Does papal infallibility make councils superfluous?


If the pope is infallible when he defines a doctrine of faith and morals, what need is there for an ecumenical council?

The fact that Vatican II made no dogmatic pronouncements — it was a "pastoral" council — seems to prove that there is no real need for an ecumenical council anymore in the modern world.

Pope Pius IX pronounced a dogma ex cathedra in 1854, then Vatican I formally ratified the pope's right to make such dogmas; and Pope Pius XII pronounced another dogma in 1950. It seems the Church has entered the age of papal autonomy.

Especially now with modern communication, if the Church needs any dogmatic definition, the pope can easily query bishops around the globe — if he wants, though there is no necessity for that either — and issue the pronouncement ex cathedra.

(One wonders if St. Peter knew he didn't need to convene the Council of Jerusalem to decide whether Christians must practice the Jewish customs; if he had decided ex cathedra, then St. Paul would not have had the opportunity to rebuke him).

Is there any situation that would really require an ecumenical council? Perhaps they have now fulfilled their purpose by developing and defining papal infallibility. Maybe they are now obsolete.
Could Vatican II be the last? Or will all future councils similarly be merely "pastoral" ?

Unless we ever get another situation like the western schism (God forbid) where there is a pope and antipopes competing for the claim to the papal throne — and given how much trouble Vatican II caused — another ecumenical council would seem not only unnecessary but unwise.


I doubt that Vatican II caused "much trouble", on the other hand it is more likely we who had much trouble accepting it. Vatican II was not merely pastoral, it was also dogmatic - it served its purpose as far as 'development of doctrine' is concerned. So I think ecumenical councils have not outlived its purpose, after all it can also pronounce infallibly assuming the Pope concurs with it and more importantly, contribute to development of doctrine. Probably it is the need to pronounce infallibly that is getting more rare, as it was used only once since Vatican I. The reason behind is that most teachings are already infallible, by virtue of the ordinary (not extraordinary) Magisterium.


That’s a really interesting question. I don’t think papal infallibility makes councils superfluous. Papal infallibility is a divine protection over the Chair of Peter which prevents false pronouncements on matters of faith and morals. This obviously doesn’t mean the Pope knows everything, can articulate everything, can decide everything on his own. I think it’s important to stress that the Pope is “first among equals”, in the sense, that as the bishop of Rome he relies on other bishops - indeed, they rely on one another as the magisterium of the Church. Church Councils are necessary to discuss, debate and resolve issues; the Pope’s role in this, apart from being a participant in these activities, is to ensure that the final outcome conforms with the truth of the faith.


No pope defines anything in a vacuum. It is always in cooperation with the college of cardinals. It takes years - decades - of study and debate.


When they introduced the synods every five years, it was stated that this was to reduce the need for major councils of the Church.


College of Cardinals, the Pope doesnt in any way act as an individual in making decissions but surronds himself with others of knowlege and wisdom, and with a significant faith in being guided by the Holy Spriit.

The history of the Pope, to stand agaisnt the war on the religion by Europe, England France and Portugal is interesting during the 1800's. a huge war on religion that no other nations ever embarked, yet the US wants to war on religion today, and again no other nations have ever wared on religon as the US, england, frence, potugal, and Russia.

Was their not murder of a Pope, wars directly on the vatican, and a pope was held capitive in the war on religon in the 17 and 1800's and why soo many Christians fled Europe (YOUR fore fathers) because of currupt governments that spread lies and Propagada agaisnt the church of truth.

Propagada and lies people spread today in the on going war on religion?

the greater realization is the ignorance of the war on religion, the ignorance of the Catholic religion, the understanding people are ignorant to stand against the war on religion and call themselves christian at the same time, all sins agaisnt the Church for not knowing what God calls people to..

A war many fight, against God, in their ignorance and stupidity, of NOT knowing..

why was Joan of Ark burnt , what did she do, what reason?


I suspect we won't be seeing many solemn, infallible statements into the future. Perhaps a Marian dogma or two.


The Short answer is NO.

While it is true that methods and speed of communication have changed the need for a "gathering", they have not lessened the need for the Bishops to "take counsel" with each other and after all, isn't that what a "council" is?

In a sense, the Church is always "in council".

That said - there still could be cases where the Spirit would desire that the Bishops convene together for some purpose. Certainly the election of the new pontiff is such an occasion and the conclave most certainly qualifies as a council.

Methods may change, but the basic requirement of Mt 18:15-18 remains the same...We need to tell it to the Church and listen to the Church. The Church needs to communicate one with the other....Taking counsel with each other.



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