How can a fallible vote produce an infallible pope?

What’s the answer to this?

Do you mean the cardinals who are voting to choose a pope are themselves fallible? Perhaps when the Pope is chosen, he then becomes by virtue of papal succession traced back to St. Peter, the first Apostle of the Church, of the same status of infallibility in matters of faith. Or perhaps the decision reached by the cardinals is guided or inspired by the Holy Spirit.

I would assume it’s because the (fallible) vote is for a person to then occupy an (infallible) office. The infallibility resides in the office not the person.

A pope is not considered infallible from the moment he is selected as Pope or even at inauguration. Infallible in the Catholic context means ‘to teach without error’.

**A pope is only considered infallible when ALL three conditions below are met:

a) he is making a public pronouncement ex cathedra (from the Seat of Peter);
b) he is stating a Teaching on Morals and Faith Only; and
c) he is declaring that Teaching for ALL christians.

Teachings of the Church are formulated by the Magisterium which examines Sacred Scripture with much discussion and prayer guided by the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit’s guidance which makes it an ‘infallible’ doctrine.

When the Pope said ‘Martians are welcome to be baptised’ that is not an infallible statement which means Catholics are not bound to follow/believe it.

Don’t know when the last time it was when a Pope made an infallible statement.

It should be noted that all Protestant ‘churches’ and/or individuals believe themselves to also to be infallible when proclaiming doctrine (interpretation of scripture). They believe the Holy Spirit guides them in their interpretation and Holy Spirit is never wrong. Then why all the different interpretations?:shrug:

The Holy Spirit can never be the author of confusion.

Believe it was 1950 (Mary’s Assumption) by Pope Pius XII.

If you are referring to the conclave in which Cardinals choose a new Pope then the answer is easy.

The Cardinals choose according to their conscience/preference/study of character etc. They pray on the matter.

The Cardinals are not considered infallible during this process and neither are the candidates or the person finally selected.

**Infallible in the Catholic context of the word simply means ‘to teach no error’.
'Before the conclave: The cardinals may discuss the upcoming election with one another. The conclave begins 15 to 20 days after the pope’s death/retirement.

The actual conclave: After the celebration of Mass, the cardinal dean presides over the preliminary sessions, where procedures regulated by canon law are clarified. Then all others are dismissed and the cardinals are sealed in the Sistine Chapel where the voting takes place, every morning and afternoon.

Until recently a two-thirds majority plus one was required for election. After his election Pope John Paul II changed this. Now if there is no conclusive vote after 30 ballots, an absolute majority suffices. [This means that if a candidate gets a majority on the first or second ballot, his supporters need only wait till 30 ballots have been cast. He will then be elected on the 31st ballot.]

For each ballot, the cardinals are given rectangular cards with Eligo in summum pontificem (“I elect as supreme pontiff”) printed at the top. Each cardinal prints the name of his choice. One by one in order of seniority they approach the altar where there is a chalice with a paten on top. They place the ballot (folded down the middle) on the paten, then drop it into the cup.

After each voting the ballots are burned. Special chemicals are added to make the smoke white or black. To people eagerly waiting outside, black smoke signifies an inconclusive vote. White smoke announces that a pope has been elected.

The cardinals may elect whomever they wish, as long as the person is a baptized male. There have been occasions in the past when laymen were elected. After their election they had to be ordained priest and bishop. The one elected is asked if he accepts. The moment he accepts he is pope and, if he is a bishop, he is Bishop of Rome. If he is not a bishop he is immediately ordained by the dean of the college. The cardinals individually pledge their support to the new pope. The cardinal dean asks the pope what name he chooses. Then the oldest member of the college announces the choice to the city of Rome and to the world.’ (

From my understanding there have only ever been TWO infallible teachings, both regarding Mary: her Immaculate Conception (declared by Pope Pius IX in 1854 and grandfathered in after the First Vatican Council’s declaration of papal infallibility in 1870) and her bodily Assumption into heaven. It leads me to wonder why “infallibility” is so seldom used.

you have to finish the sentence, though: “… since the formal definition of ‘infallibility’ was promulgated by the First Vatican Council.” The doctrinal and dogmatic definitions that preceded it, throughout the history of the Church, were likewise without error.

(Also, one could argue that the canonizations of saints fall under this formal definition.)

It leads me to wonder why “infallibility” is so seldom used.

Because doctrine isn’t developed on a daily basis!

The Holy Spirit guides the Cardinals in their decision, through the use of their consciences.

The Pope who is elected is only infallible in regard to faith and morals, not to other matters such as science, economics or his personal opinions.

Furthermore Papal Infallibility invests in the office of the Supreme Pontiff, not in the person who is holding it.

The only times Papal Infallibility was used Ex Cathedra so far was the declaration of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX and the declaration of the Assumption of Our Lady by Pope Pius XII. The only other infallible statements used by popes in recent times was in the couse of their ordinary magisterium, i.e where they simply reaffirmed doctrines that have already been held infallible by the Church, such as St John Paul II stating in 1994 that the Church lacked authority to ordain women as Priests, and his condemnation of abortion and euthanasia in his encyclical Humanae Vitae (you may notice in the encyclical, when he deals with these issues, he specifically invokes his authority as successor of Saint Peter and Vicar of Christ).

Agreed; but surely it is developed more than twice.

Jimmy Akin in 2004 argues that papal infallibility has been used on more than two occasions.

'It is certainly true that papal infallibility is widely misunderstood, but I regret to say that this statement falls into a common misunderstanding of it: namely, the idea that it has only been exercised twice. This claim is commonly made by dissident Catholics who wish to minimize the practical impact of the doctrine of papal infallibility, and the claim has been so commonly made that even many orthodox Catholics have absorbed it and repeat it in good conscience.

But it isn’t true.

Papal infallibility has been exercised far more than two times. In fact, it had been used many times prior to 1870, when it was defined by the First Vatican Council. This was the clear understanding of the council, as shown–for example–by reading the later Archbishop Gasser’s relatio to the council fathers. This was a briefing given to the bishops at Vatican I to ensure a common understanding of the proposals regarding papal infallibility they were voting on. It is reprinted in the excellent book The Gift of Infallibility (which is the best book on the subject), and in the course of the relatio, Gasser alludes to the numerous times papal infallibility had been used before the Council.

Papal infallibility continues to be widely used. In fact, the current pontiff (JPII) has used it more than any of his predecessors. The reason is that papal canonizations of saints are infallible. In the course of performing a canonization, the pope states “we declare and define that Blessed N., is a saint” (example). This triggers the Church’s gift of infallibility, which Vatican I teaches “the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals” (source). Consequently, the verb “define” has come to be used as a trigger word for infallible papal statements. If you hear a pope say “we define” or “I define,” it is a signal that he is making a definition and thus exercising the Church’s gift of infallibility. (This is not the only way in which he can do this, but it is the standard way.)

The Immaculate Conception and the Assumption thus are not the only two exercises of papal infallibilty in history. They are arguably the only two dogmatic definitions (i.e., definitions of dogmas; saint canonizations being definitions of what are known as dogmatic facts rather than dogmas per se) in the last hundred and fifty years, but they are far from the only two in history.’

The Pope himself is not Infallible. But when he speaks for the WHOLE Church on Faith and Morels he speaks Infallibly. NO ERROR. That’s the way Christ set His Church in motion and guided by the Holy Spirit, it is still going strong and faithfully. God Bless, Memaw

The last time the Pope canonized a Saint it was Infallible. Anytime he speaks to the whole Church on Faith and Morals, he is speaking Infallible. God Bless, Memaw

The same way fallible men Like Moses, David, Matthew, Paul and Peter and all of the other Sacred Authors wrote infallible Sacred Scripture.

It has nothing to do with how a person becomes Pope but that they hold the office of Pope. The charism of infallibility is a direct action by the Holy Spirit on the office.

It doesn’t matter who is elected. Once the pope is chosen, God prevents him from formally teaching error.


Or, more accurately, those fallible human authors infallibly wrote inerrant Sacred Scripture.


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