Does Papal bull = Ex Cathedra?




The papal bull is the medium, not the message. They were issued for all kinds of things in the Middle Ages.


how do you sort through what has been declaired Ex Cathedra?



Well, according to this statement. There is only two definate instance of ex-cathedra statements. And its only ex-cathedra after it has been reviewed by the magesterium? How effective is this doctrine then? Also how does Onetruecatholic (whatever the name actually is) say that that Papal bulls indicate that there is only salvation in the church despite everything else?

It is incorrect to hold that doctrine teaches that the Pope is infallible in everything he says. In reality, the invocation of papal infallibility is extremely rare.

Catholic theologians agree that both Pope Pius IX’s 1854 definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, and Pope Pius XII’s 1950 definition of the dogma of the Assumption of Mary are instances of papal infallibility, a fact which has been confirmed by the Church’s magisterium [1]. However, theologians disagree about what other documents qualify.

Regarding historical papal documents, Catholic theologian and church historian Klaus Schatz made a thorough study, published in 1985, that identified the following list of ex cathedra documents (see Creative Fidelity: Weighing and Interpreting Documents of the Magisterium, by Francis A. Sullivan, chapter 6):

“Tome to Flavian”, Pope Leo I, 449, on the two natures in Christ, received by the Council of Chalcedon;
Letter of Pope Agatho, 680, on the two wills of Christ, received by the Third Council of Constantinople;
Benedictus Deus, Pope Benedict XII, 1336, on the beatific vision of the just prior to final judgment;
Cum occasione, Pope Innocent X, 1653, condemning five propositions of Jansen as heretical;
Auctorem fidei, Pope Pius VI, 1794, condemning seven Jansenist propositions of the Synod of Pistoia as heretical;
Ineffabilis Deus, Pope Pius IX, 1854, defining the immaculate conception; and
Munificentissimus Deus, Pope Pius XII, 1950, defining the assumption of Mary.

I don’t see that mentioned in this list.


I’m not sure what you’re asking me since I am not Catholic. I still question the Pope’s ability to make such statements without convening an ecumenical council, which has not happened for awhile.


I’m hoping that you know more than I do. I don’t think he can either. But what do I know?


In answer to the OP, a papal bull is not automatically ex cathedra. From wiki:

*According to the teaching of the First Vatican Council and Catholic tradition, the conditions required for ex cathedra teaching are as follows:

  1. “the Roman Pontiff”
  2. “speaks ex cathedra” (“that is, when in the discharge of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, and by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority….”)
  3. “he defines”
  4. “that a doctrine concerning faith or morals”
  5. “must be held by the whole Church” (Pastor Aeternus, chap. 4) *

That is the hard and short of it. As you noted, only two papal bulls are actually considered to contain infallible statements. So to answer you question, the Pope can and does have a singular ability to speak infallibly; but nearly every infallible pronouncement since 1870 has come from conciliar documents. I find it amusing that Lord Acton’s quote about absolute power corrupting absolutely was refering to papal infallibility, probably the least used power in recent history.

There is an unfortunate historical footnote to Vatican 1. The draft documents for Vatican 1 contained 15 chapters, only 4 (including the papal infallibility section) were formalized and published before the Piedmontese army took over the Vatican and the council had to be ended. The original draft was similar to Lumen Gentium from Vatican 2 in that papal infallibility should be understood as only part of the teaching authority of the whole Magesterium and not as an isolated power. Hope this quick note helps. May God be with you today.


**Please read:

The Only Begotten by Michael Malone
The Loyolas and the Cabots by Sister Catherine M.I.C.M.
The Four Marks of Christ’s Church by Catholic viewpoint
The Catholic Dogma by Fr. Michael Mueller
Father Feeney and the Truth About Salvation by Fr. Feeney
Extra Ecclesian Nulla: The Foundational Dogma by Mr. Brian Kelley.

The Early Church Fathers, as well as the popes taught what Jesus had taught to his Apostles, and that was there is no salvation outside the Catholic church. Why is that so hard to understand when Christ himself implicated this??**



Please read the original post.


In the days of the ECF the only Christian Churches were Catholic. The point is not taken. Today we have the Orthodox, Copts, Catholic, Protestants. All have the same dogmatic view of the symbol of faith (save mention of the “one Catholic and apostolic church” its not believed or its defined differently but the rest of the symbol of faith is believed not like the gnostics.) Totally different enviornment. since Sacred Scripture is one aspect of the Magesterium there is belief in Jesus and Vatican II is taken as valid. But the point of this thread was to help me understand how ex-cathedra is determined and communicated and note just because a Pope says something its not taken as ex-cathedra. Bulls which we get our word Bulletin is just that a Bulletin not necissarily a ex-cathedra statement.


The Bull may or may not contain an ex cathedra statement. In order for something to be considered ex cathedra, the language will show it. The most common form that this language will take would be something along the lines of “It has been the consistant teaching of the Church that…” or so. In other words, the statement in question will be clear that it is the part being defined.

Now, previous bulls may be cited in an ex cathedra statement, to show the historical teaching or context. That does not grant ex cathedra status to them.

These statements are clear when they are written. The reason that you cannot get a good count on how many there have been is because there is still a little discussion about what is and is not truely ex cathedra. Most theologins hold that canonization of saints IS and ex cathedra statement, even though the form is not the same. Likewise, some are willing to retrofit the dogma to count writtings that seem to contain these types of statements, while others are not.

A good example of an ex cathedra statement would be the statement by Pope JPII about women being ordained. One would have thought that it was a non-issue, but he still stated that it was not possible and why.


Not to put words in your mouth, but I’m wondering if you meant to say "Many theologians … "?


I guess the question has been fairly well covered already, but I would like to add one little comment.

As others have said, some Bulls contain ex cathedra statements. Usually, the ex cathedra statement is just one single sentence of the Bull – for example, the Bull Ineffabilis Deus (December 8, 1854) contains more than 100 sentences, but only one of them is an ex cathedra statement:

Accordingly, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for the honor of the Holy and undivided Trinity, for the glory and adornment of the Virgin Mother of God, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith, and for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own:
We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.


This sentence in aforementioned wikipedia section caught my attention:

For modern-day Church documents, there is no need for speculation as to which are officially ex cathedra , because the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith can be consulted directly on this question.

This, to me, is a clear violation of the principle of “Separation of Church and Wiki”. (Actually I just made that up, but you get the idea. The statement is “preaching” rather than reporting facts. Not that there’s anything wrong with preaching.) I would suggest changing the words “there is no need for speculation” …

For modern-day Church documents, Catholics generally do not engage in speculation as to which are officially ex cathedra , because the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith can be consulted directly on this question.


So what is the “proper” formula to define Ex-Cathedra statements as they are made. Mention of the Trinity, the Apostles, the Pope, defines in uncertain terms a doctrine? or is there another aspect to it?


I actually changed it several times before I posted it. I went from some, to many, to most, to many, to most again. Recently, doing some research, it seems like there are more that think it is than it is not.

The more accurate way would be “There are theologins” and leave it at that.


Questions like whether such-and-such formula is a necessary or sufficient condition to have an ex cathedra statement, are matters of opinion.

Personally, I like this passage from the Orthodox Bishop Kallistos Ware, on the question of Ecumenical Councils:


But councils of bishops can err and be deceived. How then can one be certain that a particular gathering is truly an Ecumenical Council and therefore that its decrees are infallible? Many councils have considered themselves ecumenical and have claimed to speak in the name of the whole Church, and yet the Church has rejected them as heretical: Ephesus in 449, for example, or the Iconoclast Council of Hieria in 754, or Florence in 1438-9. Yet these councils seem in no way different in outward appearance from the Ecumenical Councils. What, then, is the criterion for determining whether a council is ecumenical?

This is a more difficult question to answer than might at first appear, and though it has been much discussed by Orthodox during the past hundred years, it cannot be said that the solutions suggested are entirely satisfactory. All Orthodox know which are the seven Councils that their Church accepts as ecumenical, but precisely what it is that makes a council ecumenical is not so clear. There are, so it must be admitted, certain points in the Orthodox theology of Councils which remain obscure and which call for further thinking on the part of theologians. With this caution in mind, let us briefly consider the present trend of Orthodox thought on this subject.

To the question how one can know whether a council is ecumenical, Khomiakov and his school gave an answer which at first sight appears clear and straightforward: a council cannot be considered ecumenical unless its decrees are accepted by the whole Church. Florence, Hieria, and the rest, while ecumenical in outward appearance, are not truly so, precisely because they failed to secure this acceptance by the Church at large. (One might object: What about Chalcedon? It was rejected by Syria and Egypt — can we say, then, that it was ‘accepted by the Church at large’?) The bishops, so Khomiakov argued, because they are the teachers of the faith, define and proclaim the truth in council; but these definitions must then be acclaimed by the whole people of God, including the laity, because it is the whole people of God that constitutes the guardian of Tradition. This emphasis on the need for councils to be received by the Church at large has been viewed with suspicion by some Orthodox theologians, both Greek and Russian, who fear that Khomiakov and his followers have endangered the prerogatives of the episcopate and ‘democratized’ the idea of the Church. But in a qualified and carefully guarded form, Khomiakov’s view is now fairly widely accepted in contemporary Orthodox thought.

This act of acceptance, this reception of councils by the Church as a whole, must not be understood in a juridical sense: ‘It does not mean that the decisions of the councils should be confirmed by a general plebiscite and that without such a plebiscite they have no force. There is no such plebiscite. But from historical experience it clearly appears that the voice of a given council has truly been the voice of the Church or that it has not: that is all’ (S. Bulgakov, The Orthodox Church , p. 89).

At a true Ecumenical Council the bishops recognize what the truth is and proclaim it; this proclamation is then verified by the assent of the whole Christian people, an assent which is not, a rule, expressed formally and explicitly, but lived .

It is not merely the numbers or the distribution of its members which determines the ecumenicity of a council: ‘An ‘Ecumenical’ Council is such, not because accredited representatives of all the Autocephalous Churches have taken part in it, but because it has borne witness to the faith of the Ecumenical Church’ (Metropolitan Seraphim, L’Église orthodoxe , p. 51).

The ecumenicity of a council cannot be decided by outward criteria alone: ‘Truth can have no external criterion, for it is manifest of itself and made inwardly plain’ (V. Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church , p. 188). The infallibility of the Church must not be ‘exteriorized,’ nor understood in too ‘material’ a sense: ‘It is not the ‘ecumenicity’ but the truth of the councils which makes their decisions obligatory for us. We touch here upon the fundamental mystery of the Orthodox doctrine of the Church: the Church is the miracle of the presence of God among men, beyond all formal ‘criteria,’ all formal ‘infallibility.’ It is not enough to summon an ‘Ecumenical Council’ … it is also necessary that in the midst of those so assembled there should be present He who said: " I am the Way, the Truth, the Life." Without this presence, however numerous and representative the assembly may be, it will not be in the truth. Protestants and Catholics usually fail to understand this fundamental truth of Orthodoxy: both materialize the presence of God in the Church — the one party in the letter of Scripture, the other in the person of the Pope — though they do not thereby avoid the miracle, but clothe it in a concrete form. For Orthodoxy, the sole ‘criterion of truth’ remains God Himself, living mysteriously in the Church, leading it in the way of the Truth’ (J. Meyendorff, quoted by M. J. le Guillou, Missio et Unité, Paris, 1960, vol. 2, p. 313).

  • from The Orthodox Church by Bishop Kallistos Ware

Despite Meyendorff’s assertion that Catholics “materialize the presence of God in the Church”, I think the Catholic take on infallibility is actually very similar to the Orthodox position. The First Vatican Council did not describe ex cathedra statement in terms of “outward criteria alone”, for it starts out "when in the discharge of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians … ". (Note that it didn’t say, "the Pope much use such-and-such formula in order for it to be an ex cathedra statement.)

Sorry for the long post.


I’m amazed at how many people choose to use Wiki. Any one of us could write and entry on any subject!

When I’m done here, maybe I’ll post a Wiki entry on neuro-surgery. :rolleyes:

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