Papal Infallibility


As a Protestant, one point in particular has always puzzled me about Papal Infallibility. The First Vatican Council set bounds on when the Pope was speaking infallibily. The question I have is, if the Pope can be infallible, why would he ever choose not to be? If he makes a fallible statement, does it not run the risk of misleading people, and if so, why would he run that risk when he could avoid it by making an infallible statement?


The Papal Infallibility can be best defined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church states,

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


892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful "are to adhere to it with religious assent"422 which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.

Infallibility is only limited to teaching moral and faith issue, and the divine assistance of the Holy Spirit, and so the Mother Church is preserve from teaching error. We see this in the Council of Jerusalem, Council of Nicea, Council of Ephesus, etc


In Catholic Theology, papal infallibility is the dogma that, by action of the Holy Spirit , the Pope is preserved from even the possibility of error when he solemnly declares or promulgates to the Church a dogmatic teaching on faith or morals as being contained in divine revelation, or at least being intimately connected to divine revelation. For all such infallible teachings, the Holy Spirit also works through the body of the Church to ensure that the teaching will be received by all Catholics.
This doctrine was defined dogmatically in the First Vatican Council of 1870 . According to Catholic theology, there are several concepts important to the understanding of infallible, divine infallible, divine revelation, Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Sacred Magisterium. The infallible teachings of the pope are part of the Sacred Magisterium, which also consists of ecumenical councils and the “ordinary and universal magisterium”. In Catholic theology, papal infallibility is one of the channels of the infallibility of the Church. The infallible teachings of the pope must be based on, or at least not contradict, Sacred Tradition or Sacred Scripture. Papal infallibility does not signify that the pope is impeccable, i.e., that he is specially exempt from liability to sin.
According to ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Catholicism’: "In reality, the pope seldom uses his power of infallibility…rather than being some mystical power of the pope, infallibility means the church allows the office of the pope to be the ruling agent in deciding what will be accepted as formal beliefs in the church."Since the 1870 solemn declaration of Papal Infallibility by Vatican I, this power has been used only once: in 1950 when Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary as being an article of faith for Roman Catholics.


The idea of infallibility only applies to those things that we were promissed that God would protect… His word and His Church.

Infallibility is not a trick that the Pope pulls out of his Mitre.


How many times were infallible statements made before 1870? Is it possible to know? Was Unam Sanctam an infallible pronouncement? The wording would certainly seem to fit. How then can it be reconciled with the present teachings on non-Catholic religions?

On an aside, I am a newcomer here. How do you make something a quote without having to take out everything not wanted from the quoted post? How do you insert part of another source as a quote?


The Pope only made two infallibility statements. The Immaculate Conception of Mary, and Assumption of Mary. The Church guided by the Holy Spirit came up with those conclusions, and it is also based on Patristic sources (Writings of the Early Church Fathers).


I like to add a quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.

966 “Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.” The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians:

In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death


I’m not sure I understand what you are asking here…

basically a quote is created by putting the tags q u o t e ] at the start of the text, and / q u o t e ] at the end of the text… only remove all the spaces- i had to but spaces between the characters so that they were not interpreted as actual tags


Thank you very much. That is exactly what I was asking about. I guess I should have gone to the forum help page earlier.


I believe that even the article I posted above is somewhat confusing infallible with Ex Cathedra.
All Catholic doctrine, taught by the Pope, is considered to be infallible.
When a Pope makes as declaration such as the 1950 declaration when Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary as being an article of faith for Roman Catholics, he was speaking Ex Cathedra… which is a formal infallible statement. It is Ex Cathedra statements that have been seldom used by Popes. All of the Church doctrine is infallible.


I have a couple of follow up questions for our Protestant friends here.

  1. Why is this such a sore spot? Do you understand that if this wasn’t so all of Christianity would be built on shifting sand? The Bible itself relies on the infallibility of the first bishops for it’s authority (both those who wrote it and those who later assembled it). Don’t pull on the string unless you want the whole sweater to come apart.

  2. Why is the Pope the only Christian in the entire world that’s not allowed to have a ‘personal interpretation’ guided by the Holy Sprit? Isn’t all of the reformation based upon it? So… what is it to you if I believe the 80 year old man in Rome’s interpretation? You believe your pastor’s teachings, don’t you? :confused:


It is interesting that Protestants believe that scripture which passed and was written through the hands of dozens if not hundreds of men could be kept pure, but they refuse to believe that God could keep his Church pure through the same medium, man.


I’m sure that there are Protestant preachers and theologians out there who insist that their particular interpretations of Scripture are invariably correct, but in 45 years I’ve not met any of these fellows. In general, Protestants believe that there is a “right” answer to Scriptural interpretation, but do not claim to never err in that interpretation even if, personally, they believe that they are interpreting the passage exactly right.


So is that the foundation for once saved, always saved? Does OSAS ensure that even wrong interpretations wouldn’t hinder your path to Heaven?


Who said I believed in OSAS?


the last time I check I don’t believe you do.


Not me. I was just thinking out loud. My wife is Lutheran and she scrunches her nose up if I mention OSAS. It’s not universal by any means, but you have to admit it offers a way of avoiding having to be infallible, right?


Not sure that I follow your point here…


Well, it’s sort of a stretch, and I am struggling to find the least offensive way to put it.

Let’s say, for instance, that if you are saved by a single act of faith, and nothing you do after that can change that fact, then having infallible teachings is only a ‘nice to have’ bonus. Your salvation is assured, rest easy and love the Lord.

I’m afraid if I try to explain it any farther I will cross the line and offend somebody, so I will leave it there.


I understand your point now. I suppose that it’s true, but generally even OSAS folks don’t go that far.

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