Disproving Papal Infalibility


Over the past months I have noted a significant number of times someone drags up an old Papal document which in their estimation contradicts the latest stuff from the Church. The attached question always seems to be, "Doesn’t this contradict the doctrine of Papal infallibility. Now I could understand non-Catholics posing such a question, but those who purport to be Catholic? Why are some folks intent on poking holes in this doctrine? What “axe are they grinding?”
:confused: :confused:


It’s hard, if not impossible, to “disprove” papal infallibility, since there’s no universal agreement on the number of papal infallible statements that have been made.


One thing I have noticed is that, in general, papal infallibility bothers people much, much more than Council infallibility or any other form of Magisterial infallibility. The concept of the pope really bugs some people.


Mike, I think that this is a Western Civilization, or more specifically a USA issue. Our culture seems to scream…“Don’t tell me what to do or think.” I think that cultures that have a monarch have much less of a problem with “a single man who has the authority to tell me what is right and what is wrong.”.

What do you think?


Does there have to be universal agreement on this? Surely the Church can speak for Her own documents? Or is that not allowed?



Well, we know that the Pope has spoken at least twice ex cathedra. Is there agreement on a particular number of ex cathedra statements?




One other aspect of this that is rather interesting: if one “disproves” papal infallibility, then one also is by extension disproving conciliar infallibility as well.

Since the dogma of papal infallibility is infallibly defined by Vatican One, infallibility in the Church either stands together or falls together.

Of course, the evidence is clear that it stands together!



It is always the same issue, which is the ultimate destination of non-Catholics. Boniface VIII was pretty clear that they were all going to Hell. Other Popes haven’t been so sure. Instead of saying that Boniface was wrong they have adopted the expedient of redefinign “membership” so broadly as to make it alomst impossible not to be a member.

I think we’ve got to admit that this does call Papal infallibility into question. However there has always been a contradiction over salvation, some sayings implying universal salvation, others that conditions are quite stringent.


What I find interesting is that Protestants in particular have little problem with Luther or Calvin claiming to speak with Christ’s mouth much of the time, but have a real issue with the Holy Spirit speaking through the Pope on occasion.

They also have no problem apparently with their pastor claiming the Holy Spirit moves him to give this or that sermon.

I don’t think they have a problem with the Pope so much as they do with the fact that they didn’t pick him.


Any time the Pope says definitively that some doctrine of faith or morals must be believed by the universal Church (dogma or credenda) or even simply "held "by the universal Church (tenenda) it is an infallbile papal teaching–this also includes definitive condemnations of errors. The bishop who was relator at Vatican I, obviously speaking in hyperbole, said there were thousands and thousands of such judgments. But the point remains, there are a lot.


Papal Infalliblity was defined when it was because the Liberals made definitive papal teaching into a human opinion that could be rejected. It’s not. It’s a confirmation of divine revelation.


Not only is this true, but the concept is such that it prevents the proclaiming of what is not true. It does not allow one to define as de fiede what is true. In other words, it prevents proclaiming something that is error. One must still educate and learn what is true, but the Holy Spirit prevents error from being taught as faith.



That doesn’t provide a list of ex cathedra statements.:slight_smile:


So, are you saying that the Pope is infallible even when merely proposing “tenenda” teachings? (Such as the infamous one from Boniface VIII?)


It would be nice if a Pope finally spoke ex cathedra about how many ex cathedra pronouncements have been made in total.

haha it could happen, right? Probably not. It wouldn’t be a matter of faith and morals, would it?


If it is under the class *“sententia definitive tenenda” *and the Pope states that the doctrine concerning faith or morals must be definitively held by the whole Church, than yes. (what infamous one do you refer, I am only familiar with Unam Sanctam and Claricis Laicos).


Unam Sanctam is the one I had in mind.

Should it be read literally, or figuratively?


Which part? Do you mean the last line? That’s a definitive confirmation of the dogma that one must be a member of the Church subject to the Roman Pontiff to be saved (since it is this Church that is the Body of Christ; the Roman Pontiff being the Vicar of Christ). It’s dogma, not just tenenda.

There is also affirmation of the oneness of the Church in there. It’s nothing definitive, just a re-statement of Church teaching. Finally, there is some stuff about the relationship between the Pope and certain states at the time. These have always been understood to be of a purely historical character describing the conditions at the time, not the essential natures of the two powers. Either way, these are not of a definitive nature either.


I don’t understand why Protestants have a problem with the Inffalibility concept when they in turn don’t want to admit they are part of the Catholic Church. If you think you’re a not part of it, then why does it bothers you so much?

You always watch out for every single word the Pope says… I guess we all do…that’s a sign that the Catholic Church is the one true holy, apostolic catholic church of Jesus Christ.

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