The Catholic Church says that Jesus promised to protect the Church from doctrinal and moral error.  One expression of that protection is how the Pope cannot err under certain circumstances.

Pope Honorius is used as proof of papal fallibility for he allegedly taught the Monothelite heresy in his letter to Sergius, who was Patriarch of Constantinople. This doctrine said that Jesus had just one will while Catholic doctrine said that Jesus had two, a human and a divine will. Sergius subscribed to the heresy.  The heresy is major for it undermines the deity of Jesus and his full humanity.  For Christians getting Jesus right matters more than love!  When you look into the matter carefully you will see there is more than allegedly teaching heresy here.  He did it.
Honorius wrote a letter to Sergius which still exists. A second letter exists but only in fragments (page 30, The Church in the Christian Roman Empire, Studies in Comparative Religion, Rev Phillip Hughes, Catholic Truth Society, London, 1964).
Catholics use one of these lies to cover up the fact that Honorius is proof that papal infallibility is one of Rome’s many untruths.
# Lie One, Honorius was orthodox but just wrote ambiguously. He was misunderstood (page 159, Pope Fiction).
They say Honorius wrote in such a way that it could have been understood in an orthodox or Monothelite way which gave rise to the accusation of heresy. Monothelites said that Jesus had one will. But a person believing he has two can say that he has one in the sense that the two wills are in union and are one. Pope Fiction says that Sergius was a Monothelite. It says that Honorius was ambiguous and condemned the idea that there are two operations or wills in Christ. But it fobs us off by saying that he meant to condemn the idea of two wills in Christ going against one another. Then why didn’t he write that? Why write that he condemned the two wills? He knew he could write two contrary wills and would have done that had he meant that. The pope condemned the idea of one operation or will in Christ as well but he agreed with it. The reason he condemned the one and two will ideas was because he was declaring the issue unimportant and something people could make up their minds about. This is heresy for the Church says it is important to have the right doctrine to safeguard the divinity and full humanity of Jesus Christ.
The pope knew that ambiguity in papal bulls had to be avoided at all costs. He meant what he wrote. He had advisors and the debate was so huge in his day that he had to know what he was doing.
Some would say that if Honorius was a heretic we cannot prove it and if he failed to condemn the heresy of Sergius that was a human error based on his misunderstanding and lack of proper information. They tell us that the doctrine of infallibility says that the pope is only infallible when he knows what he is doing unlike Honorius. But if you write a letter to a heretic in which you seem to agree with him and you with all the help you have at hand and you write more than one letter in which you do the same thing it is obvious the Catholics who say we cannot prove anything are lying. The letters were written to express the truth according to Honorius and when he didn’t do that he obviously agreed with Sergius.
Pope Fiction admits that Honorius forbade the doctrine that Jesus had two wills which is the accepted doctrine of the Christian faith but adds that he forbade the one will doctrine as well (page 161). So it confesses that he forbade the orthodox doctrine that Jesus had two wills. The pope was only saying then that it shouldn’t be discussed. So Pope Fiction says then that his sin was not in teaching heresy but in refusing to settle the dispute.
So if Pope Fiction is right, he made a dogma that either of the two doctrines was acceptable. This is a fact that the book refuses to face.
Honorius freely refused to condemn the one will doctrine though he could have. This tells us a lot. Though he refused to settle the dispute it is clear that he agreed that Jesus had only one will.

The problem with the view that the pope was just being unclear indicates that if he intended to inform the whole Church and be infallible then he was saying the matter was a mystery or uncertainty and that this mystery was a doctrine to be held by all the faithful.  A pope can surely infallibly proclaim a matter to be a mystery or uncertainty!  For example, Catholicism is riddled with mysteries.
# Lie Two, Honorius was only deliberating as a private theologian and did not mean to tie the Church to heresy.

Then where were the consultants?  Where did he say he was only his opinion?

Pope Fiction page 162 however admits that his letter was official. He was trying to answer a query for Sergius and his part of the Church which was a big part for the Constantinople Patriarch was a major leader in the Church. He was not teaching as a private theologian.
# Lie Three, Honorius didn't understand the dispute and thought it was not about how Jesus as God could have God's will and as man could have a separate human will but about what Jesus willed to do (page 30, The Church in the Christian Roman Empire, Studies in Comparative Religion, Rev Phillip Hughes, Catholic Truth Society, London, 1964). The pope said that when Jesus willed to do something the divine faculty of the will and the human faculty of the will agreed and so they were one will in the sense that they were the one intention. Thus he ended up being misunderstood and accused of saying Jesus didn't have a separate divine will faculty and a human will faculty but just had one faculty.
So the pope is said to have thought that the Lord Jesus had a divine will and a human will and the two wills were separate faculties but they were one will in the sense that they agreed together. The heretics were saying there was no separate human and divine will but only one will in Jesus as a faculty. All sides agreed that Jesus' divine side and human side were in agreement when he willed to do something.
There is no way the pope could have misunderstood such a simple point. His knowing that the heretics were not saying there was conflict of wills in Jesus when he did something proves that.

When Honorius was condemned as a heretic by the Church the condemnation never referred to his letters to Sergius as heresy or that he intended them to teach the Church. The Church makes out that this is important and shows there is no proof he really was a heretic. This is hair-splitting.

The outrage about the letters trying to teach the Church through Sergius a heresy was so big it did not need to be spelled out.  It is obvious that the condemnation of his heresy was about that.  The severity of the condemnation was remarkable and shows it was deemed necessary for Honorius abused his position to mislead the entire Church.

Until papal infallibility was imposed on the Church in 1870, nobody had a problem admitting that Honorius was a heretic who tried to lead the Church astray and led many out of the Catholic faith.  Now after the event, the Church tries to read a late doctrine, one that was not even thought of a few centuries ago, into the Honorius data.  Rationalisation.


From Why Scripture and the Facts of History Compel Me, a Former Roman Catholic, to Remain a Committed Evangelical Protestant
A Response to Frank Beckwith’s, Return to Rome William Webster.

There is one major historical incident that demonstrates that historically the early Church never held to the view that the bishops of Rome were infallible and that is the condemnation of Pope Honorius by the Sixth Ecumenical Council (III Constantinople) for heresy.

Pope Honorius reigned as bishop of Rome from 625 to 638 A.D. In a number of letters written to Sergius I, patriarch of Constantinople, and several other individuals, Honorius officially promoted the heresy of monotheletism, which teaches that Christ had only one will, the divine. The orthodox position was that Christ, though one person, possesses two wills because he is divine and human. There is absolutely no doubt that he held to the teaching of one will in Christ. As Jaroslav Pelikan has observed:

In the controversy between East and West...the case of Honorius served as proof to Photius that the popes not only lacked authority over church councils, but were fallible in matters of dogma; for Honorius had embraced the heresy of the Monotheletes. The proponents of that heresy likewise cited the case of Honorius, not in opposition to the authority of the pope but in support of their own doctrine, urging that all teachers of the true faith had confessed it, including Sergius, the bishop of New Rome, and Honorius, the bishop of Old Rome.

Honorius was personally condemned as a heretic by the Sixth Ecumenical Council. This was ratified by two succeeding Ecumenical Councils. He was also condemned by name by Pope Leo II, and by every pope up through the eleventh century who took the oath of papal office. In his classic and authoritative series on the history of the Councils, The Roman Catholic historian, Charkles Joseph Hefele, relates this irrefutable fact regarding Honorius and the Sixth Ecumenical Council:

It is in the highest degree startling, even scarcely credible, that an Ecumenical Council should punish with anathema a Pope as a heretic!...That, however, the sixth Ecumenical Synod actually condemned Honorius on account of heresy, is clear beyond all doubt when we consider the…collection of the sentences of the Synod against him.

The significance of these facts cannot be overstated. An Ecumenical Council, considered infallible by the Roman Catholic Church, and Pope Leo II, who is also considered infallible, condemned and anathematized an ‘infallible’ pope for heresy. Leo condemned Honorius as one ‘who did not illuminate the apostolic see by teaching the apostolic tradition but, by an act of treachery, strove to subvert its immaculate faith.’ This pope officially condemned his predecessor for actively subverting the faith by what he taught and this judgment was confirmed by two succeeding ecumenical Councils and by individual popes, who took the oath of papal office, for centuries afterward. These facts are confirmed by Hefele:
It is clear that Pope Leo II also anathematized Honorius...in a letter to the Emperor, confirming the decrees of the sixth Ecumenical Council...in his letter to the Spanish bishops...and in his letter to the Spanish King Ervig. Of the fact that Pope Honorius had been anathematized by the sixth Ecumenical Synod, mention is made by...the Trullan Synod, which was held only twelve years after...Like testimony is also given repeatedly by the seventh Ecumenical Synod; especially does it declare, in its principal document, the decree of the faith: ‘We declare at once two wills and energies according to the natures in Christ, just as the sixth Synod in Constantinople taught, condemning...Sergius, Honorius, Cyrus, etc.’ The like is asserted by the Synod or its members in several other places...To the same effect the eighth Ecumenical Synod expresses itself.    

In the Liber Diurnus, i.e. the Formulary of the Roman Chancery (from the fifth to the eleventh century), there is found the old formula for the papal oath...according to which every new Pope, on entering upon his office, had to swear that ‘he recognised the sixth Ecumenical Council, which smote with eternal anathema the originators of the heresy (Monotheletism), Sergius, Pyrrhus, etc., together with Honorius.’

In light of the historical evidence, the theory of papal infallibility as propounded by Vatican I is bankrupt. It is simply not true. Döllinger comments:
This one fact—that a Great Council, universally received afterwards without hesitation throughout the Church, and presided over by Papal legates, pronounced the dogmatic decision of a Pope heretical, and anathematized him by name as a heretic—is a proof, clear as the sun at noonday, that the notion of any peculiar enlightenment or inerrancy of the Popes was then utterly unknown to the whole Church

The above proves that the condemnation of Honorius met the basic criterion for ex cathedra statements. The Council condemned him in his official capacity as the bishop of Rome, not as a private theologian, for advancing heretical teachings which it said were Satanically inspired and would affect the entire Church. It specifically stated that Honorius advanced these teachings, approved them, and in a positive sense was responsible for disseminating them. It condemned him by name as a heretic, and anathematized him as such. We need to remember that an Ecumenical Council, according to official Roman teaching, is infallible. So an infallible Ecumenical Council has condemned as a heretic a bishop of Rome for teaching heresy. Clearly, these Eastern fathers did not view the bishops of Rome to be infallible.    

Orthodox historian, John Meyendorff, writes that Honorius did in fact teach the doctrine of monotheletism in a positive sense and helped confirm Sergius in the heresy. Meyendorff gives this summary:

This step into Monotheletism, which he was first to make, is the famous ‘fall of Honorius,’ for which the Sixth ecumenical council condemned him (681)—a condemnation which, until the early Middle Ages, would be repeated by all popes at their installation, since on such occasions they had to confess the faith of the ecumenical councils. It is understandable, therefore, that all the critics of the doctrine of papal infallibility in later centuries—Protestants, Orthodox and ‘anti–infallibilists’ at Vatican I in 1870—would refer to this case. Some Roman Catholic apologists try to show that the expressions used by Honorius could be understood in an orthodox way, and that there is no evidence that he deliberately wished to proclaim anything else than the traditional faith of the Church. They also point out—quite anachronistically—that the letter to Sergius was not a formal statement, issued by the pope ex cathedra, using his ‘charisma of infallibility,’ as if such a concept existed in the seventh century. Without denying the pope’s good intentions—which can be claimed in favor of any heresiarch of history—it is quite obvious that his confession of one will, at a crucial moment and as Sergius himself was somewhat backing out before the objections of Sophronius, not only condoned the mistakes of others, but actually coined a heretical formula—the beginning of a tragedy, from which the Church (including the orthodox successors of Honorius on the papal throne) would suffer greatly.

The condemnation by Pope Leo II is significant. By affirming the condemnation of Honorius as a heretic, he confirmed that Honorius had actively undermined the orthodox faith. W.J. Sparrow Simpson writes of Leo’s viewpoint:

Leo accepted the decisions of Constantinople. He has carefully examined the Acts of the Council and found them in harmony with the declarations of faith of his predecessor, Agatho, and of the Synod of the Lateran. He anathematized all the heretics, including his predecessor, Honorius, ‘who so far from aiding the Apostolic See with the doctrine of the Apostolic Tradition, attempted to subvert the faith by a profane betrayal.’

It is significant that the letter of Honorius to Sergius was used in the East by the proponents of the Monothelite heresy to justifiy their position. As Sparrow Simpson notes: ‘This letter of Honorius was utilised in the East to justify the Monothelite heresy—the existence of one will in Christ.’

Clearly, neither the popes nor the Church at large during the patristic age believed the doctrine of papal infallibility. No redefining of terms can erase the facts of history or the implications of those facts for the dogma of papal infallibility.

Historical reality does not support what I had been taught as a communicant Catholic. The facts reveal that popes have erred, have contradicted themselves and each other as well. They have embraced heresy, and have been condemned for heresy by 'infallible' ecumenical councils, as well as by the popes themselves, thereby demonstrating that the church in its practice, and even the bishops of Rome, did not believe that popes were infallible.



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