Issues with papal infallibility

ABC is “intrinsically evil”.

Do we need anything more to understand that?

BTW - are you a Jehovah’s Witness? :shrug:

Apparently yes. Because Pope Paul VI set up a commission to study the issue and the commission said that the rule could be changed. Why did the Pope set up a committee to study ABC if it was already known that it was “intrinsically evil”? Why did the committee think that it was not?


Are you a Jehovah’s Witness, Tom?

Your question here is problematic for more than one reason:

  1. I have already answered a few times on CAF what my religion is.
  2. This is off the topic of the thread which is papal infallibility. The rules of CAF are to stay on the topic of the thread.
    The JW have come to my door on several occasions and presented me with various items to read. I disagree with some, but agree with others. I like their stand on pacifism for example. If you want to start a thread to discuss JW and their teachings, I am willing to participate. But it is off the topic here of papal infallibility.


Would you be so kind as to direct to those places where I might find your answer?


I see your point about Casti cannubi. (My spell checker keeps wanting to change that to cannabis.) However, that encyclical contained nothing to indicate that the pope intended to speak infallibly.

I’m going to use the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception to try to explain this. Prior to 1854 a Catholic could reject the doctrine in good faith and still be a good Catholic. That changed with the release of the encyclical on the doctrine because the pope spoke infallibly.

As far as birth control goes, no pope has ever spoken infallibly but that doesn’t matter because papal infallibility is not the only way a doctrine can be considered binding on all Catholics. Something which again brings up one of my original questions, if we have papal infallibility, why do we need the other ways, and vice versa.

This thread is wandering way off-target. Can we forget about who’s a JW and the evils of birth control. I’d really like an answer to my original questions.

No problems. However, it’s necessary, I think, to remind everyone: we tend to get too caught up in the question “is this teaching infallible?”, when really, the question is “is this teaching, infallible or not, something that the Church is putting before me with the obligation that I listen and obey it?” … and the answer to that question is yes: whether a teaching is infallible or not, the official teachings of the Church are to be obeyed, and not debated as if there are ‘optional’ doctrines, dogmata, or disciplines. :wink:

Now, to your question, Gary. The first two seem to already have been answered sufficiently well:

We need Church councils because, although the pope may make infallible statements, there’s a college of bishops who share in the Apostolic succession. If Jesus had said, “ok, guys, I’ve got Peter now, so the rest of you can just go home and relax,” then you’d be able to argue the “just ask the pope” approach. Since He didn’t, then it’s appropriate to utilize the college of bishops in their magisterial role for ordinary expressions of the magisterium.

Papal infallibility hasn’t only been used twice, although, in terms of what most people think of as 'teachings on faith and morals," it’s been used twice in recent history, in the general era surrounding the formal definition of ‘infallibility.’

Excuse me if I’ve missed it, but I haven’t seen an answer to your third question:

I keep hearing that “Unam sanctam”, a papal bull written in 1302 by Pope Boniface VIII is not considered infallible yet it says: “Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” How could this not be considered to be intended as an infallible declaration?

What people are saying, I think, is that people need to understand the context of Unam Sanctam, so that they don’t just proof-text its final line and mistakenly interpret what it’s saying (and what it’s not!). In its historical context, we see that secular leaders (i.e., kings) were telling the pope “we’re both leaders, but I’m in a superior position than you” or “I’m a secular leader, so I have primacy over you in secular matters.” The practical upshot was that world leaders were telling the Pope “I don’t like what you’re saying, and I don’t have to listen to you,” and, therefore, “I’m not committing a sin when I disobey the Pope.”

In response to these kinds of assertions, Boniface VIII wrote Unam Sanctam to refute their arguments and re-assert that Christian leaders were required to obey the Pope; that is, that they couldn’t claim a carte blanche exception to papal authority based on their own secular authority. With that in mind, the pope replied, “no, I do have authority over you, and if you disobey me, you are at risk of committing sin and losing your salvation.”

With that in mind, we can progress to the question “is this teaching infallible?”. Inasmuch as it answers the question, “does there exist a (Catholic) world leader who does not have to obey the pope due to his secular position?”, the answer, it would seem, is “yes, it’s an infallible teaching on the faith.” (However, if you want to be anachronistic and recast it as if it said, “do all people – Catholic or not – have to obey the pope or lose their salvation?”, then I’d have to reply that this phrasing is not an infallible statement… since it isn’t at all the statement that Boniface VIII was making. :wink: )

The assertion of Unam Santam on the Roman Pontiff was defined infallibly by the Fifth Lateran Council. So it is largely an academic question as to whether it falls under Papal Infallibility.

“And since it arises from the necessity of salvation that all the faithful of Christ are to be subject to the Roman Pontiff, just as we are taught by the testimony of the divine Scriptures and of the holy Fathers, and as is declared by the Constitution of Pope Boniface VIII of happy memory, which begins ‘Unam Sanctam,’ for the salvation of the souls of the same faithful, and by the supreme authority of the Roman pontiff and of this holy See, and by the unity and power of the Church, his spouse, the same Constitution, being approved by the sacred Council, we renew and approve.”
(Pope Leo X, Fifth Lateran Council, Session 11, 19 December 1516)

The meaning of the teaching, though, is not that only those who subject themselves to the Pope by becoming Catholic are saved. Rather, it is like the assertion of Saint Thomas that all seven Sacraments are necessary to salvation – not for each individual, but in the broader sense that the Church, the Ark of Salvation, needs all seven Sacraments to save souls. Similarly, the Church needs Her Roman Pontiff to guide this Ark of Salvation.

The three teachings of Evangelium Vitae (condemning murder, euthanasia, abortion) are often cited as possibly falling under papal infallibility.

Possibly? But no one knows if they are infallible or not?

Many people on CAF are misinformed on this particular point. Many Catholics seem to reduce the Church’s infallibility to papal infallibility…this is definitely wrong. The Church’s infallibility can be exercised by the Pope, but this is extremely rare. The vast majority of dogmatic decrees (exercises of the extraordinary magisterium) have been promulgated by ecumenical councils. Neither artificial birth control or the ordination of women have been dogmatically addressed by an “infallible” papal decree…rather, Pope Bl. Paul and Pope St. John Paul authoritatively drew upon the already infallible teaching of the ordinary magisterium (what the popes and bishops have always consistently taught down through the ages). Dogmatic decrees aren’t always required for the Church to know that something has been infallibly taught. See here - a decree from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith clarifying the infallibility of the decree on women priests:


Leaving aside your question for the moment… what’s the practical significance of whether or not it’s an infallibly asserted teaching?

The practical significance is that a teaching that is not infallible, (such as the previous teachings on limbo, torture, slavery, women wearing headcovering in church), may be changed somewhat later on.

Dogmas and doctrines may not be changed (reversed). They may be developed or clarified.
Disciplines and devotions may be changed or eliminated altogether.

I don’t think that’s quite true. I don’t think the Church can go back on any teachings that have ever been taught by the ordinary magisterium. If my understanding is correct, the Church never taught limbo, it was just a popular theory among many theologians; it never taught that torture was okay, though some bishops did command torture to be used; and it never taught that slavery is okay, except perhaps in a form that doesn’t violate peoples’ right to freedom and that doesn’t fit the definition of slavery today. And regarding women wearing headcoverings, I think that was a changeable discipline, not a teaching. Does that seem reasonable?

Are you sure? I thought that it was well established that Pope Innocent IV allowed torture (under certain restricted conditions) to be used in the Inquisition according to the papal encyclical Ad Extirpanda?

I do not not what specific encyclical said, but torture in ecclesiastical trials during the Inquisition could only be utilized once, with the attendance of specialists, a doctor, and a bishop. Specific measures were taken place–unlike state trials during the Inquisition, which allowed for multiple instances of torture etc.

But torture is said to be wrong now, although it was not so during the Inquisition.

For more than 500 years it was taught that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. It was in the Creed. That was changed so that now it is taught that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son.
For 1900 years it was taught that the Blood was shed for many. After Vatican II, that was changed and for 50 years it was taught that the Blood was shed for all. Then they changed it again and now they teach that the Blood was shed for many, although there are some priests who say that the Blood was shed for All, even though in the missalette it says that the Blood was shed for Many.
Limbo was taught in some versions of the Baltimore Catechism, which is the ordinary magisterium, is it not?

Are you so sure about that? That’s not quite the word we hear coming out of the DoJ and Washington… :nope:

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