On the Pope
On the Pope (Du Pape) is an 1819 book written by Savoyard philosopher Joseph de Maistre, which many consider to be his literary masterpiece.
Sovereignty of papal power
The work is divided into four parts. In the first he argues that, in the Church, the Pope is sovereign, and that it is an essential characteristic of all sovereign power that its decisions should be subject to no appeal.
Role of papal infallibility
According to Maistre, the Pope is consequently infallible in his teaching, since it is by his teaching that he exercises his sovereignty. Maistre's argument in favor of papal infallibility stands out in the history of theology because he was among the earliest Catholic writers to openly discuss the doctrine, which was not dogmatically defined until the end of the 19th century.
Maistre mostly writes from the perspective of the ordinary magisterium having an infallible character, whereas the First Vatican Council defined a dogma on the infallibility of the extraordinary papal magisterium, in the limited circumstances when the Pope decides that it is time to define a dogma. Nevertheless, among modern theologians it is generally agreed that certain forms of the ordinary magisterium can at times be infallible, such as the bull Apostolicae curae or the encyclical Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, as John Paul II explained in Ad Tuendam Fidem.
Relations with temporal powers
In the remaining divisions the author examines the relations of the pope and the temporal powers, civilization and the welfare of nations, and the schismatic Churches. He argues that nations require protection against abuses of power by a sovereignty superior to all others, and that this sovereignty should be the papacy, the saviour and maker of European civilization.
Relations with schismatic Churches
As to the schismatic Churches, Maistre believed that they would fall into philosophic indifference as Catholicism was the only religion fully capable of being compatible with science.
- Joseph-Marie, Comte de Maistre". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
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