Infallibility

I would like to know if anyone can explain infallibility.

What does it mean when something is defined infallible?

How can we tell by looking at a document if it is indeed infallible?

Can an infallible decision ever be reversed?

[quote=toppro77]I would like to know if anyone can explain infallibility.

What does it mean when something is defined infallible?

How can we tell by looking at a document if it is indeed infallible?

Can an infallible decision ever be reversed?
[/quote]

You might start here:
catholic.com/library/papal_infallibility.asp

While infallible pronouncements can be clarified or expounded upon, they cannot be reversed. Truth is never the opposite of what it once was.

Some keys to look for in documents is when something is being clearly “defined” for the whole faithful to be believed, or when you have a statement like “If anyone says [insert heresy], let him be anathema”.

Here’s more:
catholic.com/thisrock/2001/0109bt.asp

As a practical matter, you can refer to Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, by Dr. Ludwig Ott, or simply ask.

How can we tell by looking at a document if it is indeed infallible?

There are set formulas for defining infallibility in a Papal Bull (the declaration of infallible doctines, aka dogmas, if proclaimed by the pope, usually are set forth in bulls, the strongest form of a papal declaration). The dogma is clearly defined in the bull. Take, for example, the bull of Boniface VIII “Unam Sanctam”, in which the supreme authority of the Roman Pope is defined:

[quote=Boniface VIII, “Unam Sanctam”]…we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.
[/quote]

and another example from Pius XII who defined the Dogma of the Assumption

[quote=Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus]…by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory
[/quote]

Infallibility may also be claimed by a general council of bishops in union with the pope, in which the definition of the dogma follows a similar formula to the declarations above.

Papal infallibility only works under a certain set of conditions.

1.) The Pope is only infallible if he speaks on matters of Catholic faith and morals. Which means he can’t tell the world “Everyone should give me money or you will go to hell”, and be right.

2.) The Pope must officially declare that he is teaching infallibly by speaking ex cathedra, or from the chair (the chair of Peter). This is a symbol that the pope is teaching with the authority conferred on Peter by Christ which is passed down to each successing bishop of Rome. There are certain and set methods of officially declaring an infallible teaching, as demostrated before.

3.) There must be a spiritual punishment, known as anathema, attached to the teaching if it is to be infallible. For example:

[quote=Pius XII, “Munificentissimus Deus”]Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith.
[/quote]

4.) The Pope must intend for the teaching to apply to the whole Church, not certain people or places. Thus, infallibility cannot be used to target individuals or nations.

5.) The teaching which is being preached infallibly cannot contradict prior official Church teachings.

[quote=toppro77]I would like to know if anyone can explain infallibility.

What does it mean when something is defined infallible?

How can we tell by looking at a document if it is indeed infallible?

Can an infallible decision ever be reversed?
[/quote]

The short version.

The pope is infallible in all things that were inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Andy

Gee thanks guys for all your help.

I guess then that this is an infallible statement by Pope St Pius V and it can never be changed. :slight_smile:

Quo Primum… **abridged

**“There shall be only one rite for the celebration of Mass…let Masses not be sung or read according to any other formula…This ordinance applies henceforth, now, and forever…**nothing must be added…nothing omitted from it, nor anything whatsoever be changed **…they must not…presume to introduce any ceremonies or recite any prayers other than those contained in this Missal. Furthermore,…in virtue of Our Apostolic authority, We grant…in perpetuity that, for the chanting or reading of the Mass…this Missal is hereafter to be followed absolutely,…Nor are priests obliged to celebrate the Mass otherwisethis present document cannot be revoked or modified, but remain always valid and retain its full force. Therefore, no one whosoever is permitted to alter this or he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.”

Given at St. Peter’s in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation, 1570, on the 14th of July of the Fifth year of Our Pontificate.

Here is a link to the whole document papalencyclicals.net/Pius05/p5quopri.htm

Catholic Answer’s responded to a similar question in a This Rock edition:

Q: You people are worse than Fundamentalists. You should know better. You have abandoned the Catholic faith by defending the New Mass of Paul VI. Pope St. Pius V spoke out against those who would try to alter the True Mass, just as Archbishop Lefebvre is speaking out today.

A: The statement of Pope St. Pius V to which you apparently refer is found in the Apostolic Constitution Quo Primum (1570). The claim is often made by Lefebvrists that Quo Primum forbade future changes in the Mass, even those undertaken by a pope.

Quo Primum states: “We likewise declare and ordain that no one whosoever is to be forced or coerced to alter this Missal, but that this present document cannot be revoked or modified, but remains always valid and retains its full force–notwithstanding the previous constitutions or edicts of provincial or synodal councils, and notwithstanding the practice and custom of the aforesaid churches, established by long and immemorial prescription–except, however, if of more than two hundred years’ standing.”

There are several things to note here. First, Quo Primum was a disciplinary document, not an infallible doctrinal definition on the Mass. As such, there’s no reason to think it’s irreversible.

Second, Pius V’s purpose in Quo Primum was to establish standards for the celebration of Mass throughout the Roman rite, not to determine how Mass would be said until the end of time. While allowing for a few exceptions, the revised Missal of Pius V was to be the norm.

Pius V wanted to ensure that “conservative” priests of his day wouldn’t continue to celebrate their own local liturgies at the expense of the newly revised Roman Missal. In other words, he suppressed many local liturgies to establish uniformity of rite according to the needs of his day.

Third, the statement in Quo Primum that “no one whosoever is to be forced or coerced to alter this Missal” wasn’t aimed at future priests who might dislike the liturgical changes of a future pope and who wanted to retain Pius V’s liturgy. It was a safeguard for priests of that day who followed the revised Missal rather than the liturgy of a hesitant local bishop.

Fourth, when Quo Primum did mention those who were forbidden to alter the revised Missal, it said nothing about future popes. After all, how could Pius V have forbidden his successors to revise his Missal? If Pius V had the power to change the liturgies of his predecessors, why shouldn’t future popes have the power to revise his? After all, his authority couldn’t be superior to theirs.

Fifth, there’s no evidence subsequent popes were aware of any intent by Pius V to limit their pastoral authority over the Church. Since the sixteenth century there have been numerous changes in the Missal of Pius V approved by various popes. Although none were as extensive as those of Paul VI, there were changes, a fact which refutes the Lefebvrist reading of Quo Primum.

Link catholic.com/thisrock/1990/9009qq.asp

Also, here is an article by Pete Vere who was once in a group known as SSPX who held Quo Primum infallible:

My Journey out of the Lefebvre Schism

Pope St. Pius V and Quo Primum Tempore
The first argument I ever encountered by an SSPX apologist, in fact the very argument that led me into their schism, was a citation of Pope St. Pius V’s sixteenth-century papal bull Quo Primum Tempore. In a nutshell, the SSPX proponent claimed that St. Pius V promulgated the Tridentine Mass in perpetuity, meaning for all time. The SSPX claimed — and I found the claim convincing at the time — that every priest has the right to use the Roman Missal codified by St. Pius V in Quo Primum Tempore, and that this right cannot be taken away from him.

As I later discovered, however, the problem with the Quo Primum Tempore argument is a failure to take into account canonical Tradition. First, this argument does not distinguish between the doctrine and the discipline of the Catholic Church. Yet that distinction is critical.

Briefly put, a dogma is a doctrine the Church declares with certitude to be infallible. Take, for example, the dogma of the Blessed Mother’s assumption into heaven. Pope Pius XII didn’t suddenly declare it as a new truth in 1950 that Mary was assumed into heaven; this truth, after all, had come into existence nearly two millennia before when Mary was assumed. Rather, the pope declared this dogma because the Church had come to know for certain Mary that was assumed into heaven.

At that point, our Lady’s assumption was thus no longer a matter of theological speculation for Catholics. Once declared, a dogma must be believed by the Catholic faithful, and cannot be reneged upon — although the Church may always clarify her understanding of a dogma.

A mere discipline of the Faith, on the other hand, is a law, a custom or practice originating from the Church as a means of safeguarding the good order of the Church. To establish ecclesiastical discipline, the Church must ask herself: What is the most practical way of protecting the doctrine of the Church here and now?

Consequently, discipline is subject to change depending upon the present needs of the Church. Furthermore, mere disciplines of the Faith need not be applied in the same manner throughout the entire Church, and they may always be dispensed from, since the pastoral needs of one particular grouping of the faithful may differ from the pastoral needs of another. For example, the discipline of celibacy is imposed upon Catholic priests in the Latin Church, whereas this discipline is optional for Catholic priests in the Eastern Catholic churches.

Through this insight I first came to see the weakness of the SSPX’s claims. If Quo Primum Tempore had indeed been promulgated as a dogmatic declaration, then the SSPX would be correct in stating that every priest and bishop has a right in perpetuity to use the Tridentine Missal codified by St. Pius V. Nevertheless, within the very text of Quo Primum Tempore stood a clause by St. Pius V granting an exception to the declaration: All priests and bishops who said Mass using liturgical missals more than two hundred years old were not obliged to use this codified version of the Roman Missal. So even from the beginning of its promulgation, Quo Primum Tempore never applied to every Catholic priest.

From this fact alone I was able to draw the conclusion that Quo Primum Tempore was merely disciplinary rather than dogmatic in nature. For a dogmatic definition, by its very nature, binds the entire Church, while Quo Primum Tempore contains exceptions among the Catholic faithful in its application. Thus I was forced to conclude that the document could be legally changed or revoked by a future Roman Pontiff such as Pope Paul VI.

Yet even if this were not the case, and future Roman Pontiffs were forbidden from reforming the Missal codified by St. Pius V, I couldn’t deny that this papal bull merely granted the right to celebrate Mass according to the Tridentine Missal. Quo Primum Tempore did not extend the right to bishops — upon their own authority and against the expressed wishes of the Roman Pontiff — to ordain priests and consecrate bishops as Archbishop Lefebvre had done. In other words, using a certain liturgical Missal to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not the same action as consecrating bishops without permission of the Roman Pontiff; even if one consecrates bishops in order to provide a source of ordination for priests who will say the Tridentine liturgy.

Toppro,

If you’re going to come in and start a discussion or ask a valid question, fine. Even if it is controversial, fine.

But how about dropping the dishonest, I-tricked-you-guys approach you used by pretending to be sincerely looking for information in your first post, when all you were really doing was trying to set up those who reply with your second post.

If you have an honest concern about the church’s teaching, then fine, bring it up and debate it with the best of your ability. There are many here who are willing to engage you. How about dropping the blind-side approach and have a little integrity by just making your intention obvious from the start so those who aren’t interested don’t waste their time explaining something you already knew the answer to.

I’m sure you’ll respond by saying that you weren’t attempting to be sneaky, but the smug little emoticon you used with your second post pretty much says it all.

[quote=toppro77]Gee thanks guys for all your help.

I guess then that this is an infallible statement by Pope St Pius V and it can never be changed. :slight_smile:

Quo Primumabridged

There shall be only one rite for the celebration of Mass…let Masses not be sung or read according to any other formula…This ordinance applies henceforth, now, and forever…**nothing must be added…nothing omitted from it, nor anything whatsoever be changed **…they must not…presume to introduce any ceremonies or recite any prayers other than those contained in this Missal. Furthermore,…in virtue of Our Apostolic authority, We grant…in perpetuity that, for the chanting or reading of the Mass…this Missal is hereafter to be followed absolutely,…Nor are priests obliged to celebrate the Mass otherwisethis present document cannot be revoked or modified, but remain always valid and retain its full force. Therefore, no one whosoever is permitted to alter this or he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.”

Given at St. Peter’s in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation, 1570, on the 14th of July of the Fifth year of Our Pontificate.

Here is a link to the whole document papalencyclicals.net/Pius05/p5quopri.htm
[/quote]

Good one!

Now watch them all try scramble and reverse what they just said.

To awfulthings9

First off I would like to say you have a wonderful name screen name for a Catholic.

Now to the case in point. The reason I asked the questions I did was that I wanted to help those who might not be schooled in just exactly what infallibility meant, what it entails and the fact that an infallible decision can never be changed.

I wanted this understood up front because there are Catholics out there who have no idea what infallibility is. They think anything can be changed by a pope simply because he is a pope, without exception.

If we look at Fidei Defensor’s response we can see the 4 things necessary for a document to be infallible. I applaud him for this, because this is exactly what I was looking for in a response to my 3rd question.

De Fide gives me the answer to my 4th question that an infallible decision cannot be reversed.

Now on to the comments from Scott Waddell about Quo Primum.

In the information you posted it states:

First Quo Primum was a disciplinary document, not an infallible doctrinal definition on the Mass. As such, there’s no reason to think it’s irreversible.”

R: Quo Primum was an infallible document as shown by the four things necessary in Fidei Defensor’s response, and as shown by the Catholic Encyclopedia as follows

EXPLANATION OF PAPAL INFALLIBILITY

The Vatican Council has defined as “a divinely revealed dogma” that “the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra – that is, when in the exercise of his office as pastor and teacher of all Christians he defines, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by the whole Church – is, by reason of the Divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer wished His Church to be endowed in defining doctrines of faith and morals; and consequently that such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable of their own nature (ex sese) and not by reason of the Church’s consent” (Densinger no. 1839 – old no. 1680).

newadvent.org/cathen/07790a.htm

Lets look at those 4 things necessary:

**1) **Exercise office of authority.

Quo Primum states : Furthermore, by these presents [this law], in virtue of Our Apostolic authority, We grant and concede in perpetuity that, for the chanting or reading of the Mass in any church whatsoever, this Missal is hereafter to be followed absolutely.

**2) **It has to deal with Faith or Morals

Can anyone deny that the mass is part of our faith?

**3) **Itmust bind the whole church

Quo Primum states:

Let **all everywhere **adopt and observe what has been handed down by the Holy Roman Church, the Mother and Teacher of the other churches, and let Masses not be sung or read according to any other formula than that of this Missal published by Us. This ordinance applies henceforth, now, and forever, throughout all the provinces of the Christian world, **to all patriarchs, cathedral churches, collegiate and parish churches, be they secular or religious, both of men and of women - even of military orders - and of churches or chapels without a specific congregation **in which conventual Masses are sung aloud in choir or read privately in accord with the rites and customs of the Roman Church. This Missal is to be used by all churches, even by those which in their authorization are made exempt, whether by Apostolic indult, custom, or privilege, or even if by oath or official confirmation of the Holy See, or have their rights and faculties guaranteed to them by any other manner whatsoever.

**4) **Finally an anathema is attached to finalize the whole thing

Quo Primum states:

Therefore, no one whosoever is permitted to alter this notice of Our permission, statute, ordinance, command, precept, grant, indult, declaration, will, decree, and prohibition. Should know that **he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul. **

cont. below

Then it states:
“Second, Pius V’s purpose in Quo Primum was to establish standards for the celebration of Mass throughout the Roman rite, not to determine how Mass would be said until the end of time.”

R: Quo Primum states: “We grant and concede **in perpetuity **that, for the chanting or reading of the Mass in any church whatsoever, this Missal is hereafter to be followed absolutely.”

Perpetuity is a long, long, long time I’m afraid

Then is says:

**“Third, **the statement in Quo Primum that “no one whosoever is to be forced or coerced to alter this Missal” wasn’t aimed at future priests.”

R: Quo Primum states: “We specifically command each and every patriarch, administrator, and all other persons or whatever ecclesiastical dignity they may be, be they even cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, or possessed of any other rank or pre-eminence…It is Our will, therefore, and by the same authority, We decree that, after We publish this constitution and the edition of the Missal, the priests of the Roman Curia are, after thirty days, obliged to chant or read the Mass according to it.”

Sounds like its aimed at all clergy to me, now and in the future since it is to be for perpetuity.

Next it states:

Fourth, “When Quo Primum did mention those who were forbidden to alter the revised Missal, it said nothing about future popes.”

R: Quo Primum states: We specifically command each and every patriarch, administrator, and all other persons or whatever ecclesiastical dignity they may be, be they **even cardinals of the Holy Roman Church.” **

Whatever ecclesiastical dignity they may be covers it all.

Finally your article says:

Fifth, “there’s no evidence subsequent popes were aware of any intent by Pius V to limit their pastoral authority over the Church.”

I should refer to something called the Papal Coronation oath taken by all popes down through the centuries. The only pope not to take this oath, to the best of my knowledge was Pope John Paul II who refused to take it. It states:

"**I vow to change nothing of the received Tradition, and nothing thereof I have found before me guarded by my God-pleasing predecessors, to encroach upon, to alter, or to permit any innovation therein; **To the contrary: with glowing affection as her truly faithful student and successor, to safeguard reverently the passed-on good, with my whole strength and utmost effort;

To cleanse all that is in contradiction to the canonical order, should such appear; to guard the Holy Canons and Decrees of our Popes as if they were the divine ordinance of Heaven, because I am conscious of Thee, whose place I take through the Grace of God, whose Vicarship I possess with Thy support, being subject to severest accounting before Thy Divine Tribunal over all that I shall confess;

I swear to God Almighty and the Savior Jesus Christ that I will keep whatever has been revealed through Christ and His Successors and whatever the first councils and my predecessors have defined and declared. I will keep without sacrifice to itself the discipline and the rite of the Church. **I will put outside the Church whoever dares to go against this oath, may it be somebody else or I. **

If I should undertake to act in anything of contrary sense, or should permit that it will be executed, Thou willst not be merciful to me on the dreadful Day of Divine Justice.

Accordingly, without exclusion, **We subject to severest excommunication anyone – be it Ourselves or be it another – who would dare to undertake anything new in contradiction to this constituted evangelic Tradition and the purity of the orthodox Faith and the Christian religion, or would seek to change anything by his opposing efforts, or would agree with those who undertake such a blasphemous venture." **

Banned Topic: Sedevacantism

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.