The Conclave

by Dudley Ross Spears

The death of the man called “John Paul II” has put the Roman Catholic Church in the position of electing a new “visible head” of their church. The late Karol Wojyhla was elected to be the 264th “visible head” of all Catholics around the world. He was elected by the “College of Cardinals” who met in “Conclave” to elect him.

The world can expect to flooded by the news media about this far reaching event. Over 6,000 reporters were crammed into Vatican Square awaiting the death of Karol Wojyhla. The intense interest as to the one to succeed him will not abate. It could last a very long time. One such election lasted nearly three years. (More later on that).

Karol Wojyhla was at the time of his election. October 1978, a fallible man with high standing in the world of Catholicism. Once selected by the Cardinals in Conclave, something changed in him. Part of him became infallible. This is a dogma of Catholicism and has been since 1870. The dogma is that when their “visible head” speaks on morals and matters of faith he is “infallible.”

James Cardinal Gibbon’s book, “Faith of the Fathers,” has been in circulation for many years and is an authoritative work that defines Catholic views, especially with regard to the “Infallibility of the Pope.” Gibbon tells us the “Pope” is not “impeccable,” but with regard to moral and matters of faith (for Catholicism) he speaks infallibly. (Faith of Our Fathers, page 99).

It is strange that 115 fallible men have the power to select another fallible man who suddenly becomes even partly infallible. The official Catholic dogma of Papal Infallibility affirms that when their “visible head” of their church speaks on matters or faith or morals, he is no longer the fallible man he was.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia the following is lifted:

“We teach and define that it is a dogma Divinely revealed that the Roman pontiff when he speaks ex cathedra, that is when in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, by the Divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals, and that therefore such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves and not from the consent of the Church irreformable.” (Vatican Council, Sess. IV, Const. de Ecclesi‚ Christi, c. iv,)

The same source defines infallibility as:

In general, exemption or immunity from liability to error or failure; in particular in theological usage, the supernatural prerogative by which the Church of Christ is, by a special Divine assistance, preserved from liability to error in her definitive dogmatic teaching regarding matters of faith and morals.”

The same source explains a bit further:

“In the Vatican definition infallibility (whether of the Church at large or of the pope) is affirmed only in regard to doctrines of faith or morals; but within the province of faith and morals its scope is not limited to doctrines that have been formally revealed. This, however, is clearly understood to be what theologians call the direct and primary object of infallible authority: it was for the maintenance and interpretation and legitimate development of Christ’s teaching that the Church was endowed with this charisma.” (Ibid.)

This is summarized by a Catholic apologist,

“No other institution on earth has had 264 consecutive leaders over two thousand years proclaim with absolute fidelity the teachings of its founder. When a man sits in the Chair of Peter the Holy Spirit makes him Vicarius Christi (Latin: Vicar of Christ), just as he makes ordinary bread and wine into Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The man’s outer appearance is unchanged, but his substance, his teaching of true faith and morals, is completely transformed.”

The longevity of Catholicism is a factor flaunted before the world as evidence of her legitimate claim to be† “The One True Church.” This, however, proves nothing to those with respect for the divinely inspired word of God, the Bible. Catholicism is the end result of an apostasy clearly prophesied in Scripture.

The Roman Catholic Council named “Vatican I” was the first time papal infallibility was recognized in the Catholic religion. Several of the Bishops took stringent issue against adopting such as a Church dogma. The end result, however, was that it was made an official doctrine of Catholicism with severe penalty for those who deny it. The following resolution is part of the Council’s determination.

“If anyone says that blessed Peter the apostle was not appointed by Christ the lord as prince of all the apostles and visible head of the whole church militant; or that it was a primacy of honour only and not one of true and proper jurisdiction that he directly and immediately received from our lord Jesus Christ himself:let him be anathema.”

These words are reminiscent of Paul’s words about Christ. “If any man loveth not the Lord, let him be anathema. Maranatha” (I Corinthians 16:22). The apostle Paul, who said he was not a whit behind the “chiefest apostle” (II Corinthians 11:5) would have a stronger claim to be “prince of all the apostles,” than Peter (who never claimed it for himself).

But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema” (Galatians 1:8).

Neither Paul, nor Peter, nor any apostle ever made such a claim. There is no scriptural evidence even slightly indicating any rank among the Lord’s chosen messengers. To the contrary, the Lord practically forbad such. To his apostolic band, Jesus said, “Ye know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Not so shall it be among you: but whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister and whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 20:25-27).

Catholic apologists may reply that their “Pope” is a humble servant, but that doesn’t obviate their pretentious claim that he is the “Vicar of God,” and stands directly in the alleged succession of Peter whom they think was elevated by Jesus above all the others.

The whole conclave concept is far from being anything approaching divinely revealed truth.

It is all based on presumptions:
  • That Jesus made Peter head over the apostolate.
  • That Jesus intended Peter to be succeeded in his “primacy.”
  • That the alleged successor to Peter should be elected by fallible men.
  • That Jesus intended for there to be a “visible head” of his church.
  • That those who allegedly “succeeded” Peter were to be endowed with infallibility in some things.
  • It has no scriptural basis.

It is interesting that the concept of Peter’s primacy was in the minds of several Catholic theologians, it was only in 1439 at the Council of Florence that it was affirmed. Much debate followed by many high officials of Catholicism against the idea. It was not till 1870 at the First Vatican Council that it was defined as a doctrine of faith. It was confirmed in 1964 by the Second Vatican Council.

It is also interesting that the “conclave” of Catholic Cardinals always meets in secret and locked up. In 1271 the head of Catholicism was dead and there was no “visible head” of the Catholic Church. The headship of Catholicism was vacant for two years and nine months. Local officials, tiring of the lengthy process, locked the Cardinals of the Catholic Church in a room, forcing them to select a new pope. From this unpromising procedure came the current practice of the “Conclave.” It is extremely secretive. There are a number of rituals and politics designed engrained into this centuries old tradition in which a new “visible head” of the Catholic Church is selected to rule over the Catholic world.†