History of the Church and Papal Infallibility?

Recently, I have begun exploring the Catholic faith. Generally, I like what I have heard, and I agree with many of the Church’s doctrines. Mass makes me feel closer to God than any Protestant service did.
However, I am hung up on one point. If the Pope is infallible, why does the Church have such a dark history? Why were millions of people slaughtered in the name of God? What about self-serving leaders like Pope Alexander VI?
I guess my question is this- Why do we see corruption in the papacy, when the Catholic Church teaches that the Pope is infallible?
All help is appreciated.

The pope is only infallible in regard to Faith and Morals. That doesn’t mean he’s perfect or sinless, just that he’s incapable of teaching error to the worldwide Church.

Moth101 #1
Why do we see corruption in the papacy, when the Catholic Church teaches that the Pope is infallible?

Christ instituted the papacy with infallibility only in teaching faith and morals to the whole Church in his capacity as Supreme Vicar. Christ did not imbue his Supreme Vicar with impeccability, which is preservation from sin.

“INFALLIBILITY. Freedom from error in teaching the universal Church in matters of faith or morals. As defined by the First Vatican Council…

“The source of the infallibility is the supernatural assistance of the Holy Spirit, who protects the supreme teacher of the Church from error and therefore from misleading the people of God.

Also, doesn’t the papal infallibility only apply when a statement is officially made from “the chair of Peter”?

Greetings!! All grace be with you as you ascend the heights of faith and find your way into The One Holy and Apostolic Church. I myself am a convert from Protestantism and I can truly look back and thank God with all of my heart that he finally called me home. I sometimes say now that Evangelical Christianity is where you go when you want God but The Catholic Church is where you go when God wants you. I encourage you now, because that we come out of a religion that has filled our heads with propaganda and half-truths (and even outright lies), to strive forward in the very way you are doing now. I would say believe only 5% of what you were told abou The Catholic Church by Protestants or non-believers. I canno describe the wonderful and countless graces and blessings I have recieved since joining The Church. And the best part: suddenly all my questions were answered. All of Sacred Scripture made sense. All the inconsistencies I found amongst the many different Protestant denominations I sampled were ironed out in an instant. How delighted I am for you. And I will tell you this: the very very best blessing I recieved was realizing the fullness of Christian Faith to be found in The Sacraments, The Communion of Saints, and Our Blessed Mother. Oh the peace and joys that are recieved when one finally find their long lost mother and curls up warmly against her busom.

Grace and peace my friend, grace and peace and may The Holy Spirit lead you into all truths -


FrenzyJen #4
Also, doesn’t the papal infallibility only apply when a statement is officially made from “the chair of Peter”?

Pastor Aeternus, Chap 4, #9, (an infallible dogma) is the basis for understanding infallibility. 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.

Vatican II (Lumen Gentium, 25) reaffirms this teaching: “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith (cf. Lk 22:32) – he proclaims in an absolute decision a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.

Some theologians assume that only papal dogmas are infallible, a gross error.

The three levels of teaching are:
1) Dogma – infallible (Canon #750.1) to be believed with the assent of divine and Catholic faith.
2) Doctrine – infallible (Canon #750.2) requires the assent of ecclesial faith, to be “firmly embraced and held”.
3) Doctrine – non-definitive (non-infallible) and require intellectual assent (“loyal submission of the will and intellect”, Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 25), not an assent of faith. [See the Explanatory Note on ATF by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith]

Thus, no dogma has to be affirmed, nor anyone Canon anathematized, nor the word “define” or “definition” be used for an infallible papal teaching – only that the Pope is handing down a certain, decisive judgment that a point of doctrine on faith or morals is true and its contrary false.

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. Thus Humanae Vitae (Encyclical) and *Ordinatio Sacerdotalis *(Apostolic Epistle) contain infallible doctrinal definitions, to remove all doubt.


In addition to the great answers you have so far, you can think of infallibility like this: Peter, when teaching on faith and morals (such as when he wrote Scripture under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, or when he initiated the doctrine that Gentiles no longer had to be circumcised in order to be Christians) was infallible. Yet, at the same time, he was a sinner…a human who could sin. After all, he denied Christ just before the crucifixion, right? And Paul, as infallible as his written teachings were, at least those that would later be called Scripture, he was still a sinner just like you and me. He said as much in Romans 7:15 and in other places. A person need not be free from sin on order for the Holy Spirit to protect him from teaching error.

No argument about Pope Alexander VI . As incredable as it seems that such a man could be pope, here’s something more incredable.
*]He didn’t use his office to teach error to the Church on matters of faith or morals during his pontificate. And in extension, no pope has ever taught error to the Church on faith or morals. And we have 267 popes, from Peter to Francis, to look at.
[/LIST]It’s already been said by others, when the pope teaches the Church, by way of definition, on the matters of faith or morals alone, and it is to be believed by the entire Church, then the Holy Spirit protects the Church from error by preventing the pope from teaching error when those conditions are met in the definition. As also said by others, preventing bad behavior of a pope is not under that protection.

Here is the definition of papal infallibility. It shows the conditions required for an infallible definition (all emphasis mine)

"we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that
*]when the Roman pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA,
*][that is, when, [LIST=1]
*]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 "
[/LIST]Here’s an example of an infallible statement by a pope.
Note: the language used regarding priestly ordination reserved for men (emphasis mine)

“Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”


Thank you for all the wonderful replies! It makes so much more sense now. I always thought that papal infallibility meant that the Pope was sinless. Now I realise how wrong I was about it all. Yet again, the Church withstands my greatest doubts.
My faith in the Catholicism has been raised greatly by your answers. I can’t wait to uncover more of the truth!

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