How were the conditions for infallibility determined?

The Church’s teaching is infallible:

(1) When the Pope teaches:
(a) to the whole Church, as its universal shepherd and teacher
(b) on the subject of faith and morals
© intending the issue at hand to be binding on all the faithful

(2) Solemn definitions at ecumenical councils, approved by the Pope

(3) Via the ordinary, universal magisterium; that is, when all the bishops and pope teach consistently

How is it that these conditions were determined for infallibility?

The specifics for Papal infallibility were laid out in the First Vatican Council in 1869. Vatican-1 did not address infallibility of Bishops or Ecumenical Councils.

The language in the Catechism (#891) which extends this charasm to the Bishops (both dispersed and gathered) comes from Lumen Gentium, from Vatican-2.

Popes may teach infallibly, but they often do not. The same thing goes for an Ecumenical Council. There is a wide misconception that anything a Council teaches is somehow automatically regarded as infallible.

There is also a wide misconception that Catholics are not obliged to accept teachings which are not recognized as infallible. That’s nonsense. Catholics are expected to accept ALL Church teaching. The question of infallibility is pretty much irrelevant to the guy in the pew. The Church got along quite well for nineteen centuries without a formal definition of how infallibility works.

Correct. And it is also true that the Church does not require Catholics to believe things that may be false. It is my understanding that "non-infallible’ doctrines consist of doctrines that are true in some sense, but the sense has not been defined. If some “non-infallible” doctrine was definitely in error, it wouldn’t be a doctrine at all because that would contradict the Church’s infallibility. I hope this clarification makes sense.

FWIW, theologian Fr. Ludwig Ott came up with a very elaborate “hierarchy of truth” - everything from a general consensus of theologians all the way up to de Fide, and he attempted to classify many teachings within this framework.

The book The Gift of Infallibility: The Official Relatio on Infallibility of Bishop Vincent Ferrer Gasser at Vatican Council I contains a history of the pre-council discussion and issues and sheds light on the intent of the final definition. I have some quotes from it in this blog post about Orthodox and the papacy, but there is obviously much more in the book.


**8. With regard to the nature of the assent owed to the truths set forth by the Church as divinely revealed (those of the first paragraph) or to be held definitively (those of the second paragraph), it is important to emphasize that there is no difference with respect to the full and irrevocable character of the assent which is owed to these teachings. The difference concerns the supernatural virtue of faith: in the case of truths of the first paragraph, the assent is based directly on faith in the authority of the Word of God (doctrines de fide credenda); in the case of the truths of the second paragraph, the assent is based on faith in the Holy Spirit’s assistance to the Magisterium and on the Catholic doctrine of the infallibility of the Magisterium (doctrines de fide tenenda).

  9. The Magisterium of the Church, however, teaches a     doctrine to be *believed as divinely revealed* (first paragraph) or to be *held     definitively* (second paragraph) with an act which is either *defining* or *non-defining*.     In the case of a *defining* act, a truth is solemnly defined by an "ex     cathedra" pronouncement by the Roman Pontiff or by the action of an ecumenical     council. In the case of a *non-defining* act, a doctrine is taught *infallibly*     by the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Bishops dispersed throughout the world     who are in communion with the Successor of Peter. *Such a doctrine can be confirmed or     reaffirmed by the Roman Pontiff, even without recourse to a solemn definition*, by     declaring explicitly that it belongs to the teaching of the ordinary and universal     Magisterium as a truth that is divinely revealed (first paragraph) or as a truth of     Catholic doctrine (second paragraph). Consequently, when there has not been a judgment on     a doctrine in the solemn form of a definition, but this doctrine, belonging to the     inheritance of the *depositum fidei*, is taught by the ordinary and universal     Magisterium, which necessarily includes the Pope, such a doctrine is to be understood as     having been set forth infallibly.17 The declaration of *confirmation* or     *reaffirmation* by the Roman Pontiff in this case is not a new dogmatic definition,     but a formal attestation of a truth already possessed and infallibly transmitted by the     Church.

  10. The third proposition of the *Professio fidei*     states: "Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the     teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they     exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these     teachings by a definitive act." To this paragraph belong *all those teachings *     on faith and morals - presented as true or at least as sure, even if they have not been     defined with a solemn judgment or proposed as definitive by the ordinary and universal     Magisterium*. Such teachings are, however, an authentic expression of the ordinary     Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff or of the College of Bishops and therefore require *religious     submission of will and intellect*.18 They are set forth in order to arrive     at a deeper understanding of revelation, or to recall the conformity of a teaching with     the truths of faith, or lastly to warn against ideas incompatible with these truths or     against dangerous opinions that can lead to error.19

  A proposition contrary to these doctrines can be     qualified as *erroneous* or, in the case of teachings of the prudential order, as *rash*     or *dangerous* and therefore "tuto doceri non potest".20

:thumbsup: I think I said the same thing in a simpler way. Certainly I hope I haven’t said anything contrary to this document, of which I was not aware. Thank you for bringing it up. If I said anything incorrect, I retract it in favor of what the Church says – but I think what I said lines up with this document. Do you see anything in there that says the Church could require us to believe something that is in fact not true? Because I don’t.

I don’t see any conflict. I think Ludwig Ott also described the top four categories of certainty, those that must be accepted, and your description covers them:1. Defined (de fide definita).
2. Infallibly certain as dogmas proper (fides ecclesiastica).
3. Proximate to Faith (sententia fidei proxima) regarded by theologians generally as a truth of Revelation.
4. Theologically certain (theologice certa) is a doctrine, not finally pronounced, with truth guaranteed by intrinsic connection with revelation (theological conclusions).

Well, I’m not sure how the statements of the document square up with this:

[quote=dmar198] it is also true that the Church does not require Catholics to believe things that may be false.

I guess it all comes down to what you mean by “things that may be false.” Did you mean “Church teachings that haven’t been declared infallibly”? If so, then no, you aren’t saying the same thing as the document. If not, then are you saying “the Church does not require Catholics to believe things that the Church doesn’t teach”? If so, then ok, what you’re saying makes sense… but it’s a pretty obvious observation, isn’t it? :wink:

Do you see anything in there that says the Church could require us to believe something that is in fact not true? Because I don’t.

Can you give us an example of such a statement? Maybe then we can understand what kind of ‘teaching’ you’re talking about…

The conditions were taken pretty much straight from St. Francis de Sales and other theologians. They were developed based on logic drawn from revelation. There was plenty of testimony in Scripture and the Fathers of a special infallibility assigned to Peter and the Apostolic See, but it was also well known that individual Popes certainly had sinned and erred in some ways. So what were the limits?

To determine this, the purposes of papal infallibility were examined. The papacy in general exists for the unity of the Church, and papal infallibility exists in particular for the Church’s unity in doctrine in particular. In order to ensure unity in doctrine, the Pope must have the authority to command the entire Church to adhere to particular doctrines. We also know that the Holy Spirit leads and preserves the whole Church in the truth given by God for our salvation. Therefore, the Pope must be infallible in the same way the Church is when he authoritatively commands the Church to irreformably and definitively adhere to a particular doctrine.

However, when the Pope’s actions or decisions are not of a kind that require the Church’s irrevocable adherence, he may certainly err.

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