Another papal infallability question


howdy all, I got a question thats been buggin me for some time now.

If I am wrong in any of these statements, please do not hesitate to correct me…
The Pope attains his infallability from the Holy Spirit correct? It is only through the Holy Spirit’s leading that he can be infallible in Church matters only. As many of you probably acknowledge, as humans we are given free will: that is we are able to make our own decisions regarding our actions and words. There is no doubt in my mind that the Holy Spirit can guide someone, but they can only be lead by their consent. If we have the choice to follow the spirit’s leading, then at the same time we have the ability to not follow the Spirit’s leading, or to stray. So, the Pope is only infallible when he is chosen to be lead by the spirit? If the pope has the ability to reject the spirit, as all men do, how can he be considered infallible? Would it not be a “human conditional” infallabilty?(not true infallability) Is the Pope’s free will negated when he is dealing in church matters? We as mere humans also cannot claim to know the hearts of other men, so then it would impossible for us to tell if the Pope being guided by the spirit, or if he is straying.

any imput would be greatly appreciated;-)


How would you answer your question regarding the writers of scripture? Surely they could have written errors of the faith down, but did they? And if not, why not?


well I will answer you question with another question… Did God force the new testament writers to write the Bible? could he? IF the writers had really wanted to (hypothetically) could they have written down error?


Well, did God the Father force Jesus to not sin each time He was tempted to by Satan? If Jesus had really wanted to, could He have sinned and thus abandoned and nullified His intended work of redemption?

Regardless of the whys and wherefores, the end result is Jesus IS sinless, Scripture IS inerrant, and the Papacy IS infallible in its ex-cathedra pronouncements.

It’s not like anyone forces the Holy Father to pronounce upon anything, any more than the Evangelists were forced to write the Gospels.


How can you compare Christ’s free will to that of mere mortal men?


God provides a superabundance of supernatural grace so that the faith is preserved–the wills of the men involved cooperate, but with grace (almost like our will will still be free in Heaven, but we will never sin).


No, God assured the Bible would be inerrant by keeping them from writing error, the same as He keeps the Pope from teaching Error in matters of Faith and morals when speaking ex-cathedra. I suppose if He had to He would have stopped them from writing or, in the case of the Pope, strike him mute or dead!


And how can you compare Christ’s promise of the Holy Spirit’s guidance of the Church on matters of faith and morals with the Pope’s free and mortal will in other matters?

Jesus was 100% mortal man, albeit he was 100% God as well. If He wasn’t mortal man then His death had no relevance to us mere mortals.

St Paul says he was like us in all things but sin - and we know that includes temptation to sin. So there’s nothing to indicate He had no capability of sinning, rather simply that He did not ACTUALLY sin.


I believe the point is that he could or they could but didn’t. We know that from the Church’s Historical teachings AND from the Holy Scriptures.

There are cases, which I can’t quote off hand, of Pope’s who actually preached or agreed to Heresy in order to get the power they needed to become Bishop of Rome. In each of those cases though they were not able to continue those heretical teachings once they took office and some died horrible deaths because of it.

Could Jesus have given into temptation? Yes, He “could” have but he was “Fully Human.” Like Adam and Eve before the fall He was in complete harmoney with the Will of the Father. He could have chosen to disregard that and thus “sin” or disobey God which would have brough him down to something less than Fully Human, it would have brought Him down to our level. Yet He didn’t and thus was able to redeem us all as the Perfect Sacrafice.

Were there writers that didn’t follow the lead of the Holy Spirit. I would dare say so, have you read any of the Gnostic Gospels? Remember that there were hundreds of documents floating around the early Church yet once all the Bishops were gathered, only 27 were found to be worthy or turly inspiried by the Holy Spirit. Could one of those writers have not followed as well, sure but they didn’t.



Thanks for the replies everyone.

Im still left with a couple questions. Is the Spirit able to make the Pope Infallible without his consent? how can he override a persons free will, if he doesn’t consent to be led?

I apologize to those of you who might be shaking your heads at my repetition.


No head shaking here… I was a protestant who completely misunderstood this for many years.

From my understanding now, and I can’t quote the CCC on this yet the answer would be yes and no.

When a person, who is already a Priest, then Bishop in Christ’s Church accepts the calling of Pope I believe that includes the understanding of submission, completely, to the Holy Spirit on matters of Faith.

Thus while the Pope “could” choose not too follow, as Pope he has submitted his will to the Holy Spirit and the Spirit, as promised in the Gospels, will not let him teach heresy.

Thus he, the Pope, has given up his free-will on these matters of his own free-will, if that makes any sense :slight_smile:



I’m sorry but it doesnt;-)

Your saying that you can give up your free will? You can give up your ability to choose sin above righteousness? How can submission negate your ability to choose?

I guess the easiest way to describe how I think it works is to use the Military. The armed forces has a hierchy of different ranks from the Highest general( The Trinity) to the foot soldier. When the general tells you to do something you had better do it, but again you have a choice. You can listen to the general in his guidance, or you can not listen to his orders. You are still submissive to the general by all means, but it doesn’t override your ability to choose.


My short answers would be, “Yes”, and, “No.” :slight_smile:

As I understand it, Papal Infallibility means that God will not allow the Pope to make an ex cathedra pronouncement which is incorrect. It does not mean that the Holy Father is automatically right about everything he believes, nor does it mean that everything he says is protected by the charism.

The Holy Spirit simply prevents the Pope from making a false ex cathedra statement.

Whether or not this causes a problem with free will depends on your understanding of free will. Does it mean that you must be able to do anything you decide to do, or does is just mean that you must be able to attempt to do anything you want?

I would say that it means the latter. If I choose to do something, say walk across my living room, and God prevents me from doing so by having my leg cramp up, He hasn’t taken away my free will. He has removed my ability to carry out what I want to do, but I am still free to choose to keep making the attempt. Ignatius alluded to this earlier when he wrote:

God hasn’t and doesn’t take away the Pope’s free will, but if the Pope chooses to make a false ex cathedra pronouncement God will remove the Pope’s ability to carry out what he has freely chosen to do.

Does that help any?


So you saying that the Pope isn’t infallible, its just that God wouldnt let him make a statement against what is true?


One Pope (Honorius I) chose not to make an infallible pronouncement condemning the Monothelite heresy (he thought unity of the Church was more important than keeping the Church’s teaching orthodox). While he did not make a fallible statement his refusing to condemn the heresy led to him being anathematized.


In essence, yes, althought I would not use the phrase, “the Pope isn’t infallible” since it could very easily be taken to mean I rejected the doctrine. The Pope is not infallible in everything he thinks, says, or does. The charism of infallibility means that the Holy Spirit assures that certain teachings of the Pope are infallible. This is the actual definition from the First Vatican Council:

“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.”


I understand that the pope is not infallible in all things, but he is supposedly in church matters. IP scott was talking about ex cathedra which is church matters is it not?


The pope gets his infallibility from the Church.

Conditions that must be met for a papal statement to be infallible

*]Must teach or in some way clarify
*]Can’t contradict previous teachings
*]Must involve faith and morals
*]To be held by all
*]Statement made of his own free will
*]He must invoke the full authority of his office[/LIST]


No problem. You are looking at infallibility all wrong. It is a charism by which neither the writers of Holy Scripture nor the Majesterium will be able to mislead the Faithful. God assured the Bible would be inerrant by keeping the writers from error, the same as He keeps the Teaching Authority of the Church from teaching Error in matters of Faith and morals. I suppose if He had to He would have stopped them from writing or, in the case of the Pope, strike him mute or dead!
Free will only has to do with an individuals own culpability, God will not allow His Church to be led astray.


When God chooses to work through his vessels, like us, free will becomes a part of it. Like Noah, it was God’s will that he should go to assyria(?) (I’m a little rusty) but he choose not to obey and went to Ninevia. i don’t see how it is possible to say that the God the Father can coerce, or otherwise force anyone to do his will.

You know if this wasn’t a christian forum, I think by now, a few people would have been a little less than cordial with me.:wink:

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