Dear friends, the Council of Trent taught that the Church is infallible in her disciplines. However, when Paul VI promulgated the new prayers for priestly ordination, he said that they better expressed what we believe about the priesthood, despite the fact that the new prayers no longer spoke about forgiving sins and offering the sacrifice of the mass. Did Pope Paul not believe these were integral to the priesthood? How can we answer this argument against papal infallibility??

What do you understand about infallibility?

Disiplines in the Church have a negative indirect infallibility. The Church is infallible in teaching faith and morals, and by applying these faith and morals when formulating disiplines they are indirectly infallible.

Faith and morals are unchangeable, and disiplines may change but cannot oppose those faith and morals.


The Catholic Church teaches that formally defined dogmas and doctrines enjoy the infallible protection of the Holy Spirit, not disciplines. A whole lotta stuff is not defined infallibly. Where you lookin’ stuff up?

It’s a trap!

I won’t discount your question. But first, please quote from Trent exactly what you are referring to.

Second, Paul VI’s statement about the new rite (if he did say that) is not infallible, probably.

Third, if you are suggesting the new rite of ordination does a very poor job of expressing Catholic theology compared to the traditional rite, I absolutely agree with you. We could do an exercise where we give both rites to two different groups of completely uninformed atheists, and ask them to derive as much teaching on the priesthood as possible, and then compare their answers to the CCC or the Trent Catechism … I know what I think what be the outcome, but I haven’t done such an experiment, LOL.

(Of course that doesn’t mean the new rite isn’t valid. It’s valid.)

Finally, no one can say really read Paul VI’s mind. But based on everything he wrote and said before and during his pontificate … honestly, I am afraid to touch it. I know he taught and said lots of things I disagree with, and my disagreement is based upon what other popes have said (especially St. Pius V, St. Pius X, St. Gregory, Pius XII). Nothing I disagree with him on is infallibly taught of course, or I’d be a heretic. Anyway, as to your specific question, we can’t know. Perhaps, though I assume Paul VI believed the Catholic teaching on the importance of Mass and Confession to the priesthood, he didn’t want to emphasize it as much. I can’t understand why, but there’s one answer.

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