OBJECTION- You are acting like a Protestant. The Protestant privately interprets Sacred Scripture, while you privately interpret dogmatic statements.
ANSWER- This objection was refuted in Section 2 of this document, “Believe Dogma As It Was Once Declared.”
Pope Pius IX, First Vatican Council, Sess. 3, Chap. 2 on Revelation, 1870, ex cathedra: “Hence, also, that understanding of its sacred dogmas must be perpetually retained, which Holy Mother Church has once declared; and there must never be a recession from that meaning under the specious name of a deeper understanding.”
But there are a few additional points in refuting and breaking down the utter nonsense and heretical mentality that lies at the heart of this objection. The people who make this assertion don’t understand Catholic teaching or what constitutes fidelity to the Magisterium. In its Decree on the Sacrament of Order, the Council of Trent solemnly declared that the dogmatic canons are for the use of all the faithful!
Pope Pius IV, Council of Trent, Sess. 13, Chap. 4: “These are the matters which in general it seemed well to the sacred Council to teach to the faithful of Christ regarding the sacrament of order. It has, however, resolved to condemn the contrary in definite and appropriate canons in the following manner, so that all, making use of the rule of faith, with the assistance of Christ, may be able to recognize more easily the Catholic truth in the midst of the darkness of so many errors.”
The word “canon" (in Greek: kanon) means a reed; a straight rod or bar; a measuring stick; something serving to determine, rule, or measure. The Council of Trent is infallibly declaring that its canons are measuring rods for “all” so that they, making use of these rules of Faith, may be able to recognize and defend the truth in the midst of darkness! This very important statement blows away the claim of those who say that using dogmas to prove points is “private interpretation.”
Further, if a Catholic who is going exactly by what the Chair of Peter (the dogmatic text) has declared is not finding the truth, but is engaging in “private interpretation,” as they claim, then what does he go by? Who interprets the dogmatic statement? And who interprets the interpretation of the dogmatic statement? And who interprets the interpretation of the interpretation of the dogmatic statement? And who interprets the interpretation of the interpretation of the interpretation of the dogmatic statement? The answer is that it would never end, and no one could ever arrive at the truth on anything. In that system, the deposit of faith – and the dogmatic teachings of the Church – would then be nothing more than private opinions, which is SHEER PROTESTANTISM.
St. Francis De Sales explained it well against the Protestants.
St. Francis De Sales (Doctor of the Church), The Catholic Controversy, c. 1602, p. 228: “The Councils… decide and define some article. If after all this another test has to be tried before their [the Council’s] determination is received, will not another also be wanted? Who will not want to apply his test, and whenever will the matter be settled?... And why not a third to know if the second is faithful? – and then a fourth, to test the third? Everything must be done over again, and posterity will never trust antiquity but will go ever turning upside down the holiest articles of faith in the wheel of their understandings… what we say is that when a Council has applied this test, our brains have not now to revise but to believe.”
The “interpretation” ends with the words of the dogma itself! If it doesn’t, then it never ends, as we saw above – you just have fallible interpretation after fallible interpretation after fallible interpretation after fallible interpretation. If the buck doesn’t stop with the infallible definition (the Chair of Peter), then it never stops. I pointed this fact out to a somewhat well-known “apologist” for the Vatican II sect in a telephone conversation. He was arguing that our usage of Catholic dogmatic teaching (the teaching of the Chair of Peter) is like Protestant “private interpretation.” He was saying this in an attempt to defend some of his heretical beliefs which contradict dogma, such as his belief that non-Catholics can be saved. I said to him, “then who interprets the dogma? And who interprets the interpretation of the dogma?” After I said “who interprets the interpretation of the dogma… and who interprets the interpretation of the interpretation… and who interprets the interpretation of the interpretation of the interpretation…” he remained deadly silent for the first time in the conversation. He obviously had no response to the factual point that was made, simply because there is no response. In the heretical view of dogmatic teaching that he espoused, the Catholic Faith is nothing more than Protestantism – fallible, private, human interpretation with no Chair of Peter to give one the final word. The following quotation also illustrates this point very well.
“Why did Athanasius know he was right? Because he clung to the infallible definition, no matter what everyone else said. Not all the learning in the world, nor all the rank of office, can substitute for the truth of one infallibly defined Catholic teaching. Even the simplest member of the faithful, clinging to an infallible definition, will know more than the most ‘learned’ theologian who denies or undermines the definition. That is the whole purpose of the Church’s infallibly defined teaching – to make us independent of the mere opinions of men, however learned, however high their rank.”
That is why in adhering to exactly what the dogma “has once declared” (Vatican I) one is not engaging in Protestant “private interpretation,” but is rather being most faithful to the infallible truth of Christ and the directly infallible way of knowing it (the dogmatic definitions of the Church). Those who depart from the actual declaration of the dogma, and the actual meaning of its words, are Protestant heretics who engage in condemned, sinful, fallible and private interpretation, against the direct words of the dogma (against the infallible definitions) and thus destroy all faith and render Papal Infallibility pointless. If one can’t go by what the dogmatic statement says, then Christ would have just told us to always follow those with learning or authority; He would never have instituted an infallible Magisterium exercised by the popes, which can clarify issues once and for all times with no possibility of error and regardless of who agrees or disagrees with the definition.
BUT CAN’T MEN MISUNDERSTAND A DOGMATIC DEFINITION?
Of course they can. Men can misunderstand anything. If Jesus Christ (the Truth Himself) were here speaking to us, many people would without doubt misunderstand what He said, just as many did when He came the first time. Likewise, just because some can and do misunderstand what the Chair of Peter is declaring, it does not mean that those who faithfully adhere to its definition are engaging in Protestant “private interpretation.” That is utterly blasphemous against the entire institution of the Papacy and the whole point of dogmatic definitions and the Chair of St. Peter. The dogmatic statements of the Catholic Church constitute the truth of heaven being declared to us directly by the popes.
Pope Pius X, Lamentabile, The Errors of the Modernists, July 3, 1907, #22:
“The dogmas which the Church professes as revealed are not truths fallen from heaven, but they are a kind of interpretation of religious facts, which the human mind by a laborious effort prepared for itself.”- Condemned
Pope Pius X, Lamentabile, The Errors of the Modernists, July 3, 1907, #54:
“The dogmas, the sacraments, the hierarchy, as far as pertains both to the notion and to the reality, are nothing but interpretations and the evolution of Christian intelligence, which have increased and perfected the little germ latent in the Gospel.”- Condemned
Pope Gregory XVI, Mirari Vos (#7), Aug. 15, 1832: “… nothing of the things appointed ought to be diminished; nothing changed; nothing added; but they must be preserved both as regards expression and meaning.”
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