How many statements made by the Church are considered infallible? I know there is only a small handful of ex cathedra statements, but what else, if anything, is there? The Canon, for example, or the Trinity? What is infallible and how do we know (or can we know) if a statement is infallible as opposed to a strong papal or concilliar opinion?
Canon Law maintains,
No doctrine is understood as defined infallibly unless this is manifestly evident. CCC 749 §3]
Canon Law does not define what constitutes “manifestly evident.” But I think it is safe to assume that it does not include people getting out their Vatican-1 five-point checklists and deciding for themselves what has been taught infallibly.
If we presume that the Church reserves such definitions to Herself, and not to various laypeople and theologians, then we cannot say that any doctrine has been taught infallibly unless the Church directly tells us so.
To my knowledge, the Church has declared this (using the word “infallible”) only once (regarding St. John Paul the Great’s Ordandito Sacreodolis, which infallibly taught that the Church lacks authority to ordain women to priestly Orders).
There is a common but mistaken belief that Ecumenical Councils automatically teach infallibly. This idea is not supported in Catholic doctrine. A Council may teach infallibly (just as a Pope may teach infallibly), but often does not.
So, considering Canon Law, I would say that exactly one doctrine can be definitively declared to be an infallible Church teaching. The inclusion of any other doctrines represents opinion only (though it may be a very good and informed opinion, but it is not definitive, and we are not at liberty to declare a doctrine infallibly defined unless the Church first defines it as such).
But it makes absolutely no difference to anyone except perhaps a handful of theologians. Catholics are bound by ALL Church teaching. No Catholic layman should be concerned whether teachings are acknowledged as infallible. It makes no difference whatsoever to the person in the pew.
When the pope ‘declares’ in matters of faith and morals, then it is infallible. As in the canonizations of Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Saint John XXIII, it was an infallible statement.
4…Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.
- Therefore We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children…
Some people get obsessed over the word infallibility and perhaps assume that anything not explicitly declared infallible is open to dissent. All of the Church’s Magisterial teachings, such as the Trinity, require the assent of the faithful. Bishops and Popes do often express opinions, but these can generally be easily distinguished from the Church’s authoritative teachings.
Sometimes we think we’re the ones that are infallible. Thanks. God Bless Memaw
There are many more than one! The Creed itself contains many articles of faith. There are many others.
·the articles of faith of the Creed
·the various Christological dogmas
·the various Marian dogmas
·the doctrine of the institution of the sacraments by Christ and their efficacy with regard to grace
·the doctrine of the real and substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist
·the sacrificial nature of the eucharistic celebration
·the foundation of the Church by the will of Christ
·the doctrine on the primacy and infallibility of the Roman Pontiff
·the doctrine on the existence of original sin
·the doctrine on the immortality of the spiritual soul
·the immediate recompense after death
·the absence of error in the inspired sacred texts
·the doctrine on the grave immorality of direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being.
Is this your opinion, or can you cite anything whatsoever that the Magesterium of the Church has put forward that could substantiate that anything you have cited is actually recognized by the Magesterium as infallibly taught?
My own opinion is that everything you cited is infallible. I think that every respected Catholic theologian would agree. But that is our collective opinion (which, theologically, is worth a bucket of warm spit).
I have cited the ONE doctrine that I regard to be infallibly defined, according to Canon Law. I can easily defend this one claim. Can you defend your claim of “many” doctrines?
**Answer by David Gregson of EWTN on Nov-22-2002: **
“You are correct in stating that the Pope exercises his charism of infallibility not only in dogmatic definitions issued, ex cathedra, as divinely revealed (of which there have been only two), but also in doctrines definitively proposed by him, also ex cathedra, which would include canonizations (that they are in fact Saints, enjoying the Beatific Vision in heaven), moral teachings (such as contained in *Humanae vitae), *and other doctrines he has taught as necessarily connected with truths divinely revealed, such as that priestly ordination is reserved to men. Further details on levels of certainty with which the teachings of the Magisterium (either the Pope alone, or in company with his Bishops) may be found in Summary of Categories of Belief.”
The three levels of teaching from Ad Tuendam Fidem are:
1) Dogma – infallible (Canon #750.1) to be believed with the assent of divine and Catholic faith.
2) Doctrine – infallible (Canon #750.2) requires the assent of ecclesial faith, to be “firmly embraced and held”.
3) Doctrine – non-definitive (non-infallible) and require intellectual assent (“loyal submission of the will and intellect”, Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 25), not an assent of faith. See the Explanatory Note on ATF by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at
This is not only my opinion, but is also taught by the magesterium of the church. Since it would be impractical to post support for all of the items here. I have included only the following:
The doctrine on the primacy and infallibility of the Roman Pontiff
(All bold are contained in the document as posted.)
Decrees of the First Vatican Vouncils
Chapter 3. On the power and character of the primacy of the Roman pontiff
*]supported by the clear witness of holy scripture, and
*]adhering to the manifest and explicit decrees both of our predecessors
*]the Roman pontiffs and of
*]we promulgate anew the definition of the ecumenical council of Florence  ,
*]which must be believed by all faithful Christians, namely that
*]the apostolic see and the Roman pontiff hold a world-wide primacy, and that
*]the Roman pontiff is the successor of blessed Peter,
*]the prince of the apostles,
*]true vicar of Christ,
*]head of the whole church and
*]father and teacher of all christian people.
*]To him, in blessed Peter, full power has been given by our lord Jesus Christ to
*]rule and govern
*]the universal church.[/LIST]
All this is to be found in the acts of the ecumenical councils and the sacred canons.
Wherefore we teach and declare that,
*]by divine ordinance,
*]the Roman church possesses a pre-eminence of ordinary power over every other church, and that
*]this jurisdictional power of the Roman pontiff is both
*]Both clergy and faithful,
*]of whatever rite and dignity,
*]both singly and collectively,
*]are bound to submit to this power by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, and this
*]not only in matters concerning faith and morals,
*]but also in those which regard the discipline and government of the church throughout the world.
In this way, by unity with the Roman pontiff in communion and in profession of the same faith, the church of Christ becomes one flock under one supreme shepherd  .
This is the teaching of the catholic truth, and no one can depart from it without endangering his faith and salvation.
This power of the supreme pontiff by no means detracts from that ordinary and immediate power of episcopal jurisdiction, by which bishops, who have succeeded to the place of the apostles by appointment of the holy Spirit, tend and govern individually the particular flocks which have been assigned to them. On the contrary, this power of theirs is asserted, supported and defended by the supreme and universal pastor; for St Gregory the Great says: “My honour is the honour of the whole church. My honour is the steadfast strength of my brethren. Then do I receive true honour, when it is denied to none of those to whom honour is due.” 
Furthermore, it follows from that supreme power which the Roman pontiff has in governing the whole church, that he has the right, in the performance of this office of his, to communicate freely with the pastors and flocks of the entire church, so that they may be taught and guided by him in the way of salvation.
And therefore we condemn and reject the opinions of those who hold that
*]this communication of the supreme head with pastors and flocks may be lawfully obstructed; or that
*]it should be dependent on the civil power, which leads them to maintain that what is
[/LIST]determined by the apostolic see or by its authority concerning the government of the church,
has no force or effect unless it is confirmed by the agreement of the civil authority.
Since the Roman pontiff, by the divine right of the apostolic primacy, governs the whole church, we likewise teach and declare that
*]he is the supreme judge of the faithful  , and that
*]in all cases which fall under ecclesiastical jurisdiction recourse may be had to his judgment  .
*]The sentence of the apostolic see (than which there is no higher authority) is not subject to revision by anyone,
*]nor may anyone lawfully pass judgment thereupon  . And so
*]they stray from the genuine path of truth who maintain that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman pontiffs to an ecumenical council as if this were an authority superior to the Roman pontiff.
*]if anyone says that
*]the Roman pontiff has merely an office of supervision and guidance, and
*]not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole church, and thisnot the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole church, and this
*]not only in matters of
*]faith and morals, but also in those which concern the
*]**discipline and government **of the church dispersed throughout the whole world; or that
he has only the principal part, but not the absolute fullness, of this supreme power; or that
this power of his is not ordinary and immediate both over all and each of the churches and over all and each of the pastors and faithful:[/LIST]let him be anathema
Therefore it is shown that there is certainly more than one infallibly held doctrine of the Church. Many persons hold that only the dogma on the Assumption is infallible, but that is untrue. It is the first one proclaimed ex cathedra following Vatican I.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! God Bless, Memaw
So, I am to understand that you say all Roman Catholics are BOUND to things which the Church does not infallibly know to be true? In other words, to things which the Church acknowledges may be purely human teachings?
If that is the case, then perhaps Jesus’ criticisms of the Pharisees do not apply only to the Pharisees. “In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men”…
Hopeful Heretic #11
I am to understand that you say all Roman Catholics are BOUND to things which the Church does not infallibly know to be true? In other words, to things which the Church acknowledges may be purely human teachings?
If that is the case, then perhaps Jesus’ criticisms of the Pharisees do not apply only to the Pharisees. “In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men”…
What hope can a heretic have unless he/she rejects the heresy?
Listening to Jesus Himself is a good place to start:
Christ established His Church and all others broke away with their own personal ideas and beliefs.
Jesus founded His Church on Peter:
All four promises to Peter alone:
“You are Peter and on this rock I will build My Church.” (Mt 16:18)
“The gates of hell will not prevail against it.”(Mt 16:18)
I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven." ( Mt 16:19)
“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.” (Mt 16:19) [Later also to the Twelve].
“Strengthen your brethren.” (Lk 22:32)
“Feed My sheep.”(Jn 21:17).
How could these commands be fulfilled if Peter or his successors could TEACH error on faith and morals to the whole Church? Do you think that the Christ lied?
Thank you my friend, you have just presented an example of one of the many reasons why I made the choice to become Catholic.
I don’t mean to be rude and judgmental, and I’m certainly not speaking from anti-Catholic bias, which I believe is your implication.
This is my logic here.
- All doctrines come from either man or from God.
- If a doctrine comes from God it must be true.
- If a doctrine comes from man it might be false.
- No person should be expected to believe that which is not true; God, being Truth itself, and more especially being love, who desireth not the death of a sinner, would not desire anybody to believe things which are not true.
- It is being claimed by Roman Catholics here that the Roman Catholic requires confession from its clergy and laity of beliefs which it has no claim to infallible knowledge of.
- If it were certain that the doctrines were from God, the Church would claim infallible knowledge, because God is capable of no deceit.
- Therefore, the Church prescribes confession of beliefs which it itself acknowledges may be purely human in origin.
- That God would desire this is contrary not only to the most obvious and direct statements of Holy Writ (for one example, the verse I referenced off hand), but to the very nature of who God is.
As a corollary, in Roman Catholic epistemology, the Church is the measure of truth. However, if this is not grounds for infallible teaching, then it cannot be used as a measure of required belief.
I’m working on the assumption that people in this thread are incorrect about the Church’s claims to infallibility. Everything I am saying here has nothing to do with my perception of the Roman Catholic Church and everything to do with my perception of the beliefs of the particular Roman Catholics who have participated in this discussion.
Hopeful Heretic #14
I’m working on the assumption that people in this thread are incorrect about the Church’s claims to infallibility.
It was Christ who taught “Going therefore, teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe whatsoever I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19).
And the promise was fulfilled: I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:15-18) “The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name, he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” (John 14:26) “But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-15)
St John counsels you: “We belong to God, and anyone who knows God listens to us, while anyone who does not belong to God refuses to hear us. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit.” (1 Jn 4:6).
So who is deceiving whom? He is ready to receive anyone into His Church when they make the necessary commitment to accept Him as He has welcomed all of us.
My friend, it is your own conscience that has produced this implication you impose on me, not my response. I made a specifically open and undefined statement, one that could not be evaluated with any degree of certainty, one that could only produce a response that would be a question.
The question is what exactly is it about your response that I have witnessed too many times, and which is one of the key things that prompted me to choose even embrace the Catholic Church? You have attempted to answer this under your own rationale through your own lens of protestant, but your rationalization is not the same as mine.
My friend, you have answered that very well. One of the many things that got to me over a very short period of time, was “Saul, why persecutest thou ME”. Well Saul was persecuting the Church, why did Jesus Christ align himself so closely with the Church, because it was His Church. Not man’s Church for God, but God’s Church for man. The logic is Jesus will not forsake His Church, and fulness of Truth will happen.
Visible or invisible was the next question. Sand or Rock?
When I coupled this with the city on the hill, and I was outside the walls of that city, at my own little camp fire with a few friends warming ourselves as best we could with the love and grace of God, I suddenly realized the protest was detrimental to the souls of so many people, including my own.
I went into a discussion of why the Roman Church does not have a claim to the infallible guiding light of the Holy Spirit in light of the Schism of 1054, but it was outside the realm of our conversation here so I cut it out.
But let’s play the game by your own rules: assume for a moment that even after 1054 the Roman Church still has the safeguard of the Holy Spirit protecting it from error. The Church still can’t enforce claims which it does not infallibly know to be true on the grounds of that Holy Spirit. Was this statement inspired, or was this other statement inspired? Papal Supremacy or Papal Non-Supremacy: both positions once existed within the Catholic Church, and in fact Papal Non-Supremacy is a much older position, so how does the Church decide the Supremacy is the inspired view? Adult confirmation or infant chrismation as the means of receiving the Holy Spirit? Again, both views existed in the Early Church, although chrismation seems to have been the dominant practice prior to the middle ages, so how did the Church decide that confirmation was the preferred and true sacrament? The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is not sufficient grounds for infallibility: would you say that the Spirit did not live within Peter after Pentecost? Did Peter not travel far and wide preaching the necessity of circumcision after Pentecost? Don’t make me laugh! Unless the Church has a basis for making and confirming infallibly true statements, the Church does not have a basis for making any claims as absolutes which must be believed at all.
They say that you never respond to an accusation that wasn’t made, and if you didn’t make it then looking at how ignorant I looked in the first post I must have made it. My apologies.
Anyway–I’m not sure about the presuppositions involved with what I’m making. To me, what I’m making are simple appeals to the same Scriptures unanimously accepted as authoritative by Catholics and Protestants alike; and to things which are stated outright in it in such a way as cannot possibly be denied. My proof text I provided is the most direct, I think, but the Bible is filled from book 1 chapter 3 onward with God being distressed about it when people are deceived. Indeed, the Bible speaks of mighty prophets who fall to temptation and speak merely a few words deceptively, like Moses at the rock, and he never entered the Chosen Land because of it. So I don’t think we can argue that God is okay with false teaching just because it comes from his approved teachers. If something comes from humans, not God–and the people in this thread have said that some of the most essential teachings of the Church might come from humans, not that they do, but that it is not known with infallible certainty that they are true–then it can’t be taught as doctrine which came from God.
But the people in this thread are arguing that the Church does does not exercise a claim to infallible knowledge about even about details touching the substance of the faith; but at the same that all people in the Church are required to believe even the details not touching the substance of the faith.
I’m not sure where our different presuppositions and “lenses” come in here. If my presupposition here is my own ability to interpret the Bible, then we can say at least that I have the authority to interpret Anselm. “God is that which has all perfections.” Okay, so which is greater: to suffer people to be made to believe things which might not be true, or to condemn it? If the Church cannot make infallibly true statements, then the Church cannot enforce statements as being undeniably true. If it cannot enforce statements as being undeniably true, then its entire epistemology falls to pieces.
The way I understand it is if it is revealed by the Power of the Holy Spirit its forever.
Many statements are infallible.
But remember it means in the voice of God not the Pope. Anotherwards it was revealed by the Holy Spirit, not the Popes opinion etc.
Not really. Christ gave the Pope the keys to the kingdom. He told him what he binds is bound what is loose is loose.
So when a Pope is in office, he does have some human decisions he is aloud to make, where the next Pope can change.
Like one Pope can say no meat on Friday, the Next can lift it. Etc. Its more disciplines.
But its always for our own good, to bring us closer to God.
But if its a Infallible teaching its forever. I think that’s where you are getting confused. Disciplines and true teaching’s of the Church.