Papal infallibility is one that thing that sets Catholics apart from other Christian faiths and it is also an aspect of Catholicism that can drive Catholics against one another. The ability of the Pope to decree things infallible by himself has been part of the Church since the year 1870 when it was the largest affirmation that came out of Vatican Council I. One would think that certainly many doctrines and teachings of the Catholic Faith have been called infallible since the time of Vatican Council I. However only two teachings of the Catholic Church have been called infallible by the Pope; the Immaculate Conception which was decreed infallible in 1854, before Vatican Council I, and the Assumption of Mary which was made infallible in 1950.
In theory all other doctrines, teachings, etc. of the Catholic Faith are up for debate. One would assume that long standing traditions of the Church are not going to be changed but there have been times when things may have been changed quite radically. Many thought that Priests would have the right to marry and abandon celibacy coming out of Vatican Council II. Yet, this did not happen as I am sure that even non-Catholics are aware of today. After the time of Vatican Council II more debates on what could be called infallible have arisen. An example is the debate between Fr. Charles Curran and then Cardinal Ratzinger during the 1980’s. Curran was pushing for a right for dissent from the “authoritative and hierarchical teachings” of the Church. Ratzinger responded with an investigation and in 1987 Fr. Charles Curran was fired from the University he was working at. Ratzinger said that Curran’s challenges or challenges to infallibility in general would weaken the pillars of the Catholic Faith to nothing more than mere recommendations. Furthermore, in the Apostolic Letter Ad Tuendam Fidem released in 1998, the rule was put down by Ratzinger that a host of teachings are infallible because they are joined to revealed truths of the faith. Ratzinger would later become Pope Benedict and would continue to affirm that many more teachings of the Church are infallible besides the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption.
I think that it is important to note here that infallibility itself is not being challenged but rather what can be called infallible if it has not been directly said so by the Pope. As shown in this link at the first Vatican Council infallibility was agreed upon by a good majority of the Bishops. And those who did disagree accepted that the Church had decided and that it was expected of them to fall in-line. So, that is not what was being discussed but rather what could be seen as “open for debate”. Benedict XVI may have taken a hard-line approach to what he considered infallible and the term “creeping infallibility” used in the article I linked earlier may have been appropriate for his Papacy. However, with the way things have been seeming to progress with Pope Francis
I would not be surprised if teachings of the Church that have long been taken to be infallible are brought onto the discussion table.

This is probably not a Spirituality Forum question.

Certainly, the Apostolic teachings of the Church are unchangeable and can be considered infallible.

Teachings on faith or morals that have been consistently taught by the Magisterium also have an infallible character. I’m not sure what is the question or intent of the thread otherwise. Perhaps the OP could make an explicit assertion or ask a question.

There are about 256 dogma of faith. They are not up for debate.

Bishop Gasser (Vatican [FONT=&quot]I) noted that Papal authority:
[/FONT] 1. is not personal: not as the person, but as the role of Supreme Pontiff, not because of the authority of the Supreme Pontiff, but due to the assistance of the Holy Spirit when acting in that role as supreme judge in matters of faith and morals.

  1. is not separate: not apart from, or opposed to, or set over against the entire Church, even though the promise of Christ of the aid of the Holy Spirit to the role of sucessor of Peter in matters of faith and morals is, in a sense, different than that of the indefectability and infallibility in truth promised to the entire Church.

  2. is not absolute since absolute authority belongs to God alone and it is restricted by the subject: what must be accepted or rejected of faith or morals.
    See The Gift of Infallibility, Gasser, O’Connor, pages 44-50. This is the book on the relatio of Vatican I.

In his relatio, Bishop Gasser answered a very important question:
“It is true that the consent of the present preaching of the whole Magisterium of the Church, united with its head, is the rule of faith even for pontifical definitions. But from that it can in no way be deduced that there is a strict and absolute necessity of seeking that consent from the rulers of the Churches or from the bishops. I say this because the consent is very frequently able to be deduced from the clear and manifest testimonies of Sacred Scripture, from the opinion of theologians and from other private means, all of which suffice for full informaton about the fact of the Church’s consent. Finally it must never be overlooked that there is present to the Pope the tradition of the Church of Rome, that is of the Church to which faithlessness has no access, and with which, because of its more powerful primacy, every Church must agree.”
Previously he gave Mt 28:20 for evidence of the infallibility of the Magisterium of the Church, and Mt 16:18 and Lk 22:32 as evidence of infallibility of the Pope (definitions of faith and morals).

The Gift of Infallibility, Gasser, O’Connor, pp. 54-55

Are we saying that a Pope could make an infallible declaration binding all Catholics even if every Bishop disagreed with him?

Seems you do not understand the meaning of Infallibility in the Catholic Church. Once Infallible, always Infallible and the Catholic Church has had it since Christ told Peter, Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven. Not a “new” invention by the Church in 1870. Your right, many Catholics do not understand its true meaning. God Bless, Memaw

The Pope can teach infallibly by his sole authority. But it is not possible for all the Bishops to disagree, because the Church is indefectible. An exercise of Papal Infallibility cannot err. And the body of Bishops will not reject such a teaching, since if they did the Church would have lost its indefectibility.

The Magisterium teaches infallibly in any of three ways:

  1. Papal Infallibility
  2. Conciliar Infallibility
  3. the ordinary and universal Magisterium

Oh how I wish more Catholics could understand this, God Bless, memaw

I have read some of Curran’s work, and it is interesting. Today many Catholics have this idea that concludes every teaching of the Church is infallible and unchangeable, when in fact this not what the Church officially teaches. The Church is infallible only in ecumenical councils and when the Pope speaks ex cathedra, which has not happened often.

The issue is infallibility and the ordinary universal magisterium. The Church also teaches that the Church’s bishops cannot err when they have taught consistency and across the world the same thing on matters of faith and morals. This makes sense. But as the original post makes clear, there is sometimes issue when identifying what consists in the range of “ordinary universal magisterium.”

No, papal declaration is not the only means of infallible declaration. Actually, most infallible and dogmatic teachings of The Church are infallible by virtue of the ordinary Magisterium. The incarnation, the divinity of Christ, the Trinity; in fact virtually all infallible dogmatic teachings of The Church, are through the ordinary Magisterium.

False. The ability of the Pope to decree things infallibly, by himself, has always been with the office of the Pope; it was only dogmatically defined in 1870.

False. Any teaching that has been dogmatically defined is required to be believed without doubt by the Faithful. Any teaching that has been doctrinally defined is required to be held by the Faithful, even if one has doubts about it in one’s heart. This is because both dogma and doctrine are infallible teachings, and are not up for debate.

You’re confusing two kinds of tradition here. Loosely speaking, you have “big T” traditions and “little t” traditions. If we’re speaking of doctrine and dogma that are not explicitly expounded in Scripture, then we’re talking about Tradition in the sense that the teachings of the Catholic Church are based upon Scripture and Tradition, two forms of revelation. This kind of Tradition does not change.

If we’re speaking about liturgical forms and norms, training regulations for varying levels of clerical life, the voting process for new Popes, etc., then we’re talking about tradition in the sense of Canon Law which regulates how our Faith life is carried out, and can and does change throughout history. The example you propose regarding married priests is an example of a tradition which may certainly change, as it has in the past (and which is not a universal norm even in the Church today), because it is a discipline, not a dogma or doctrine.

Yes, this is correct. And these revealed truths reside in both Scripture and Tradition (big “T”).

For example?

What I am asking is has any Pope taught infallibly on his sole authority or in every case of an infallible teaching has there also at least been a majority of bishops in agreement.

If only all Catholics had the same understanding of Infallibility as this !! Thank You and God Bless, Memaw

Papal infallibility is based on the Pope’s sole authority, regardless of whether a majority of Bishops agree. But after the infallible teaching is issued, a majority of Bishops will certainly agree, otherwise they would be in a state of heresy.

It’s difficult to say, historically, whether a Pope ever taught infallibly when the majority opinion among Bishops, prior to that teaching, was to the contrary. Before modern means of communication, it would be difficult to find out what each Bishop’s opinion might be. Even today, most Bishops do not publicly issue a stance on each theological question not yet decided by the Magisterium.

But it could possibly happen in the future. Nothing prevents the Pope from teaching infallibly when the majority opinion of the Bishops is to the contrary.


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