From Mr Simon Reilly SIR – Martin Blake (Letter, September 30) overestimates the charism of infallibility granted to the Church if he thinks that it prevents the clergy leading the faithful into error. The Magisterium guarantees that the ecclesiastical hierarchy will not teach error when they exercise their authority as teachers of the Faith; it does not guarantee that they will not fail to exercise their teaching authority, permit the spread of error or profess erroneous opinions as private individuals.
History provides numerous examples of how the above can happen. The most notorious was the Arian crisis in the wake of the First Council of Nicea, when for 35 years the emperor pressured the episcopate to water down the Council’s definition against Arianism for the sake of spurious unity: he eventually succeeded in forcing all the bishops to compromise so that, in the words of St Jerome: “The whole world groaned to find itself Arian.” Now, if you ask SSPX members how they justify their current position, they would probably draw parallels between the current crisis and the crisis cited above. If anyone thinks this position far-fetched they would do well to ask themselves why, for the last 40 years, so many of the faithful have laboured under the delusion that the Church has changed its teaching on not just one point of doctrine but on a whole range of doctrines (the doctrines of the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrifice of the Mass being the most prominent) and why so little has been done to remedy this situation until very recently.
After the Arian crisis ended, the hierarchy deemed it necessary to hold a second Ecumenical Council in order to re-confirm the Faith. Perhaps in our day a similar demonstration of authority will be necessary.
Yours faithfully, SIMON REILLY By email