Interestingly, I learnt recently that one of the documents which was intended to be approved of by the second Vatican council, Constitutio De fontibius revelationis, was considered too conservative or ‘integralistic’ for the taste of the council fathers. It was rejected in the end, in preference for Dei Verbum, which, although it still clearly articulated the integralist position, seemed to put less of an emphasis on some things already previously and otherwise solemnly defined. In particular, it is interesting that in the process the phrase ‘inerrantia absoluta,’ which apparently appeared in the Constitutio De fontibius revelationis was dropped entirely from the council’s language, since it did not appear in Dei Verbum. This was probably not intentional, but it is nevertheless interesting. As far as I can tell, the term inerrantia absoluta does not appear in any encyclical or solemn definition of Catholic faith, though obviously that which it signifies is already defined in various places, such as in Leo XIII’s Providentissimus Deus, and again since then it has been echoed in various encyclicals, such as Humani Generis. At best the term appears in the Acta Apostolica Sedis (which is basically the Vatican’s newspaper) in the edition published January 10th, 1915, where it reads in Latin:
Utrum prae oculis habitis genuina muneris apostolici notione et indubia sancti Pauli fidelitate erga doctrinam Magistri; dogmate item catholico de inspiratione et inerrantia sacrarum Scripturarum.
It is simply interesting to me that the term ‘inerrantia’ has managed, somehow, to escape articulation by the Catholic Magisterium. I suppose some progressivists (as opposed to integralists) may see that as the hand of God in the council, but I think a more mundane explanation is in order – either it is merely coincidental that the term has not appeared in the Church’s language yet, or perhaps it reflects the Church’s sensitivity to the progressivist climate in the Church, or else finally perhaps the Church has consciously avoided language which is closely associated with Protestantism (and Fundamentalism at that). Personally I think it is mere coincidence, but interesting coincidence just the same.
On a related note, for those interested in such matters, I recently read a great article from an evangelical, J.P. Moreland, who has argued that believing in inerrancy is not irrational. One can find that here.