Problem with using "Binding and Loosing Powers" as an argument for Infallibility

Hello everyone,

I’ve heard Catholics argue that when Jesus told Peter “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”, he in effect is giving Peter the power of infallibility, for:

  1. Peter binds or looses on earth
  2. Such binding or loosing is valid in heaven
  3. If it’s valid in heaven, then God is behind it
  4. Therefore, the binding and loosing is infallible

However, in Matthew 18, Jesus says all the local churches have the same binding and loosing powers “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”.

So how do we argue against Protestants who bring this objection up, and then try to show how each local church has binding and loosing powers?

Christ was speaking to His Apostles as a unfied group…the Church. They are now sharers in the power to bind and loose which was given to Peter. The distinction with Peter is that Peter, and Peter alone, was given the Keys to the Kingdom (see Is 22:22) and Peter alone was tasked with strengthening his brothers after the crucifixion (Lk 22:32) and Peter alone was tasked with shepherding Christ’s flock on earth after His Ascension (Jn 21:17).

Infallibility is granted to Christ’s Church, not necessarily to Peter alone. But Peter was made Christ’s Vicar…the earthly head of Christ’s Church on earth.

Another way to agrue infallibility is to ask if Jesus was wrong when he made the promises to His Apostels in Jn 16:13, Jn 14:26, Lk 10:16 or Mt 28:20.

Hey thanks for your comment.

My question, however, was more concerned with the “heavenly ratification” of a local church decision. Jesus said the the local Church, “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven”. Would that not mean then that the power to bind and loose does not entail infallibility because in modern Roman Catholic dogma, there is no local Church that can be infallible besides the Church of Rome.

The Church of Rome has pre-eminent authority due to its Apostolic pedegree in that it was grounded by both Peter and Paul. Any local church necessarily derives its Apostolic and ecclesial authority and tradition from the see of Rome.

I have read Mt 18:15-18 many times and I don’t get the “local church” connection…could you explain?



The question was related to the heavenly ratification of the binding and loosing powers in a local church. If that does not entail infallibility, then neither does it for Peter.

I don’t see how it would mean therefore neither is infallible. They would have to be assuming that the local church Jesus speaks of here in Matthew 18 is separate and autonomous from the Church he established on Peter in Matthew 16, for it to undermine Peter’s infallibility.

The entire Church as a whole has received the gift of infallibility. But, this Church isn’t separate or divided from Peter and his successors at Rome. He is the visible head, so there’s no competition between the two. How could there be?

They are different powers of binding and loosing. This can be seen in older Bibles as Peter was addressed in the singular (thou, thee) in St Matthew 16, and the Apostles were addressed as the plural you in St Matthew 18.

We are talking about Mt 18:15-18
15"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.16But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

It can take some time to deal with this because the mindset of those using this argument is built on “locally independent” churches. So you really have to take some time in bringing them along.
I approach it like this…

  1. First - Ask them if it is a sin to teach a false doctrine. Obviously they will say yes it is a sin. Now you have established that “sin” referred to in vs 15 includes doctrinal matters.

  2. Then ask them how do they resolve matters where one local church body “binds” one view while another local church body “binds” the opposite view. Both of these local bodies can’t be right. So - how does scripture tell us to deal with such matters?

  3. Now - ask them to look in their bible at Acts 15. In the beginning we see a debate between Jewish converts and Gentile converts. This debate was such that not even St Paul himself could not settle the matter. (Do you see shades of vs 15-16 above?)…
    So what was decided? They sent a delegation to Jerusalem - “to the apostles and elders about this question” (Acts 15:2)

  4. Reading through Acts 15 we see the Church, in council and guided by the Holy Spirit, settling a doctrinal matter, not just of one or two local churches, but for the universal Church.

  5. Mt 18 is the instructions - Acts 15 is the demonstration of those instructions in action.

Now there is still a lot of room for debate in all of this…but when I stick to these points, I’ve done well in discussion.
A common theme will be for the person to then say - well yea but where does this mean the “Catholic Church”. This is really an attempt to deflect the conversation and place you on the defensive.
My reply is to say - forget the Catholic structure - lets’ just look at what Scripture says and how the Apostles and Jesus viewed authority.

You can find multiple admonitions in the Epistles to agreeing, to avoiding dissension, to unity, to being one voice etc.

I guess I’m starting to prattle…Sorry…

Bottom line is the “local church” having the authority to bind and loose is fine on certain matters, but it becomes problematic when it comes to matters of doctrine…interpretation of Scripture etc.

Hope this helps some…


But Jesus did not address it to the Local Church, isn’t it? He addressed it to Peter. For a local church to have binding and losing authority, they must also have apostolic successors or bishops with apostolic lineage.

Good points. If two local churches disagree, there still needs to be an authority that has the final say in the matter. :thumbsup:

Thanks for the comments.

However, that still kind of side steps the issue.

Maybe I should explain myself a bit better.

The power to “bind and loose” is seen in action when the local Church excommunicates an unloving brother who refuses to listen to the accusing brother, the two/three witnesses, and finally the officers of the Church. Since the modern Roman Catholic Church teaches that infallibility cannot be an affair within a local Church setting (besides the Roman Church), the power to “bind and loose” does not by itself denote the charism of infallibility.

This leads to the ultimate question. How does Peter being given the same binding and loosing powers then denote infallibility, if indeed the same power is vested in a local Church. We can insert the issue of a local Church erring, but then that would also cast doubt on the promise Jesus made in Matthew 18, namely, that whatever the local Church binds on earth will be bound in heaven. And if we are willing to allow these binding and loosing powers to not “always” be effective in heaven, then we would have to say the same about the power to bind and loose in Matthew 16, namely, that it is not a promise to always be effective.

The power to bind and loose was given particularly to Peter and later to the other eleven. The power therefore is dependent upon the spiritual descent/pedigree from an Apostolic See. Rome is the Primary Holy and Apostolic See since it was founded and grounded by Peter and Paul.

There are no binding and loosing powers related to any local church or parish because they were not founded and/or grounded by an Apostle. All local churches in particular and their authority are dependent upon the local ordinary, the Bishop of that diocese. Without the Bishop they have no authority to do anything.

And also the Bishop of a diocese only has his authority from the college of Bishops in communion with the Holy See. If that Bishop did something to cause a break with the Bishops or the Pope then that diocese would loose all authority and faculties. Any Eucharist confected would be invalid, any teaching contrary to the Church’s anathema.

The supposition in the question is a non-sequitur because local churches do not possess the powers to bind and loose. It’s a misinterpretation of the text.

Sorry if this has been answered.

Binding and loosing (such as contents of the bible) is authority given the Church directly from God.

Infallibility is a charism of the Holy Spirit.

Thus, you have both power and direction.

Power without direction is chaotic. Direction without power is useless.

And the assumption here is that the early Church had local parishes as we do. In the early Church, the Bishop consistently met with the local congregation.

I think I see what you are saying - at least to a degree…

But the problem for the protestant still remains - that local protestant churches can and do come up with contradictory decisions when they are not in communion with each other.

When the local Churches ARE in communion with each other then their teaching, discipline, practice etc can all be nicely harmonized. When this occurs and the local churches bind and loose in accord with the teachings of the wider (universal) Church in communion with the Holy See in Rome, then the binding and loosing is, in effect, infallible It all stems from the same deposit of faith.

Not sure if I explained this well…I hope it helps a littler


Thanks for the reply.

But if we are going to allow for Christ’s promise to the local Church, namely, that what the local Church binds on earth will be bound in heaven and what the local Church looses will be loosed in heaven, to not be free from error, then how can we say that the same promise to Peter in Matt 16 is free from error?

Actually I think that there have been several good answers already…

The key here is that there is no distinction between the local church and the universal church.


No, it didn’t. The population of Christians in the first and early second century was small enough were all Christians celebrated Mass in the same place presided over by the Bishop. Cities such as Corinth only had one “Church” parish.

As the Church spread out local Churches were presided over by their metropolitan bishops, who still maintained communion with the Apostolic Sees(Antioch, Alexandria, Rome, Jerusalem[before it was finally destroyed and razed], and later Constantinople). This lasted well into the early 300’s due to various persecutions other circumstances.

The diocesan system didn’t develop until after the time of Constantine, which took from Diocletian’s political diocesan system, and further developed into the middle ages as Christianity spread. Local parishes were developed once it was decided that Bishops would be limited to a diocese and Masses would be presided locally by parish presbyters(priests) in union with the local ordinary(the diocesan Bishop).

That’s true, but only due to what I explained above, not because of separate
“local” parishes that protestants believe to be comparable to their faith communities.

Infallibility, as far as the church is concerned deals with matters of faith and morality…by claiming the reading deals with infallibility is comparing apples and oranges.

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