili Galileo, a mathematician and astronomer who taught at the University of Pisa and at Padua, Italy. He espoused that the sun was the center of the universe and that all planets including the earth revolved around it, otherwise known as the Copernican Theory. This was opposed to the Ptolemaic Theory espoused by the RCC and the Pope which taught that the earth is the center of the universe and that the sun revolved around it. The Pope condemned Galileo’s teaching and was pressured to recant his scientific findings or else be burned at the stake as a heretic. He recanted but actually did not stop teaching his discovery and what he believed in. In 1633, he was called to Rome and was finally imprisoned by the church. Shortly after his release, he returned to Florence where he died in 1642.
After almost 360 years, and after 13 years of investigation by the RCC, Galileo was vindicated when on October 31, 1992 Pope Paul VI in a speech delivered to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Rome, confessed and declared publicly that his predecessor erred in his actions against the poor professor and astronomer. It was an acknowledgment that something very wrong was done to Galileo by the church. The sad part of the story is it took very long for the RCC and the Pope to rectify an error, all because of the zealousness of the church leaders to protect the doctrine of Papal Infallibility. They wanted it preserved and unsullied, to the detriment and destruction of the career and life of a gifted scientist. A greater mass of people worldwide were deprived of Galileo’s genius because scientific and technological advance was not allowed to flourish earlier in history.
It is worth noting that “the RCC also teaches that the same infallibility attaches to whatever is taught as part of the deposit of revelation by the entire body of Roman Catholic bishops in union with the Pope.” This means that because of their connectedness and obedience to the Pope, the RC bishops share his infallibility.
One danger of papal infallibility is that all the Pope’s teachings can be taken by overzealous subordinates and people as spoken while he was on his throne even when these were said outside of it. But in relation to the RH bill it seems that the Pope, not necessarily Benedict XVI, pronounced the stand of the RCC excathedra and thus binding to all the faithful and regarded as final. We are informed from Vatican City for instance, that “The Vatican opposes artificial contraception. The church does, however, approve of the natural planning, in which married couples chart the changes in a woman’s menstrual cycle to determine when she might, or might not conceive…. The Catholic Church opposes condoms, the pill and other forms of artificial contraception”. Also, Pope Benedict XVI, writing to the CBCP in its 103rd Plenary Assembly “reminded Filipino bishops to be firm in their position against the (RH) bill”. In addition, Emil Jurado in his commentary on Senator Santiago’s assertion that the conflict between the Ateneo Professors and the CBCP is something about academic freedom said: “… it is the CBCP that represents the Pope here in the Philippines. So when the bishops oppose the RH bill, they speak for the Pope”. Jurado’s assessment has a connection with the understanding that the bishops share with the Pope’s infallibility because of their adherence to the Pope himself as implied in the definition of the word “infallibility”. Bishop Jose Oliveros of Malolos also states that church members who support the bill are “Catholic in name only”, and that “The Church has always been consistent. Our popes have been very consistent in saying that using artificial contraception is not in agreement with our faith. We cannot do that. Why can’t they see that?” In other words, the Popes have already spoken against artificial family planning methods and all that the faithful have to do, including the proponents of the bill, is accept and follow the pronouncements.
So whether or not the opposition to the RH bill is derived from an encyclical such as the Humanae Vitae issued by Pope Paul VI against the use of contraceptives, and whether or not this was pronounced while the Pope was seated on his throne, it is clear that the Pope and the CBCP are one and the same in their staunch position against the bill.
One reason behind this all out drive to derail the passing of the bill is because of the RC adherence to the doctrine of Papal Infallibility. The Pope and the bishops have everything to lose in the event that the bill passes. The dreaded power of interdict, excommunication and Papal Infallibility often used to coerce and intimidate into submission those who go against Roman Catholic teaching will rapidly diminish in potency as they already have since their introduction, especially among RC members not only in the Philippines but throughout the world. The doctrine of infallibility when not respected by the people, and if the RH bill passes, will erode the respect of many of the faithful for the Pope and their bishops. The credibility of church leaders to enforce church policies and teachings which they themselves pronounced as infallible will deteriorate if they fail to block the passage of the bill. They will lose face even when the bill does not that to happen. They like to hold on to these potential and traditional sources of power and influence unhampered and undiminished and no matter how irrelevant.
An underlying fatal effect of the above, even among the laity who doggedly tow the thinking of their bishops, is the development of a callous attitude of self righteousness. They will look at their own views as infallible too, which should not be subject to public scrutiny and criticism even when this is proven wrong. Galileo’s story is a case in point.
Commenting on Senator Tito Sotto’s rebuttal speeches on the RH bill after which it was discovered that he did not acknowledge the authors of the sources he used (plagiarism), Joel Vega, a publications editor for the European Association of Urology in The Netherlands has this to say of the senator.
His fallacy is that he wants us to believe that he has a monopoly on truth, as he spews out easy clichés and the big, nebulous words “sanctity of life,”divine right and other claims on infallibility. How can you properly debate with someone like this? What Sotto conveniently forgets is that he is sworn to public office and is expected to exercise the duties of that office with a rational, unbiased mind, and certainly not to coddle and favor the holier than-thou, self appointed moral champions of our day. One mistake often committed by the self disillusioned or self righteous is this: to dismiss rational critique, sweep it under the carpet and brand all dissenting opinion as garbage.
The Editorial of the Manila Standard Today on August 16, 2012 which commented on another strand of Sotto’s attitude went to as far as comparing him with Senator Pia Cayetano saying that in the Senate on Monday the 13th August, “two senators spoke from the heart but one also used her brain – an organ that must come into play in the crafting of good legislation.”
Emotion and intellect when put together for good produce decent exchanges of ideas which are necessary in any debate or ordinary conversation. There’s got to be a balance of both to eliminate play acting.
But Sotto again lifted from a Robert Kennedy speech the last part of his last rebuttal delivered in the Senate on Wednesday, 5 August 2012. When this was brought to his attention Sotto replied: “It was texted me by a friend. I found the idea good. I translated it into Tagalog [Filipino]. So what’s the problem?”
The problem is Sotto’s assumed infallibility. He is all right and everybody else is wrong. He says his critics are “shooting him” because they do not have answers to the points he is raising. But the important points in his arguments might have been heavily degraded and lost in people’s minds because of his plagiarism. That is why even most media practitioners do not even bother to feature the salient points of his arguments (and there are quite a few). It could be that, right or wrong, people think he could have stolen all what he is saying anyway. Besides, these were already answered by people more authoritative than the ordinary listeners of newscasts and readers of newspapers. It could also be that we are tired hearing the same questions and answers in the debates in congress as well as other avenues.
In an interview seen by millions of Filipinos on TV in the evening of that day (Wednesday), he laughed heartily at those questioning his blatant plagiarism. He sounded untouchable bordering on arrogance with a contented sense of infallibility. He is not beholden and answerable to anyone. Sotto is no doubt a very bad example for young Filipinos aspiring to be future writers and scholars. He inspires cheating, stealing, dishonesty and unaccountability, to say the least. All because of his consistency in making himself the origin and owner of statements he unabashedly copied with expressed and firm belief that there is nothing wrong with his action. Now, people know him a lot better.
Meanwhile, the Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP), also known as the Anglican Church in the Philippines, is in favor of the passage of the RH bill. Its stand is in accord with the Anglican Church’s statement issued as early as 1968 by the London Lambeth Conference, to wit:
“the responsibility for deciding upon the number and frequency of children has been laid by God upon the consciences of parents everywhere; that this planning, in such ways as are mutually acceptable to husband and wife in Christian conscience, is a right and important factor in Christian family and should be the result of positive choice before God. Such responsible parenthood, built on obedience to all the duties of marriage, requires a wise stewardship of the resources and abilities of the family as well as a thoughtful consideration of the varying population needs and problems of society and the claims of future generations.”
In brief it is the husband and wife, guided by their Christian conscience, who decide on how many children they are to bear. It follows that their decision must be guided by their family planning knowledge and what method they are to follow. The use of contraceptives is allowed. It is important therefore that they be provided with as many options on family planning including the natural method approved by the RCC. It is a blatant injustice if this right to choose is denied them. The decision also considers the financial and economic capability of the couple to ably support their child or children. The right of a baby to be born is respected so with his/her right to be provided by the parents with decent housing and clothes, decent food and decent education. It is immoral if parents have a dozen children but they turn up malnourished and some die, and those who survive life in abject poverty can’t even finish the elementary grades. That would be downright irresponsible and morally wrong. Life should be taken cared of properly from conception to the grave. Hence, family planning takes into account the evils that accompany overpopulation which contribute to the endemic problem of poverty in the country. It follows that offering various methods of family planning needs education of the couple to be able to make free and informed choices.
It is interesting to note that the ECP stand in support of the bill has more similarities with what has been expressed many times over by RH bill proponents. The only difference, perhaps, is the fact that the Episcopal Church in the Philippines has been expressing these (i.e., the use of the term “Responsible Parenthood”) views in no uncertain terms during the past forty four (44) years or so. But we do not put pressure on our members to follow to the letter the above teachings of the church. We just teach and assist them in the molding of their foundation in morality and ethics. Theirs is the choice in family planning methods. And we do not pressure the government to see to it that our teachings are legislated. That would be unfair to the millions of other Filipinos with different religious perspectives on the bill. In this particular instance the ECP respects the separation of church and state.
The ECP is a reformed Catholic church born out of the reformation of the 16th century. It does not believe in a church leader who does not commit an error and therefore is sinless. Jesus Christ was the only sinless individual who lived on earth. The Pope is an ordinary person like you and me. While we are all created in the image of God and can choose between right and wrong at the same time we are responsible for our actions, we are not perfect human beings. We all sin and commit mistakes although with the grace of God we strive to be divinely guided in what we say and do in this life on earth.
The ECP is also one with other non-Roman churches throughout the world in saying that the Pope is the bishop of Rome only and that his claim to universal jurisdiction stood on shaky grounds. In fact it was this papal claim, along with other theological differences and practices (i.e., sale of indulgences which Martin Luther viciously attacked while he was still a Roman Catholic priest), which brought about the reformation in Europe and the eventual breaking up of the once One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church in the 16th century.
The Anglican Church practiced excommunication. But in the 18th century, it was discredited by lay and clerical authorities and theologians in the Church of England and so its practice gradually ceased and no longer exists. It has been and is easier for the Episcopal/Anglican Church to make the necessary adjustments to accommodate in its teachings the advances and changes in society without
“The ECP is a reformed Catholic church born out of the reformation of the 16th century. It does not believe in a church leader who does not commit an error and therefore is sinless. Jesus Christ was the only sinless individual who lived on earth.”
compromising the basic tenets of the Christian faith. The church balances its efforts to understand God’s revelation to His people in this world with the use of the Bible, tradition and reason—so called the “three legged stool”. To use the Bible alone as the only means to understand God and how He wants us to live without reason and tradition informing it can have its weakness. The least that it can lead us to is literal interpretation of all of God’s word which is not always a healthy understanding of God and His word. The use of tradition alone, which brought about the Pope and his infallibility, should not be overstressed. It should be tempered and in fact justified by the use of both the Bible and reason. And a person can make himself God with the use of reason alone in any effort to know better the All Knowing God. So the three “legs” enlighten and supplement one another. A recent addition to the three legs of the stool is “experience”. But this is also another story for another day.
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