Papal Infallibility only happened twice?

The doctrine of infallibility means that ‘ex cathedra’ statements are one of the requirements, but 2 that the Holy Spirit is protecting the church from such a contradiction so that the Church may not be lead astray (see Matt 16:13-19, Jesus declares that “the gates of Hades shall not prevale against it [the church]”).

Note that there is a modern list of the dogmas of the Catholic Church called Lumen Gentium (promulgated 1964) from the Vatican Council.

The Credo of the People of God, St Pope Paul VI, 1968.

Arguably his second most important document, but overshadowed by attacks on Humanae Vitae. Sadly ignored.

In one sense I agree with you. Scripture in itself is God’s Word.

But without an infallible, visible human magisterium, we have no idea what books are in it.

Some Protestant apologists squirm out of recognizing the Magisterium by saying we have a “fallible collection of infallible books”. (Rome Sweet Home, by Scott Hahn).

Yes, I did mean ecumenical councils in particular. Yes, the Pope is an essential part of such councils, but their authority, their infallibility, is a synergy, I would say… ecumenical councils are an example of the entire college of bishops, head and body, collectively exercising infallibility.

Interesting - just curious, how does the Catholic church reconcile the fact that the Pope wasn’t present at any of the first Seven Ecumenical Councils?

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The Bishop of Rome still accepted / ratified each of the seven councils of the first millennium that we recognize as ecumenical. Others were not ratified by the Pope and are not thus recognized by the modern Catholic Church. He was involved even if not there in person. Chalcedon is a particularly good example as Pope St Leo’s tome was received by the council.

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Also not recognized by the modern Protestants. Those Protestants who do recognize some authority to some Ecumenical Councils limit their recognition to those ratified by the pope, and not by other authorities (the gnostics, etc.)

Example apart from the 2 mentioned by others

Ordinatio Sacerdotalis = a definitive papal pronouncement that confirms or reaffirms a teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium of a male only priesthood. JPII definitively states that his pronouncement is a confirmation (“in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren”). Finally, affirming that he is acting to remove all doubt on the matter, the Pope adds that his “judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

From the doc.

“4. Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.
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.”

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Thanks but that example has already been given and discussed in the thread.

Other examples not already given are welcome.

I didn’t see this link quoted

Canonization (not beatification) of Saints.

The key here is

"Because the Pope is officially decreeing that all Christians are to believe that a certain person is in heaven, it is believed to fall under the definition of papal infallibility."


Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think moral doctrines are matters of dogma. They are not divinely revealed but grounded in natural law, and considered infallible because of the constant tradition of the church, confirmed by the magisterium (like Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae).

Wasn’t there a big debate, including among cardinals and bishops at the time, over whether Humanae Vitae was infallible or not?

The definition of papal infallibility is the following

(all emphasis mine)

"we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that
when the Roman pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when,
in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians,
in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals
to be held by the whole church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals.[/u] Therefore, such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the church, irreformable. "


Consider the explanation above. Key points for the teaching

  1. Teach and define, a matter of Faith AND morals are the only areas for infallible consideration.

  2. By Divine assistance, promised to the pope in St Peter , willed by the Divine Redeemer

  3. The issue is to be believed by the whole Church

  4. An infallible statement of a pope, can be confirmed by magisterial teaching, but not necessary.

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Thanks @steve-b I think I’m splitting hairs about the term dogma.

In Canada there was the infamous Winnipeg Statement, where most bishops stated that Catholics could, in the privacy of their own conscience, dissent from Humanae Vitae. This sort of thing was echoed recently about the Amoris Laetitia gloss on divorced and civilly remarried Catholics with the “internal forum” discussion I think.

I’m not familiar with the Winnepeg statement.

The CCC says (emphasis mine)
2399 The regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception).


there is no recourse, to “privacy of conscience” to justify what is morally unacceptable. That can’t be justified.

I think the Church is always going to have people doing stuff “in the privacy of their own conscience” regardless of how much it tub-thumps authority or infallibility or whatever.

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