Are the Church Fathers, Popes, and Saints ALWAYS Infallible?

Hello, friends.

A dear friend of mine is well on his way to the Orthodox Church. As I attempted to dialogue with him, he told me that many Church Fathers, bishops, saints, and even a pope, opposed the doctrine of Papal Infallibility. He also cited St. Augustine, claiming that this great saint probably opposed this doctrine as well.

Personally, I have a hunch that all those holy people, while still holy and venerable, were simply mistaken if they did position themselves against this doctrine. As humans, we are all vulnerable to error, after all.

It seems to me that to the Orthodox, every single word ever written by a Church Father or an important saint or a patriarch or an early-Church bishop absolutely MUST be true. (Especially if it backs up their claim that the Catholic Church is illegitimate.) I’m inclined to think that this is not the case; holy humans are still humans, and can still hold incorrect views of dogma, regardless of the goodness of their intentions. And I think that to elevate these holy people’s writings to Word-of-God level is a kind of fundamentalism that we should avoid falling into.

My question to you is… am I correct in reaching these conclusions? What do you think?

Church Fathers and Saints are not infallible. They are considered Church Fathers because of their great intellectual contributions to the faith and Saints are declared as such because they led extraordinarily holy lives. However, neither of those things make them infallible. Church Fathers and Saints could have erred on some matters, especially ones that were not yet fully defined.

To claim that St. Augustine opposed Papal Infallibility would be a bit of a stretch since the issue was not really debated in his era. In fact, the matter wasn’t really debated nor did many seek to define it until after the first millennium.

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