Is the Pope infallible?


#1

I do hope this is the proper sub-forum for this topic. I’m not Roman Catholic, so that’s why I am asking. For every RC I ask this question to, I get a different answer. Thank you all!


#2

Short answer from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

891 “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful - who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council.418 When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine "for belief as being divinely revealed,"419 and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions "must be adhered to with the obedience of faith."420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.421

There are three main areas of confusion with this doctrine.

The first is confusing “infallibility” with “impeccability” – the idea that the Pope is without sin. Uh-uh.

The second is by having an overly broad view of the scope of infallibility. “Faith and morals” – the bolded text above is mine.

The third is in not understanding that infallibility is a negative protection. Infallibility does not guarantee that the Pope will acurately teach doctrine but that he will not teach error. This is someimes badly misunderstood.


#3

[quote=wabrams]I do hope this is the proper sub-forum for this topic. I’m not Roman Catholic, so that’s why I am asking. For every RC I ask this question to, I get a different answer. Thank you all!
[/quote]

Yes, the Pope has the assurance of Christ that when he teaches on matters of Faith or Morals, binding on the universal Church as the successor of Peter he will not teach error.


#4

When we can see 300 years later that what the Pope said was right, then we know it was infallible. When he’s wrong, it’s not infallible.

BouleTheou


#5

The Pope is infallible only when speaking “ex cathedra”. This is specific moral doctrine of the Church. The Pope is a man born with original sin just like the rest of us. He goes to confession as well. I believe the last ex cathedra statement was in the 60’s and was about the assumption of Mary. Hope that helps.


#6

[quote=BouleTheou]When we can see 300 years later that what the Pope said was right, then we know it was infallible. When he’s wrong, it’s not infallible.

BouleTheou
[/quote]

Bias is one thing.

Hostility is another.


#7

[quote=BouleTheou]When we can see 300 years later that what the Pope said was right, then we know it was infallible. When he’s wrong, it’s not infallible.

BouleTheou
[/quote]

wabrams appeared to be asking what the Catholic Church teaches on this issue. Let us charitably assume that if wabrams takes issue with the Catholic position, he or she can do it unaided.


#8

Thank you all for your thoughts, but please keep them coming.

I do understand the differences between infallibility and impeccability. But if the Pope can teach the doctorine w/o error, then wouldn’t this mean there would be no other way to teach but the correct way?


#9

[quote=mercygate]wabrams appeared to be asking what the Catholic Church teaches on this issue. Let us charitably assume that if wabrams takes issue with the Catholic position, he or she can do it unaided.
[/quote]

I’m not Roman Catholic so that’s why I am asking. I promise I’m not trying to be a troll, but just understand since my soon to be fiance is RC. I sincerely want to learn more, that’s all. Again, thank you all and please keep your thoughts and opinions coming!


#10

[quote=BouleTheou]When we can see 300 years later that what the Pope said was right, then we know it was infallible. When he’s wrong, it’s not infallible.

BouleTheou
[/quote]

When do you believe that pope has definitively taught something on a matter of faith and morals that was binding on all believers but was wrong? Is this your opinion or objective truth?

In Christ,
Nancy :slight_smile:


#11

[quote=wabrams]Thank you all for your thoughts, but please keep them coming.

I do understand the differences between infallibility and impeccability. But if the Pope can teach the doctorine w/o error, then wouldn’t this mean there would be no other way to teach but the correct way?
[/quote]

I am not quite sure what you are asking.

If you are asking if the pope can teach error, yes he can, but when teaching it as something the entire church teaches and believe he will not teach error. Part of the popes job is to maintain orthodoxy in the church, which means that he can not just start defining dogmas of the church.


#12

[quote=wabrams]Thank you all for your thoughts, but please keep them coming.

I do understand the differences between infallibility and impeccability. But if the Pope can teach the doctorine w/o error, then wouldn’t this mean there would be no other way to teach but the correct way?
[/quote]

Sort of. Infallibility only includes WHAT the pope officially teaches, not how, when, or if he teaches it. Infallibility doesn’t ensure that the way the pope teaches something will necessarily be clearly understood. If doesn’t guarentee that he will teach when he should (he may remain silent when he really should be speaking out for or against something). All it gaurentees is that when he does officially teach that it won’t be wrong.

In Christ,
Nancy :slight_smile:


#13

[quote=pennyh]The Pope is infallible only when speaking “ex cathedra”. This is specific moral doctrine of the Church. The Pope is a man born with original sin just like the rest of us. He goes to confession as well. I believe the last ex cathedra statement was in the 60’s and was about the assumption of Mary. Hope that helps.
[/quote]

Actually, the entire ordinary Magisterium of the Church, which includes the Creeds, is infallible. The ex cathedra promulgation you are referring to was in 1950: the Dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Here is a good article on the teaching authority of the Church:

catholic.com/thisrock/2004/0401clas.asp


#14

[quote=Catholic4aReasn]Sort of. Infallibility only includes WHAT the pope officially teaches, not how, when, or if he teaches it. Infallibility doesn’t ensure that the way the pope teaches something will necessarily be clearly understood. If doesn’t guarentee that he will teach when he should (he may remain silent when he really should be speaking out for or against something). All it gaurentees is that when he does officially teach that it won’t be wrong.

In Christ,
Nancy :slight_smile:
[/quote]

EXCELLENT answer! :clapping:


#15

[quote=BouleTheou]When we can see 300 years later that what the Pope said was right, then we know it was infallible. When he’s wrong, it’s not infallible.

BouleTheou
[/quote]

BouleTheou;

Please cite instances where this has occurred?


#16

[quote=Robert in SD]BouleTheou;

Please cite instances where this has occurred?
[/quote]

Boule, if you are inclined to answer this question, please have the courtesy to do it on another thread.


#17

The Papacy: God’s Gift to the Church, by Jimmy Akin

[left]cin.org/users/james/files/papacy.htm
[/left]


#18

[quote=jimmy]I am not quite sure what you are asking.

If you are asking if the pope can teach error, yes he can, but when teaching it as something the entire church teaches and believe he will not teach error. Part of the popes job is to maintain orthodoxy in the church, which means that he can not just start defining dogmas of the church.
[/quote]

That pretty much answers my question. So basically what I’m hearing is his interpretations of church doctrine and and the Bible are infallible. Or did I just get this wrong?


#19

[quote=wabrams]That pretty much answers my question. So basically what I’m hearing is his interpretations of church doctrine and the Bible are infallible. Or did I just get this wrong?
[/quote]

The pope enjoys the personal charism of infallibility only when he speaks on matters of faith and morals* ex cathedra* (Lit., from the Chair of Peter), i.e., explicitly as the earthly leader of Christ’s Church. It is possible for a pope to hold and teach erroneous personal opinions as a theologian or as a Bible scholar but, when he speaks ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals, he enjoys the charism of infallibility.

To help clarify this distinction between papal statements that are personal opinion and those that are infallible ex cathedra statements, let’s look at a somewhat similar situation in the Bible regarding the Apostle Paul. In the Bible, the Apostle Paul sometimes spoke his personal opinions, such as in 1 Cor 7:25, when he said, “I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion” that unmarried Christians should not marry. At other times, Paul spoke with infallible apostolic authority, such as in 1 Cor 11:23, when he said, “I have received from the Lord…” This is somewhat similar to the pronouncements of the pope, in that some pronouncements are a pope’s personal opinions and some are spoken with infallible papal authority. The comparison is not exactly same, however, because divine revelations that are binding on all Christians, such as the Apostle Paul received from the Lord, ceased with the death of the last Apostle and a pope acts now only as a custodian of “the faith delivered once and for all to the saints” of the first century, neither adding new divine revelations to it nor subtracting from it what has already been revealed.

It may also help if we look at the actual wording of two recent examples of infallible* ex cathedra* statements by popes to get an idea of what such statements look like.On the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

“…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. 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.” (Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, 1950)

On the ordination of women to the priesthood:

“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. Luke 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.” (Pope John Paul II, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, 1994)


#20

One reason you get different answers is probably because some Catholic have a better understanding of the issue.

The answer is Yes, the Pope possesses the gift of infallibility by virtue of the office he holds, that being the Bishop of Rome!


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