Infalliability: Why bother with advisors, Vatican II or Synods?

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.

To hear a lot of anti-Catholics talk, that’s exactly what Popes do - they just define doctrine on little more than a whim.

And Popes can do that! But, as you point out, they don’t. And they never have. They could, but they don’t. Why?

If we go back to the Apostolic Church, we see that the Apostles (the first Bishops) shared in the authority of the Church. It was never Our Lord’s intention for Peter to call all the shots in isolation. In the proto-Council of Acts 15, we see the Apostles coming together in Jerusalem to discuss the teaching about circumcision of gentile converts. That Council ENDED when Peter spoke. It did not BEGIN and END with Peter. They could have saved time and just asked Peter about it from the get-go. Heck, there would have been no need to even meet in council unless the Bishops are supposed to participate.

But the Pope is not just a mouthpiece for the Bishops. Pope St. Damascus taught that baptism by heretics was valid, even though an overwhelming majority of Early Fathers disagreed (notably, the great St. Cyprian of Carthage). There was a lot of controversy leading up to Damascus’ decision (so the Bishops definitely participated). In fact, if any Fathers agreed with Damascus before he ruled, those writings have not survived. We have only opposition documents (and a lot of them).

Usually, the Pope will teach in agreement with the Bishops. If there is no consensus, the teaching will usually be postponed (sometimes for centuries, such as the teaching of the Immaculate Conception). Occasionally, a Pope will teach in opposition to the consensus of his Bishops, but only when circumstances practically demand it (Damascus was dealing with the aftermath of heresy).

Who decides what course of action is to be taken? Catholics would say that the Holy Spirit decides.

And, for 2000 years, it’s been working pretty good.

David’s response above is perfect. Acts 15 is the example.

***The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. **(Acts 15:6)

And after there had been much debate, Peter rose and said to them,… (Acts 15:7)

And all the assembly kept silence; and they listened to Barnabas and Paul… (Acts 15:12)

After they finished speaking, James replied… (Acts 15:13)

Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church… (Acts 15:22)

For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit… (Acts 15:28)*

The Church still functions this way today.


See similar thread from earlier this year.

Because infallibility is not inspiration. As St. Francis de Sales said regarding papal infallibility, the Holy Spirit leads, He does not carry. He leads the Pope to take the necessary means to determine the truth of the Church’s faith.

Your definitions are horribly off base. Where did you get your information? Hopefully not from a Catholic source.
David gave a perfectly clear response.

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