Unless my definitions are horribly off base as the holder of the Papal office, whenever the reigning pontiff declares or defines something ex cathedra regarding faith or morals he can never be mistaken, indeed he cannot err.
Prior to the formal definition of the doctrine of Papal Infallibility I suppose I can understand why councils may have been called and issues pertaining to the life of the faithful discussed. Since Vatican I however I’m rather more puzzled. We’ve had Vatican II since then, we’ve had fierce debate on a wide range of topics and the Pope is amply supported by a small battalion of personal theologians such as Kaspar and curial advisors.
On matters of state this seems appropriate, but on matters of faith or morality? I don’t mean this in jest, what purpose does this serve? Why since the late nineteenth century (I’ll say then purely because of Vatican I) has there been another council? What ends does it serve to convene committees of cardinals to formulate opinions on matters of faith or morals, such as the teams formed to review topics prior to encyclicals like Humanae Vitae or Apostolicae curae (who came curiously enough to the opposite opinion of the Pope on several topics) when the Pope, guided by the Holy Spirit, already knows the answer? Supposing even if he doesn’t know personally, as soon as he opens his mouth or puts pen to paper surely by the grace of the Holy Spirit he must write the solemn absolute truth with no error?
It just crossed my mind today while reading some of the commentaries on these later documents by the aforementioned committees. Why waste all this time if the Pope can decide by himself, **and is guaranteed to get the right answer? ** Is it purely a formality, or a token nod of respect? I’m unsure of the reasoning behind it, and it seems an awful waste of time :o.