Pope question.

I don’t want to sound like a smart alack, so please bear with me. As I understand it, as Catholics, we are supposed to obey the Pope without question. In RCIA I was taught that the Pope is infallible. How can that be? He’s human and all humans make mistakes.:confused:

The Pope is infallible pertaining to Faith or morals. See the CCC #891


We believe the Pope is infallible only when teaching from the Chair of Peter, with the help of the Holy Spirit. We also believe the Pope is a man and still sins and makes mistakes as a man. We have faith that the Trinity will not allow the Pope to misguide those he has been entrusted with shepherding in matters of Faith and Morals and we have not been let down in over 2000 years.

I think that “obey the Pope without question” needs a lot of fleshing out, but let’s leave that one.

You say all humans make mistakes. Did the writers of scripture make mistakes when they wrote scripture?

Yes, all humans make mistakes. But God does not make mistakes. God can prevent humans from making mistakes if he so chooses, and we know he chooses to prevent the pope from teaching error in the Catholic faith (a very particular kind of mistake, not just any old mistake). We know that because Jesus told Peter that whatever he bound would be bound in heaven, and whatever he loosed would be loosed in heaven, and heaven cannot be bound to falsehood, nor loosed from truth.

Exactly, and that declaration of a certain doctrine to be true using infallibility has only happened twice, I believe, in Church history.

However, the main postion of the Papa, the “servant of the servants of Christ,” is to guard and defend the faith that Christ first gave his apostles. hence apostolic succession.

“Earnestly contend for the faith that was *once delivered *to the saints.”-St. Jude

You’re right, it’s been many, many centuries since there has been a divine revelation on new doctrines. Just further explanations of existing teachings that have been passed down since the time of the time of the Apostles.

he is infallible when invoking his teaching office and speaking ex cathedra (literally, from the Chair, in his office as pope) defining an issue of faith or morals and specifically invoking the charism of infallibility. He is not infallible pronouncing on every day matters like who will win the World Series or whether it will rain tomorrow. We have Christ’s guarantee that when he is teaching as pope he is protected by the Holy Spirit from “making mistakes” or pronouncing error. He is not infallible in giving his opinion on a matter of politics or world affairs, either, but he is certainly well informed and qualified on human terms to offer an opinion.

Every Pope remains a man, just as Peter, the first Pope, remained a man throughout his life until death.

There is no other god-man in existence except The One who established The Catholic Church.

Our faith and trust is in His words, that He will send the Holy Spirit to guide The Church to all truths; that the gates of Hell will not overcome Her, and He will be with Her until the end of time.

As Peter sinned, so can ANY Pope. Yet knowing he was a sinner, Our Lord still gave Peter the Keys of The Kingdom which is more than the power to forgive sins. The Popes answer only to God, for there is no higher authority for them. What a position to be in!!

They require our prayers just as all creation require our prayers, probably, even more so.


The Pope is not personally infallible. His personal opinions are not infallible. He is not infallible in his actions, and he can sin. The Pope goes to confession, to confess his sins, just as we all do.

The teaching of the Pope is infallible when it meets certain conditions, as taught by Vatican I and reiterated by Vatican II.

  1. “the Roman Pontiff”

  2. “speaks ex cathedra” (“that is, when in the discharge of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, and by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority….”)

  3. “he defines”

  4. “that a doctrine concerning faith or morals”

  5. “must be held by the whole Church”
    [Pastor Aeternus, chap. 4.]

  6. “the Roman Pontiff”

  7. “in virtue of his office, when as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith (cf. Lk 22:32),”

  8. “by a definitive act, he proclaims”

  9. “a doctrine of faith or morals” (“And this infallibility…in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of revelation extends”)

  10. “in accordance with revelation itself, which all are obliged to abide by and be in conformity with”
    [Lumen Gentium, n. 25, paragraph 3.]

Otherwise, the teaching of the Pope is non-infallible (limited possibility of error), and his temporal decisions are fallible.

Thanks guy and gals. I think I understand now.:thumbsup:

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