Does authority always equal infallibility?


For the moment, I will accept the following premises: Petrine primacy. Apostolic succession. A single, unified, authoritative church, led by the Bishop of Rome as Peter’s successor.

What I’ve read makes a pretty good case for the passing on of authority. But what about the passing on of infallibility?

A frequent argument that I’ve read seems to boil down to this: The church is always right (on doctrine) because she has to always be right, otherwise she wouldn’t be the pillar and foundation of the truth. Well…maybe. I’m still thinking that one through. But can’t the church be the foundation of the truth, and still get some “little” stuff wrong. Can’t it still be the pillar of truth, even though the pillar has a few scratches on it?

Very important question (to me): Are there other arguments for the infallibility of the church? An important concept for me that ties church authority to infallibility is this key question:

Did any of the Early Church Fathers teach that the church taught infallibly? Are there any ECF references specifically to the church’s (or the pope’s) infallible teaching, as opposed to the scripture’s infallible teaching?


A great deal of information on the topic here:


St. Irenaeus (Bishop of Lyons from 180-200ad), considered to be the greatest theologian of the immediate post-apostolic period. He was taught by St. Polycarp who was himself a disciple of St. John the Apostle. St. Irenaeus wrote Against Heresies, and made the following statement about the Church in Rome:

“But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a small volume as this the successions of all the Churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindess and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishiops of the greatest and most ancient Church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, that church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the Apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all the Churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world; and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained apostolic tradition”

He then goes on to name all the popes succeeding Peter up to his own time.

It may also be helpful to note that in about 80ad the Church at Corinth deposed its lawful leaders. The fourth bishop of Rome, Pope Clement I, was called to settle the matter even though St. John the Apostle was still alive and much closer to Corinth than was Rome.

I hope this helps some. I recommend the series Faith of the Early Fathers by Jurgens, its a 3 volume set.


Alissa, I think you are setting up an opposition that is not there. The Catholic Church recognises scripture to be without error, the question is the interpretation of scripture.Satan quoted scripture to Jesus and totally twisted its meaning. So the magestarium and scripture are not opposed, but work hand in hand to guard against heresy.God Bless


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