Friday, November 21, 2014

Conservative, liberal, orthodox what does it all mean? Can’t we all just get along?

Note to the humor impaired: Don’t take this article too seriously. It’s full of sarcasm and attempts at irony.)
Dear Rev. Know-it-all,
I am tired of all the name calling and the negativity in the current dialogue. Conservative, liberal, orthodox what does it all mean? Can’t we all just get along?
Ann T. Kreisst
Dear Ann,
The situation has gotten a bit odd, what with cardinals being put out to pasture and all. I have a suggestion that might help. Years ago, a dear friend who had become interested in Catholicism wandered into a very progressive parish, where he took instruction in the Catholic faith. He was quite well read and was fascinated by the idea of transubstantiation. When he mentioned this, the pastor said most progressively, “You don’t have to believe that!”
The seeker asked, “May I believe I if I want to?
To which said progressive pastor, replied, “I suppose you can if you really want to.”
 This kind of tolerance leads me to think that perhaps we should do what our Jewish friends have done for more than a century. They disagree with each mightily about points of theology and religious observance, but still manage to recognize each other’s Jewishness without getting too upset.
I warn you that the following is a huge simplification, but I will try to explain how they manage. Just take, for example, Orthodox Judaism. It has adherents called Hasidim, Haredi, Mishnagim and more. Among the Hasidim you have Sattmers and Lubavitchers. Among the Lubavitchers you have those who believe that the late Rebbe Menachem Schneerson is the Messiah and you have those who don’t. It is really more complicated, but the inaccurately convenient divisions of Judaism boil down to a major four: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and a new variation, Reconstructionist.   
Orthodox Judaism gets its start with the destruction of the temple in 70 AD and the destruction of the Jewish state in 132AD.  Rabbinic Phariseeism seems to have gathered steam in the exile in Babylon centuries before the birth of Jesus. In short, Rabbinic Phariseeism developed a way to be an Israelite without a temple. When the temple was destroyed, the other forms of Judaism, such as the Sadducee-ism and the Essenes lost their reason for existence. But Rabbinic Phariseeism was good to go. It became the normative form of Israelite religion. It rejected the messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth and insisted on the literal application of the 613 commandments found in the book of Moses and the rabbinic interpretations thereof that eventually comprised the Talmud.
This was Judaism for about 1400 years from at least 200 AD until 1837 when Rabbi Abraham Geiger invented Reform Judaism. He believed that Judaism should evolve and shed the anachronistic restrictions of orthodoxy, especially regarding dietary laws and “ghetto-ization.”  This new more adaptive approach to Judaism really took off in the New World. Some poor wandering Jew trekking across the frontiers of America had a hard time keeping kosher. Half the animals he encountered were unknown in the old country. Does a beaver chew the cud and divide the hoof, or what?  One could starve on the frontier while wondering whether a prairie dog could be eaten or not. Reform Judaism was a boon to the Jewish pioneer. If Rabbinic Phariseeism was “how to be and Israelite without a temple” then Reform Judaism was “how to be an Israelite without a Kosher Delicatessen.” 
The other two modern forms of Judaism are Conservative, (tradition, though not absolutely essential, should be respected. Perhaps Reform Judaism has gone too far.) It should be noted that “Conservative” here refers only to things Jewish. It has no political connotation. One can be a Conservative Jew and still vote liberal.  Finally, we have Reconstructionist Judaism (Reform Judaism enough. Belief in God should be optional.)
All these different kinds of Jews still manage to call each other Jewish and keep their squabbles to a reasonable minimum.  Perhaps this would work for us. We could have Orthodox Catholics who would divide themselves into those who want Mass only in Latin and those who want Mass in English, but still don’t approve of gay marriage. Then we could have Conservative Catholics who like the smells and bells and funny hats, but don’t want to miss the party when their cousin Bruce marries his boyfriend.  They could call themselves “conservative” and still vote for pro-abortion candidates.  Then we could have Reform Catholics who say “and also with you” instead of and “with your spirit.” They could have married lesbian women priests and giant puppet head Masses and sing all the new songs like “Sing a new church into being” and “Come dance in the forest and bump into trees” and all that groovy new music from the 1960’s. They could call God “mother” and dance around in diaphanous robes. 
We could put signs out in front of churches, like “St. Eudoxia’s Orthodox Catholic Church: No hand holding at the Our Father, please.
Or you have a church down the road with a sign in front of it: “St. Perfidia’s Conservative Catholic Church: a nice liturgy, but no excessive moral demands
How about, “Church of the Spirit, Reformed Catholic: Come on in and be surprised!  
We could even have a Reconstructionist Catholic church. You celebrate all the major holidays, like St Patrick’s Day and Halloween without actually believing anything at all. You could still dye your beer green and get misty eyed about Irish history, though you reject the faith on which that great culture was built. The sign outside could read, “Catholic Reconstructionist Church of the Assumption: We assume there is a god, but we’re not really sure. 
It would be truth in advertising. No one would be unnecessarily subjected to Latin chant or liturgical dance against their will. As Chairman Mao said “Let a thousand flowers bloom.” 
There are only a couple drawbacks to this eminently reasonable solution. Eventually the demographic factor will kick in.  Orthodox Jewish birthrates in just the last few years have soared according to Jewish sociologist Steven M. Cohen.  27% of Jews younger than 18 live in Orthodox households.  Orthodox Jews actually like having big families! Part of Orthodox Catholicism would have to be an acceptance of Humanae Vitae and its prohibition of artificial birth control, whereas conservative Catholicism would of course wink at artificial birth control. Reform and Reconstructionist Catholicism would have a special blessing for birth control devices.
Eventually, to be Catholic would be the same thing as to be Orthodox Catholic at least that’s what seems to be happening among our Jewish friends. In the long run it might not work, but it would get us through the next couple centuries with at least the appearance of unity.  I close with a thought from a great man, my bishop. “If you invent your own religion, eventually you will find that you are worshipping yourself.” 
“May You be with you.”  
“And also with you.”
Rev. Know-it-all

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Wars of Relilgious -- again

This is a Rev. Know-it-all re-run. The Rev. Know it all has had an exciting week. 

I was shocked to discover that most of the wars in the world today are religious wars. Religion is the source of everything bad. War, the Crusades, the Inquisition, overpopulation, persecution, prejudice; it’s all religious. I have no idea whether or not there is a God, but if religious people would just leave the rest of us alone, we would all be fine. 
Bella Koes

Dear Bella,  

Let us first define our terms. We read in James 1:27 that, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”   
The Greek term, (remember them, the Greeks, precise to the point of tediousness?) is “threskeia”, which means “worship, religion, especially expressed in (religious) cult, that is, ritual.”  Translating the text into Latin, the word is religio, whence comes our word religion. Religio meant holding scrupulously to the ceremonies due the gods. There is no clear agreement among scholars as to the origin of the word. It seems to come from “re” and “ligare” thus would have something to do with holding back, or tying down.Above that the word “religion” may actually mean to restrain or tie back. 
In the Church, we talk about the virtue of religion, which is a dimension of the virtue of justice. Justice is that virtue which gives to each his due. It is impossible to give God what He is owed, but our attempt to do so is called religion. In the common understanding religion is “...all that God stuff, do unto others etc.” It can be thus argued, that Christianity, and especially Catholic Christianity, is not itself a religion, but a faith and a fellowship that has a necessary religious component. (Boy is this boring. What is he talking about? ) Just this: you’re assuming that you know what religion is, and you don’t. “It’s all that God stuff, no?” 

 We need to define our terms. There are lots of religions. In the above mentioned passage, St. James says that some religion can be foolish. You are making the claim that religion is the source of human suffering. Which religions? Let’s look at the question of war and religion in tedious detail. The United Nations seems most interested in wars that involve a thousand or more fatalities a year, so we’ll start there. In this list are included  1) the Arab-Israeli Conflict with a grand total of 50,000 - 90,000 fatalities since its inception, then  2) the Somali Civil War, 300,000 - 400,000 fatalities, then  3) the Afghan Civil War 1,500,000–2,000,000 fatalities, a war into which we have recently jumped with both feet and a patriotic smile, though it was originally a Muslim vs. Communist war, then  4) the civil war in Darfur, Sudan, 450,000 (+/-) fatalities, then  5) the Iraq War, 500,000 - 1,500,000, then 6) the war in North-West Pakistan 13,900 dead and, finally, 7) the Mexican Drug War 10,000 fatalities or so.  

There are many other smaller-scale armed conflicts that are currently causing a smaller number of violent fatalities each year, but still worth an honorable mention.  8) The Colombian drug war 50,000 to 200,000 fatalities;  9) the Communist/ Islamic Insurgency in the Philippines about 120,000 dead; then 10) the Kashmiri Insurgency in India, perhaps 60,000 gone; then 11) the Niger Delta and 12) Baluchistan conflicts, (who knows how many dead?) and finally in India, the 13) Naxalite Maoist insurgency whatever that may be!
I have not mentioned the Northern Irish situation, because at the time it seems to be over, but the famous conflict between Protestants and Catholics was not what it seemed.  Many of the so-called Catholics were actually Maoist Communists. The conflict seems to be ending because the combatants are just getting too old to continue. You can only do so much damage from a wheel chair.
So, of the twelve wars listed above, 10 involve Muslims, 1 involves Communists, and two involve drug dealers, admittedly in Catholic countries, though I suspect the drug lords don’t attend church that often. In the above list there is not one Vatican-paid Swiss Guard mentioned. So those miseries cannot be directly pinned on the Pope.
I would venture that some religions, like Islam, make war a positive virtue. Remember that Mohammed was himself a general who mandated beheadings. Other religions seem to restrain the impulse to kill. Jesus and Buddha seem downright opposed to war, though their followers occasionally ignore them. Still, I would venture that Christian/Catholic religion performs the function of restraining what seems to be the favorite pastime of humanity: murder on the grand scale. Where Catholicism has been practiced, war, though not eliminated, has been held back. Have you ever heard of the Peace of God and the Truce of God?  
The Peace of God was the protection from military violence won by special groups in medieval society. These included the clergy and their possessions; the poor; women; peasants along with their tools, animals, mills, vineyards, and labor; and later pilgrims and merchants: in short, the vast majority of the medieval population who neither bore arms, nor were entitled to bear them. The Truce of God, while often confused and later merged with the Peace, protected certain times of the week and year from the violence of the feudal class: no private or public wars were to be waged from Wednesday evening until Monday morning, during certain Saints’ days, during Advent, Lent, and Rogation days, also Holy Week, Easter Week and the 12 Days of Christmas, with its partridges and pear trees. This peace, though often broken, extended from the 800's until the Reformation in the 1500's. The Pope could excommunicate violators and people actually worried about such censures for almost 700 years. 
The History Channel and Hollywood have convinced you of the myth of the scheming evil popes bent on world domination who were overthrown by the glorious Reformation and the still more wonderful Enlightenment. Look at the numbers. If conducted by the rules, medieval wars were not much more violent than modern English soccer matches. (I’m joking, but not by much.) Remember you could only kill other knights and the technology of killing had not yet benefitted from the Enlightenment of the 1700's and the wonderful scientific revolution which has made our lives so much richer and our war so much more deadly. Medieval wars just didn’t kill as many people as modern wars do.
War in Europe really came into its own when the papal domination of western Christianity was overthrown. That’s when the “wars of religion,” really got rolling, principally in France, Germany and England.  These probably killed 10,000,000 (ten million) over the course of a century, certainly an inspiring achievement, but nothing compared to the progress we’ve made as we gradually shake off Christianity altogether. Take away the pope, and ten million die. Let’s see what happens when we take away Christianity all together.  
There is an interesting little book about the death toll caused by Communism entitled The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression. The introduction, by editor Stephane Courtois, himself a former Maoist/Communist, asserts that “...Communist regimes... turned mass crime into a full-blown system of government.”   He cites a death toll which totals 94 million, give or take, not counting the “excess deaths” (decrease of the population due to lower than the expected birth rate). The breakdown of the number of deaths is as follows: 65 million in the Peoples Republic of China; 20 million in the Soviet Union; 2 million in Cambodia; 2 million in North Korea; 1.7 million in Africa;1.5 million in Afghanistan;1 million in the Communist states of  Eastern Europe; 1 million in Vietnam; 150,000 in Latin America; and 10,000 deaths “resulting from actions of the international communist movement and communist parties not in power." 
Courtois claims that Communists are responsible for a greater number of deaths than any other political ideal or movement, including Nazism. Let us remember that both Communism and Nazism are socialist systems that deny the claims of God on humanity. The state is supreme, not God. Communism has killed about 100,000,000 (One hundred million) for political reasons. We’re not talking war here, just political ideology. Nazism “only” killed 25,000,000 (twenty five million) for political reasons, 6 million of them being Jews. This does not include the 40,000,000 killed as a result of combat in the Second World War.
So, take away the pope, ten million dead. Take away God, two hundred million dead, counting war. There are a lot more wars and religions we could go into, but enough is enough. I think you get the picture. Still, it is worth mentioning a religion that incorporates war as a divine mandate, such as Islam. Communism has been responsible for the deaths of maybe 100 million people.  Bill Warner of the Center for the Study of Political Islam says, “Approximately 270 million nonbelievers died over the last 1,400 years for the glory of political Islam.” If he is correct, Hitler comes in third, a mere piker, a veritable camp fire girl. 
Wait a minute! You papists can’t get off that easy! What about the Crusades, the Inquisition and the conquest of the Americas? Aren’t I always warning you not to get your religion from the Discovery Channel? The Inquisition, though not something to be proud of, really didn’t give it everything they had. The Vatican has opened up meticulous records kept over the 400 years of the Inquisition’s heyday and in Spain and Portugal perhaps 2,000-3,000 were killed. 
How about the Crusades? In the course of two centuries perhaps one or two million died, and let us remember these were defensive wars. A very political religion burst out of the Arabian Peninsula with the express intention of taking over the world, a hope still warmly cherished by many Muslims. Christian lands were conquered and Christians killed. Remember that the Middle East was solidly Christian at the time. Around 1000 AD, Caliph Hakim of Cairo killed the entire Christian population of Jerusalem, burned every Christian shrine in the Holy Land, and hacked the tomb of Christ to pieces. Imagine what would happen today if a Christian tried to destroy the Ka’aba in Mecca! For us the Tomb of Christ is comparable to the Ka’aba, the central shrine of Islam.
Those assaults started the Crusades. If not for the Crusades, the slaughter of Christians would have continued unabated, until the followers of Jesus of Nazareth, the Prince of Peace, were either dead or converted to the banners of the armies of Islam. The crusades lasted 200 years. Jihad is with us today after 1300 years. There’s no comparison either in terms of violence or motive. Crusade and Jihad are not moral equivalents Take a look at Professor Bill Warner on Jihad vs Crusade on Youtube.  Interesting. 
As for the conquest of the Americas, true, there were atrocities on the part of gold-crazed conquistadors, but the rights of the native Americans were defended by the priests and friars who followed in the wake of the conquerors. Most of the dead were killed by microbes, and that encounter between the microbes of the old world and the people of the Americas was inevitable.  
So there you have it. Where Catholic Christianity has been practiced, the murderous human spirit has been restrained. Where secularism and warrior religions are practiced, the deaths are counted in the hundreds of millions. 
Once again, I would like to remind you, don’t believe everything you see on television.  

Rev. Know-It-All

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Is Rabbi Lefkowitz for real?

Dear Rev. Know-it-all, 
You talk about your friend, Rabbi Lefkowitz a lot. Does he really exist or is he just a fig newton of your imagination?
Harold “Hal” U. Sinayshun
Dear “Hal,”
There really is a Rabbi Lefkowitz. You couldn’t make him up no matter how hard you tried.  I met the rabbi years ago when I worked in a very tough part of town. He and his small congregation were trying to revive a synagogue just a couple blocks north of the church where I was pastor. Every Friday night the rabbi and his sons would walk past the church on their way to Friday evening services. I am very German-American (I did one of those gene tests. It turns out that I am completely German except for 3% Neanderthal and one three-hundredth East Asian. I am not making this up. However, I was raised in a home that though Catholic, was very aware about things Jewish because of my father’s work, so every Friday I would exchange a Shabbat shalom with the Rabbi to which he would respond “Gut shabbas, Father.” So began a friendship.  

The first time I was invited to the Rabbi’s home for Sabbath Eve dinner was the clincher. It was a Friday night in Lent.  Out came the gefiltefisch, a sort of aquatic spam. No problem. Out came the Noodle Kugele. No problem. Out came the turkey. Problem. 
I told the Rabbi’s wife, I can’t eat turkey. It’s Friday in Lent. 
She said, "But it’s shabbas!" 
I said, for you its shabbas. For me it’s Friday in Lent. 
She said surely the Lord would send you a nashoma (an extra spirit) to do the fasting for you so you could eat turkey on shabbas. 
I said, I don’t think the Lord is going to send a gentile an extra nashoma so he can eat turkey on a Friday in Lent. 
She shrugged and went in and got more noodle kugele. Al the while the rabbi sat smiling at the far end of the table to see if my Catholicism would be strong enough to resist that force of nature which is  the Jewish mother trying to feed someone. When I was able to resist the irresistible force, he decided I meant business, and sometime later he said that he liked me because I was orthodox. Not Jewish, but at least orthodox. 
The rabbi is ultra-orthodox, a Lubavitcher Hasid, and a friend and disciple of the late Rebbe Menachem Schneerson. Most people would think such a friendship a bit unlikely, but a true disciple of the late Rebbe would not. The longing for heaven, the hope of messiah and a sense of orthodoxy are matter enough for friendship. 
One day the rabbi and I were discussing the nature of orthodoxy and it occurred to us that not many people, even those who claim to be orthodox, understand the nature of orthodoxy. They mistake narrow mindedness, ideological rigidity and personal intolerance for orthodoxy. It occurred to us that orthodoxy, at least in the Judeo/Christian sense, is the belief that Heaven has spoken, thus the duty of the believer is to hear as clearly as possible and to obey as fully as possible. 
True orthodoxy rests on the humble admission, that we will never, in this world, understand heaven fully, because we are fallible creatures. We will not hear with perfect clarity, nor will we be able to obey completely. Still, orthodoxy is a lifelong desire to hear and obey. It involves untiring study and unceasing prayer. Though orthodoxy pursues the things of heaven, it never declares that the believer has completed the course. Orthodoxy is a life of constant learning and constant repentance. Orthodoxy is the most flexible and humble position one can take, because it admits the perfection righteousness only of God, and never arrogates perfection to the believer. 
Religious liberalism is quite the opposite. By its very nature liberalism must be content with self. We use the word “liberal” without understanding it. It derives from the Latin word “liber’” a free man. The liberal movement in Christianity started with Friedrich Schleiermacher around 1800. He was a German pastor and theologian who tried to reconcile the critique of the Enlightenment with Protestantism. In short, Protestantism depends on the principle of “sola scriptura,” or “bible alone.” When the thinkers of the Enlightenment pointed out the inconsistencies and textual problems of scripture, Protestantism was shaken to its core. Thinkers like Schleiermacher said even if you take the scriptures from me, you can’t take away my personal experience. 
Liberalism, in general, is a belief that the freedom of the individual is a paramount good and that the opinion of the individual is sufficient truth for that person.  In religious terms liberalism holds that the truth of scriptures matter much less than what scripture means to me. This fits nicely with a modern attitude toward truth. In our times, one might hear a person say, “That may be your truth, but it isn’t my truth.” For the liberal truth has no meaning beyond the experience of the person.  The truly orthodox person believes that absolute truth exists, though I might lay hold of it only imperfectly. The liberal believes that the truth does not exist independently and externally.  It is my truth and I can own it. This is only problematic when your truth gets in the way of my truth. 
The French Revolution was the great liberal upheaval in whose aftershock we all try to live. The great motto “Liberty, Fraternity, Equality” echoed over the battlefields of Europe. “Liberty, Fraternity, Equality” would do away with the tyrants of the old order. It would end the unjust rule of the aristocrats and throw off the shackles of religion. It would allow common men and women to work out their own destinies in freedom. It didn’t work out very well, no matter how good the slogan sounds. Liberty and equality are enemies. 
Children on the playground know this. If two children at play both have 20 marbles, they might seem equal at first, but if one child is just plain better at shooting marbles, he will have all the other child’s marbles by the time recess is over. If on the other hand, the rules say that when I win your marbles I must give them back so that we will both always have 20 each, I will soon be at the other end of the playground playing tag. 
If I am guaranteed equality, liberty must suffer. If I am guaranteed liberty, equality will be its first casualty. This is exactly what happened. The king lost his head to Robespierre who in turn lost his head to the committee of security, the successor government of which was edged out by Napoleon and Europe has been at war ever since. Napoleon was a worse autocrat than any Bourbon king had ever been. 
The revolution didn’t even work for an afternoon. The revolution in France marks it true beginning with the siege of the Bastille. The Bastille was an old fortress in the heart of Paris. Sure that the government was hoarding food, the Parisian mob decided to liberate the Bastille and its gunpowder stores on the morning of July 14, 1789. By 6PM the head of Bernard De Launy, the governor of the Bastille was firmly jammed on a pike, after the first beheading in what was to be a string of uncounted thousands.  He was killed without trial without reason because his truth and the truth of the mob collided.  So began the revolutionary upheaval that continues to this day. Modern liberalism believes that opinion, whether popular or individual, is as good as truth, because there is no truth beyond opinion.  Liberty and equality are enemies. Fraternity is the casualty of their struggle. The only successful patron of the brotherhood of man has been and always will be the objective truth of the fatherhood of God. Without that you have nothing but good intentions that leave the weak at the mercy of the strong.
The assertion of true orthodoxy is that we bow before the truth. The assertion of liberalism is that the truth must bow before the self, whether that self is an individual or the angry mob to which that self belongs.
Rev. Know-it-all

Friday, October 31, 2014

Can you explain papal infallibility?

Dear Rev. Know it all,
Can you explain papal inscrutability?
Betty Kencownzell 
Dear Betty,
I think you mean papal infallibility, and of course I can explain it. Have you forgotten to whom you are writing?
The Oxford dictionary defines “infallible” as incapable of making mistakes or being wrong. Papal infallibility means that the Pope is never wrong when he speaks a) in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, b) in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, and c) when he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.
When the pope, successor of St. Peter as Bishop of Rome, speaks “in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians”, he is said to speak “ex cathedra.” A “cathedra” was a straight backed chair, or throne. A cathedral is, thus, where the teaching chair of the bishop is kept. The “cathedra” in question is the teaching chair of St. Peter. There is an ancient chair kept at St. Peter’s in Rome, enshrined in the great bronze throne behind the main altar.  It was thought to be the chair from which St. Peter taught. It was probably a gift from Emperor Charles the Bald to Pope John VIII in 875. Still, it’s a nice thought.
The reason much ado is made about a chair, is that at least at the time of Christ, rabbis taught while sitting in a teaching chair. When Jesus went up the mountain with His disciples to deliver His famous sermon on the mount, He sat down to do it.  “Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and opening his mouth he taught them.” (Matt 5:1) If a rabbi had something important to say, he said it sitting down; hence he spoke “ex cathedra” or “from the chair.”
 There is a swell book, a real page-turner by, a German theologian, Heinrich Denzinger (1819-1893) called the Enchiridion Symbolorum et Definitionum. It contains the chief decrees and definitions of all church councils, along with the oldest forms of the Apostles' Creed and a list of condemned propositions. The first edition has just 128 documents. The latest editions have included the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and recent Popes, so if you want to know what some doctrine means, get what, in seminary, we fondly called “a Denzinger.”  Here is what Denzinger has to say about infallibility.
“What is claimed for the pope is infallibility merely, not impeccability or inspiration”  and that to  speak infallibly “The pontiff must teach in his public and official capacity as pastor and doctor of all Christians, not merely in his private capacity as a theologian, preacher or allocutionist, nor in his capacity as a temporal prince or as a mere ordinary of the Diocese of Rome. It must be clear that he speaks as spiritual head of the Church universal.” 
Denzinger has a lot more to say about infallibility, but why be tedious in a church bulletin? What people don’t understand about the teaching of papal infallibility taught by the first Vatican Council (1869-70) is that it limits the pope’s authority.
There have been some really wild and wacky things popes have said over the years. For instance, according to Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) “All princes should kiss the feet of the pope alone…” and “that it is lawful for him to depose emperors …” and in 1302 Pope Boniface VIII said in the papal bull Unam Sanctam, “Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff. And how about the unpleasantness with Galileo? Didn’t the church infallibly declare that the earth was the center of the solar system?  No, what Cardinal Bellarmine, a really nice guy, said was that “treating heliocentrism as a real phenomenon would be a very dangerous thing, irritating philosophers and theologians, and harming the Holy Faith by rendering Holy Scripture as false.”  The Cardinal was thinking about the wars of religion north of the Alps in which Protestants and Catholics were killing each other in the millions and he thought, “We don’t need that down here right now.”  The problem was that Galileo was directly saying that the Bible was wrong, and in so doing he was laying the groundwork for a social upheaval that was dangerous. If Galileo had said it differently, there wouldn’t have been a problem.
In fact Galileo was wrong. His theory didn’t fit the number. The planets don’t travel; around the sun in circles as he claimed — they travel in ellipses. Why get thousands killed over a theory that didn’t work mathematically. Galileo declared himself far more infallible than any pope. The Church is not capable of speaking infallibly about science. Neither are scientists and that was the point!  
As for the statements of Boniface and Gregory, they were political in nature, and thus couldn’t be called infallible. That is why there is not a lot of foot kissing going on in the Vatican these days.  (By the way “papal bull” refers to the Latin word “bulla” or “seal” in English by which the pope applies his personal seal to the letter to guarantee its authenticity. Don’t get any silly ideas.) So you see, the First Vatican Council reminded popes that they were not infallible when they spoke about politics, cosmology, ecology, and most other -ologies. They were infallible only when they spoke about faith and morals, and it has to be clear that they are doing so. Furthermore, the pope has infallibility, not impeccability or inspiration. Lack of impeccability means that he can sin and the lack of inspiration means that he cannot come up with new doctrine. He can only illuminate and declare what the Church has always held and believed. We Catholics are not Mormons.  We have no chief “Prophet, Seer, or Revelator, “as do the Mormons. The “Prophet, Seer, and Revelator” is the title of the supreme Mormon authority. A Mormon revelator “makes known, with the Lord’s help, something before unknown. It may be new or forgotten truth, or a new or forgotten application of known truth to man’s need.”
Before 1978, anyone with African ancestry could not be priest in the Mormon Church, and could not participate in most temple ordinances, including celestial marriage. That meant that they could not go to the highest heaven. But, Glory Be! In 1978, the prophet seer and revelator said that God had changed His mind and now blacks would be allowed into the highest heaven.  A pope could only dream about such infallibility. Our poor pontiff is stuck with what we have held and taught from the beginning, things like marriage being a relationship between a man and a woman since Jesus said that, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Matt. 19.5)
For Catholics, Scripture and Sacred Tradition are the only sources of revelation. The magisterium (teaching authority of the Church) is not a source of revelation. It can only bring forward and restate what we have believed from the first. The last words my boyhood pastor said to me were “Keep that faith handed down to us from the apostles Peter and Paul.”
 Lord knows I’m trying, Monsignor O’Brien, Lord knows I’m trying.

Rev. Know-it-all