Joseph McCabe (1867-1955) was one of the most prolific authors of all time. He was brought up as a Roman Catholic, worked on Latin documents, and made himself very well-informed about Christianity, but turned against it. But he was extremely naive about Jews; bear this in mind.

Click for Detailed notes on McCabe - scroll down for selections from A Rationalist Encyclopaedia (1948).

Here's the full A Rationalist Encyclopaedia (about 1.3 MBytes; Word format; includes notes on some of its limits)


J. McCabe, Rationalists Encyclopaedia

In view of the innumerable blunders of Popes since the second century, some imagine that the Catholic doctrine is that the Pope began to be infallible only when the Church officially declared this at the Vatican Council of 1870. It is, on the contrary, that all Popes from the legendary days of Peter (even John XII, Boniface IX, John XXIII, and Alexander VI) have been infallible. It is, however, useless to argue with Catholics about Papal blunders and heresies. Although the most powerful of the mediaeval Popes, Gregory VII and Innocent Ill, claimed to be infallible, the hierarchy stoutly resisted the claim century by century, and still, in 1870, there was formidable opposition among the bishops and theologians. The Pope's determination to have the measure carried was realized only by bribery and intimidation and after a long and very heated struggle. Prelates who were present told the present writer, twenty years later, that iced water was consumed in amazing quantities, and that episcopal opponents angrily asked "if the Pope pretended to have the Holy Ghost in his inkpot." The finest historical scholars of the Church, such as Hefele (who yielded and became a bishop) and Doellinger (who left the Church and never rejoined it), had long lists of errors of Popes drawn up, and the wording of the definition of the dogma was drafted by the Papal officials with these in view. The Pope was declared to be infallible only when he speaks ex cathedra: when he addresses a message on faith or morals in his official capacity to the universal Church. With much sophistry earlier Papal blunders are then excluded. It is more piquant that the dogma was claimed to be necessary in view of the state of the modern world, so that Catholics at least should have a safe guide; yet no Pope since 1870 has ventured to speak in his infallible character. The letters and encyclicals which the Popes of the last 100 years, who have blundered worse than ever, have issued may be disregarded and privately derided by any Catholic. It is still more amusing to hear Catholics, when they are forced to admit the crimes and vices of so many Popes, say complacently that they claim only infallibility, not impeccability, for the Popes. On that theory the "Holy Ghost" is indifferent to the character of the Pope elected - a notoriously immoral cardinal, Vannutelli, tried to succeed Leo XIII in 1903 and got a number of votes - and is concerned only about pronouncements which he never makes. See Dr. G. G. Coulton's Papal Infallibility (1922).


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Scanning, HTML Rae West. First upload 98-02-08