Calling the Pope "Holy Father" and "Papal Infallability"

I am still attending RCIA, and working on accepting church teachings.

My last two are these - any insight here is appreciated:

  1. Calling the Pope “Holy Father” seems wrong. I don’t think someone born a man should be called Holy. There have been some very un-holy Popes thru history.

  2. Papal infallability - I have read enough to understand it, and just can’t accept it. I have seen quotes from Popes of the past that did not support this. I just read some on another thread here. If I don’t accept Papal infallability - can one still be Catholic?

Thank you all!

Are you talking to your sponsor about these issues?

Paul wrote that he was Timothy’s father. That is OK, right?

However, the Priests and Bishops act in persona Christi - in the person of Christ. For example, in 2 Corinthians, Paul forgave sin in the person of Christ.

2 Corinthians 2:10
Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)
10 And to whom you have pardoned any thing, I also. For, what I have pardoned, if I have pardoned any thing, for your sakes have I done it in the person of Christ.

But, that’s Catholic. What do the Protestants say?

2 Corinthians 2:10
King James Version (KJV)
10 To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ

Same thing.

As to the term “father”, let’s look at the title that Isaiah gives to Christ, the coming Messiah:

Isaiah 9:6
Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government will be upon his shoulder,
and his name will be called
“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

It is entirely appropriate to call anyone acting in the person of Christ “Father”, as they stand in the place of the “Everlasting Father” from Isaiah’s prophecy. Paul knew the OT scriptures extremely well, and he was certainly aware of Isaiah’s prophecy.

Which quotes are you speaking of? I’ll bet that they were not ex cathedra pronouncements. Popes very rarely, if ever, speak using the charism of infallibility. None has in my lifetime, and I was born in the early 1950s. If this was a false doctrine, or man-made, wouldn’t it be used all the time?

Do you have a copy of Catholicism for Dummies? It will really help you.

  1. Yes, there have been some un-holy popes, and not all men deserve to be called “holy”. Nevertheless, many men deserve to be called “holy”, and the Bible agrees:

Tobias 12:1
Then Tobias called to him his son, and said to him: What can we give to this holy man, that is come with thee?

4 Kings 4:9
And she said to her husband: I perceive that this is a holy man of God, who often passeth by us.

Mark 6:20
For Herod feared John, knowing him to be a just and holy man: and kept him, and when he heard him, did many things: and he heard him willingly.

1 Thessalonians 5:27
I charge you by the Lord, that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren.

Hebrews 3:1
Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly vocation, consider the apostle and high priest of our confession…

Protestants will also bring up the subject of “call no man father” when denying the Pope the title of “Holy Father”. Well, the Bible refers to Abraham as “Father”. Even Jesus called him “Father”. The Blessed Virgin referred to Joseph as (Jesus’) “Father”. So there is no real prohibition on calling someone “father”. Jesus meant something specific by this “call no man Father”, although I profess that I don’t know what He meant by this. But it wasn’t a blatant “you can’t say ‘father’ or you’re going to hell!” Here are a few examples:

Judith 8:22
They must remember how our **father Abraham **was tempted, and being proved by many tribulations, was made the friend of God.

Josue 24:3
And I took your father Abraham from the borders of Mesopotamia: and brought him into the land of Chanaan: and I multiplied his seed,

Luke 16:24
And he cried, and said: Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, to cool my tongue: for I am tormented in this flame.

Luke 16:30
But he said: No, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will do penance.

John 8:53
Art thou greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? and the prophets are dead. Whom dost thou make thyself…

Acts of the Apostles 7:2
Who said: Ye men, brethren, and fathers, hear. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charan.

  1. Papal Infallibility: My imperfect understanding is this: when the Pope passes a doctrine, we are all bound to abide by this decree because the Pope said so. He has the Keys for binding and loosing. So there. This is not a democracy. The Pope is more of an absolute monarch. He hardly ever uses this authority, and it has been vastly overblown by Protestants. The plus side to Papal Infallibility- let’s say the Pope decrees something that offends God, something heretical. Because we are bound to believe, we are sort of off-the-hook if you will, as far as incurring God’s wrath. This protects us from bad Popes making bad decisions. But so far, I have never heard of a Pope making a truly bad decision for the whole church. The bad Popes were personally corrupt, and they will receive their just rewards for their corruption.

As far as still being Catholic even when one does not agree or understand Church teaching: If everyone who had some issue with some aspect of Church teaching was barred from being Catholic, the Church would be very small indeed. I dare say most people have some issue with some teachings. I think the best attitude should be: Lord, I’m trying to understand a difficult teaching, but I am willing to be led to understanding. I trust.

I believer Peter had the same difficulty with the teaching of the Eucharist when many followers left Jesus over the issue of eating His flesh. When Jesus asked his loyal 12 “Are you going to leave me also?” Peter replied, “Where will we go? You have the words to eternal life!” That sounds to me like Peter didn’t understand this “difficult teaching” any more than the rest of the followers that got up and left, but he trusted.

Excellent post, po18guy… :slight_smile:

Using an honorific for the present pope does not mean endorsing everything every past pope or every past Christian has done. If you prefer, don’t use the term ‘Holy Father’ if you ever meet the pope. He won’t care.

I doubt if you fully understand the teaching of infallibility. It is not the pope as an individual who is infallible, it is the Church’s teaching authority which is infallible, in certain instances. Christ would not allow His Church to fall into error on essential issues of faith and morals.

The word “holy” means “set apart for a sacred purpose, consecrated to the Lord”. Would you not say that the Pope meets this description?

I have little to add to the great relies above.
But I noted that you had said, “I don’t think someone born a man should be called Holy.”

However, St. Paul refers to the faithful as “saints” in a number of places in his letters.
The Greek used here is hagios which means “a most holy thing, a saint”…And Saint derives from the Latin “Sanctus” which likewise means “holy”.

So - If Paul refers to the faithful as holy - why should we think it inappropriate.


Care to share them with us?

Catholicism is a revealed religion. We accept what has been revealed, we don’t construct our own mish mash of doctrine. Catholics must accept all the Dogma’s and teachings of our religion. To join the Church, one must say, “I believe and profess all the Catholic Church teaches to be revealed by God.”

Since you asked, I’d just say to skip that part and worry about it later. As someone else replied, it happens so rarely that it’s doubtful you’ll ever truly have to be concerned with it during your lifetime.

Sometimes you just have to be willing to roll with it in faith that you will one day be enlightened.

Saint Augustine of Hippo said it very well:

Understanding is the reward given by faith. Do not try to understand in order to believe, but believe so that you may understand.

Markie Boy
You’ve made a couple of very good points :thumbsup:

Have you ever heard somebody refer to a judge as 'your honor?" That reflects respect for the title of ‘judge’. . .even if the judge himself personally is a man without honor (and we have had judges like that).

Same thing with 'Holy father".

The office of the Pope as Christ’s representative (not Christ) to head the Church in the line of succession with St. Peter is what is holy. . .given to us by God, proven from Scripture and Sacred Tradition --even if the person holding the office at times commits personal sin.

Of course, the real fun is the judges in Great Britain who are called “your worship” (I kid you not. Google it). I’m surprised some of our protestant friends aren’t screaming down the house about THAT one.

You could refer to the Pope by another of his titles - Servant of the Servants of God. This was the favorite title of Blessed John Paul the Great.

Markie Boy #1
Papal infallability - I have read enough to understand it, and just can’t accept it. I have seen quotes from Popes of the past that did not support this. I just read some on another thread here. If I don’t accept Papal infallability - can one still be Catholic?

You may have read but you obviously don’t understand it. No Pope has ever taught any erroneous doctrine to the whole Church, so face reality. You need to assent to this dogma on papal infallibility, otherwise you could be anathema = “Solemn condemnation, of biblical origin, used by the Church to declare that some position or teaching contradicts Catholic faith and doctrine.” [Fr John A Hardon, S.J.]

From Pastor Aeternus of Vatican I:
Chapter 4.
“On the infallible teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff

9. Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.

“So then, should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this definition of ours: let him be anathema.”

From Vatican I (Pastor Aeternus), for infallibility to be exercised the Pope must teach
(a) ex cathedra (from the Chair of Peter), that is as Shepherd and Teacher of all Christians,
(b) speaking with Peter’s apostolic authority to the whole Church,
© defining a doctrine of faith and morals.

So the Pope’s ‘ex cathedra’ definitions may be either of revealed dogma, to be believed with divine faith, or of other truths necessary for guarding and expounding revealed truth. Vatican Council II and the post-conciliar Magisterium have explicitly affirmed that both ecclesial and papal infallibility extend to the secondary doctrinal truths necessary for guarding and expounding revelation.

Instead of sniping and running, it would behoove you to read the responses, wouldn’t it?

We just cannot skip it, you most probably need it explained properly, you have to be honest to yourself and more important to God, you have to believe what the Catholic Religion teaches, if you become a Catholic and someone asks you about Papal infallibility you will pass on your thoughts and wrong opinions on it, ask a Catholic priest, or someone who knows the faith real well, a good book to read is “Catholicism for Dummies” the Church Fathers who also have written about authority of the Holy Father.

As a Convert myself I sometimes had to get things explained , we cannot know everything and we have to be humble enough to know we don’t know everything get someone to explain why we have a Pope and why we call him Holy Father, and about Papal infallibility.

There is no such thing as Ignorance is Bliss and its Folly to be Wise , as there is no such thing as “A La Carte Catholic” cherry picking in other words, imagine if you joined the Army and you said I am only joining if I can believe in what I am being told to do, on what Destroyer I am being sent to, and what commands I can choose for myself, not the Captain, why should he be called the Captain even though he is in charge of the whole Destroyer and all lives on board.
See how silly those sort of remarks are, it shows one does not understand the chain of command nor why the Captain is saluted and shown respect. Plus his word is Law and what he says “goes”.

Get advice on what you don’t understand which they say is the beginning of Wisdom.

Ok - I see in scripture it’s Ok to refer to someone as holy! Done and Thank you!

I just copied this from the other thread:

"** We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff. (Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302.) "**

I don’t think current church teaching supports this, based on talking to our local priest. So - does this mean Pope Boniface VIII was wrong?

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