Question about Pope's Infallibility

I have a question about the infallibility of the Pope.

I have always been taught and believe that the Pope is infallible in matters of the Church.

Many non-Catholics in my office are stating that they wonder if our future elected Pope will make some modern day changes such as allowing birth control, letting priests marry, letting women become priests, etc. ( I personally hope there will be no major changes in the Catholic church with the new Pope).

My question is this: If the new Pope makes some major changes in matters of the church, wouldn’t that imply that our former Popes were infallible and wrong in what they taught?

Thanks for your help!

Karen

[quote=SWTHRT]I have a question about the infallibility of the Pope.

I have always been taught and believe that the Pope is infallible in matters of the Church.

Many non-Catholics in my office are stating that they wonder if our future elected Pope will make some modern day changes such as allowing birth control, letting priests marry, letting women become priests, etc. ( I personally hope there will be no major changes in the Catholic church with the new Pope).

My question is this: If the new Pope makes some major changes in matters of the church, wouldn’t that imply that our former Popes were infallible and wrong in what they taught?

Thanks for your help!

Karen
[/quote]

The infallible statements of previous Popes and Council form the foundation of the Catholic faith. They are truths that God has revealed, through the Church (which is how He reveals the truth to us).

It is impossible for a future Pope to “undo” a dogma of the faith - or a moral teaching. It is theoretically possible for a Pope to say that it is OK to practice birth control, or commit fornication, or adultery, etc., but that would be an error, and it would be sinful for a Catholci to follow that. Similarly it is theoretically possilbe that a Pope could claim that Catholics are no longer bound to believe the truths that have been defined. If that happened, the Pope would be wrong, and those who followed him would be in error.

The only time a Pope is protected by the charism of Papal Infallibility is when they defined a doctrine that is to be excepted by all the Church - or when they teach what has already been defined. It is rare for a Pope to defined a doctrine outside of a dogmatic Church Council. It has only happened once in over 100 years.

We must hold to what the Church has always taught, even if a future bad Pope began to say otherwise. It is rare, but there have been a few times when Popes have taught something that is contrary to Catholic teaching. Normally, the Popes are very faithful in teaching the truth.

But, we are living in a day of apostacy, so if there were ever a time when we would expect to have a Pope that might begon to teach things contrary to what the Church has always taught, this would seem to be the day. Therefore, be on guard, just in case God punishes the Church by giving us a bad Pope.

Remember, Church teaching does not change. And you can be certain that no Pope will attempt to define a doctrine infallibly, that is false. They may possibly teach something that is wrong, but never will they define a doctrine that is false. We have that promise.

[quote=SWTHRT]I have a question about the infallibility of the Pope.

I have always been taught and believe that the Pope is infallible in matters of the Church.

Many non-Catholics in my office are stating that they wonder if our future elected Pope will make some modern day changes such as allowing birth control, letting priests marry, letting women become priests, etc. ( I personally hope there will be no major changes in the Catholic church with the new Pope).

My question is this: If the new Pope makes some major changes in matters of the church, wouldn’t that imply that our former Popes were infallible and wrong in what they taught?

Thanks for your help!

Karen
[/quote]

Karen, your understanding of infallibility is a little off. Everything a pope “teaches” is not necessarily infallible. The charism of infallibility has several requirements. For example, you mentioned letting priests marry, this is NOT an infallible teaching of the Church, it is a discipline in the roman rite. It could be changed by any pope at any time since.

Tom,

Can you give me examples of items that would fall under the Pope’s infallibility and items that would fall under disciplines in the roman rite as you mentioned? I am still confused about how to explain infallability to my non-Caholic friends.

Thanks,
Karen

[quote=SWTHRT]Tom,

Can you give me examples of items that would fall under the Pope’s infallibility and items that would fall under disciplines in the roman rite as you mentioned? I am still confused about how to explain infallability to my non-Caholic friends.

Thanks,
Karen
[/quote]

Certainly, in order to be considered an infallible teaching it must pertain to Tradition, Scripture or Christian morals. It further must be stated as an infallible teaching, it also has to be a teaching from “the chair of Peter” in other words the pope must be acting as the pope not as an individual. Examples, the pope declares the earth is flat. Is it infallible? Well under the first of the “requirements”; it isn’t Tradition, it isn’t Scripture (although some could argue it is) and it isn’t a Christian moral; therefore it could not be considered infallible. Next example, several years ago pope John Paul II was asked if he thought the shroud of Turin were authentic, he remarked yes he thought it was, is this an infallible teaching? No, he was not proclaiming it as an infallible teaching nor was he acting as pope (from the chair of Peter), he was giving his personal opinion. Centuries ago a pope in one of his homilies stated that Mary Magdalene was the prostitute mentioned in Scripture, it turns out he was probably incorrect, but being in his homily does this constitute an infallible teaching? Well, it is a teaching (his homily) it could be construed to be about Scripture, he was acting as pope, but he did not specifically say it was infallible, so no, he simply made a human error. People really make far too much over this infallibility issue. He is human, as a human he makes errors, he even sins, but in teaching the official teachings of the Church he is protected from error by the Holy Spirit, as promised by our Lord, Jesus the Christ. It’s amazing that over the past 2,000 years there have been no instances where an infallible teaching has been proven wrong, and believe me, “they” have tried .

[quote=SWTHRT]I have a question about the infallibility of the Pope.

I have always been taught and believe that the Pope is infallible in matters of the Church.

Many non-Catholics in my office are stating that they wonder if our future elected Pope will make some modern day changes such as allowing birth control, letting priests marry, letting women become priests, etc. ( I personally hope there will be no major changes in the Catholic church with the new Pope).

My question is this: If the new Pope makes some major changes in matters of the church, wouldn’t that imply that our former Popes were infallible and wrong in what they taught?

[/quote]

“Many non-Catholics in my office are stating that they wonder if our future elected Pope will make some modern day changes such as allowing birth control, letting priests marry, letting women become priests, etc.”

The next Pope cannot change the Church teaching on a Men-only Priesthood. That has been decided forever and closed.

Married Priests could be a possibility but unlikely.

Allowing Artificial Birth Control would reverse a Moral teaching, Very Highly unlikely.

[quote=SWTHRT]Tom,

Can you give me examples of items that would fall under the Pope’s infallibility and items that would fall under disciplines in the roman rite as you mentioned? I am still confused about how to explain infallibility to my non-Catholic friends.

Thanks,

Karen
[/quote]

For a pope to proclaim something infallible, it must be proclaimed *ex cathedra: *

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05677a.htm

On infallibility:

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07790a.htm

Dogma/Doctrine/Articles of Faith cannot be changed and have never been changes. Overtime the Church may have become more specific in their explanation of particular teaching, but they can never change their teachings.

Here are some thing can change: Certain aspects of the mass can change, priests can become married if the ban is lifted in the Roman/Latin Rite, no meat on Fridays during Lent, fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, the hour fast before receiving Holy Communion, “Easter Duty”, confession once a year, etc.

[quote=Br. Rich SFO]Allowing Artificial Birth Control would reverse a Moral teaching, Very Highly unlikely.
[/quote]

[size=2]I’d rate the chance of that occurring as non-existent.

[/size]

[quote=SWTHRT]I have a question about the infallibility of the Pope.

I have always been taught and believe that the Pope is infallible in matters of the Church.
[/quote]

First clarification: The pope is infallible in matters of faith and morals.

[quote=SWTHRT]Many non-Catholics in my office are stating that they wonder if our future elected Pope will make some modern day changes such as allowing birth control, letting priests marry, letting women become priests, etc. ( I personally hope there will be no major changes in the Catholic church with the new Pope).
[/quote]

Among the things you list, only one can be changed; allowing married men to become priests. When popes declare teachings, they do not do so in a vacuum. It is not the case that a pope can simply declare dogmas as his whim dictates. The problem with your co-workers thoughts on the matter is that they do not realize that no Catholic teaching can be taken in isolation. Catholics must accept the infallibility of the pope. Catholics also must accept the existing doctrine that no doctrine can ever change. How do we know what is doctrine? We have the teaching of the Church. Regarding women’s ordination; it has been repeatedly declared in recent years (as it has throughout the history of the Church) that the Church cannot ordain women and that this is part of the deposit of the faith. In other words, it is doctrine and is irreformable. The same is true regarding birth control. There are writings from the first century of the Church’s existence condemning the use of birth control. This teaching has never changed in 2000 years (even if you can find cases of individual Catholic clergy who promoted it, that does not constitute “Church teaching”). This is another way we can recognize doctrine - constant, unbroken, unchanging teaching from the Church’s foundation. Another way - the most common way - is in the living Magisterium of the Church.

Vatican I:

we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA,
that is, when,

o in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians,
o in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority,
o 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. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the church, irreformable.

When Vatican I made this declaration, it was not a new teaching, but one that has existed since the Church’s foundation by Christ. This declaration is merely a formulation of an existing teaching that, like all other doctrine and dogma, cannot ever change.

[quote=SWTHRT]I have a question about the infallibility of the Pope.

I have always been taught and believe that the Pope is infallible in matters of the Church.

[/quote]

In matters of faith and morals when speaking officially

They are dreaming protestant dreams. They wish they had an anchor and light like JPII in their church, but they don’t and never will. The buck stops nowhere in such crowds. Less than 100 years ago, the protestant churches began allowing artificial birth control and now it is almost universally accepted by them. Despite all the criticisms Catholics receive, one of the beautiful things about Catholicism is that the Truth doesn’t change. There would be no Catholic Church if artificial birth control suddenly became OK or even if women were ordained priests. Allowing priests to marry is a possibility however as this is not dogma, but simply a discipline.

Your language is insufficient to properly understand and address the question asked. There will be no dogmatic changes, but there could be other changes which some perceive as major but which do not alter the revelation of Truth as expressed through the Church

Stand tall,

Phil

Thanks so much for all of your explanations. I am happy to hear that all of the moral issues I believe in won’t be changing with the election of a new Pope!

Karen

Did any of you guys catch Hannity and Combes tonight? It was awesome how the priest from Human Life International handled all the questions just like above. Hannity mentioned Matthew 16:19 and Peter, the Rock. It was all on national TV!!

I’ve been telling all my Catholic friends that when JPII dies, there is going to be such a huge media coverage of the events that unfold.

We really need to be ready for anyone (friends, neighbors, coworkers) who will come to us with questions.

I will always miss JPII and will treasure his teachings. This is an exciting time to be Catholic.

In response to SWTHRT’s question about papal infallibility, RSiscoe replied,

“It is impossible for a future Pope to “undo” a dogma of the faith - or a moral teaching. It is theoretically possible for a Pope to say that it is OK to practice birth control, or commit fornication, or adultery, etc., but that would be an error, and it would be sinful for a Catholci to follow that.”

How do we know whether the original pronouncement was right or that the “correction” is the approprate position? Clearly if one pope can be in error then any pope can.

[quote=bwynhasn]In response to SWTHRT’s question about papal infallibility, RSiscoe replied,

“It is impossible for a future Pope to “undo” a dogma of the faith - or a moral teaching. It is theoretically possible for a Pope to say that it is OK to practice birth control, or commit fornication, or adultery, etc., but that would be an error, and it would be sinful for a Catholic to follow that.”

How do we know whether the original pronouncement was right or that the “correction” is the approprate position? Clearly if one pope can be in error then any pope can.
[/quote]

What has already been defined is unchageable. So, if a Pope later came along and taught something contrary to what had always been taught in the Church, that new teaching is what would be wrong. We are to believe what has always been taught, and never a new teaching that is contrary to it.

The first Vatican Councils taught the following:

“For the Holy Ghost was not promised to the successors of Peter that by His revelation they might disclose new doctrine, but that by His help they might guard sacredly the revelation transmitted through the apostles and the deposit of Faith [Tradition], and might faithfully set it forth.” (Vatican Council I on July 18, 1870)

The Pope, as any member of the Church, is bound to profess what has been defined by the Church.

Fortunately, there are very few instances when a Pope has taught something contrary to what the Church has always taught; and no Pope has ever attempted to defined a doctrine infallible which is contrary to what the Church has always taught.

I don’t think God would ever allow a Pope to attempt to define something as a doctrine, which was contrary to what has always been defined. But, we need to understand that there has been many anti-popes in the history of the Church. An antipope is one who appears to be a validly elected Pope, but who in reality is not.

There is a lot of sin and disobedience in the Church today. If God punishes this by allowing an antipope to be “elected” we do not need to fear being misled by him. All we have to do is to continue to believe what has always been taught and what has already been defined.

Now, the Pope does have the ability to change disciplinary matters in the Church. For example, it would be possible for the Pope to approve of a married clergy. Many people, such as myself, would not like this, but it is certainly within the authority of the Pope to do. What cannot be changed are the moral and doctrinal teachings of the faith. These truths have been revealed to us by God and therefore cannot be changed.

The following are some good quotes on this subject:

Ven. Pope Pius XI: “It is therefore necessary to receive these Divine oracles integrally, in the same sense in which they have been kept, and are still being kept, by this Roman Chair of Blessed Peter. Mother and Mistress of all the churches, She has always kept whole and inviolate…”

St. Vincent of Lerins: "I cannot sufficiently be astonished that such is the insanity of some men, such the impiety of their blinded understanding, such, finally, their lust after error, that they will not be content with the rule of faith delivered once and for all from antiquity, but must daily seek after something new, and even newer still, and are always longing to add something to religion, or to change it, or to subtract from it!
Pope Benedict XV: "The nature of the Catholci faith is such that nothing can be added to it, nothing taken away. Either it is held in its entirety or it is rejected totally. This is the Catholic faith which, unless a man believes faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.

Pope St. Agatho the Wonderworker: "It is imperative that nothing of the truths which have been defined be lessened, nothing altered, nothing added, but that they be preserved intact in word and meaning. This is the true rule of faith.

Oath Against Modernism: "And I hold it not with the understanding that a thing can be held which seems better and more suited to the culture of a certain age, but in such a way that nothing else is to be believed than by the words; and I hold that this absolute and unchangeable truth preached by the Apostles from the earliest times is to be understood in no way other than by the words.

Pope Clement XIII: "Diabolical error decks itself out with ease in lying colors with some appearance of truth, so that the force of pronouncement is corrupted by a very brief addition or change, and the confession of faith which should have resulted in salvation, by a subtle transition leads to death!

St. James 1:17: "With the Father of Lights, there is no change nor shadow of alteration.

St. Athanasius: "God’s Word is one and the same, and, as it is written, “The Word of God endures forever” unchanged, not before or after another, but existing the same always.

St. Athanasius: For it is not now that the canons and statutes have been given to the churches; on the contrary, they have been well-transmitted and steadfastly handed down from our fathers. Neither is it now that the faith has begun, but it has come down to us from the Lord through His disciples.

St. John Chrysostom: “Let us regard the tradition of the Church also as worthy of belief. Is it a tradition? Seek no further!

continue…

St. Cyprian: "Change nothing; be content with tradition.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons: “The preaching of the Church truly continues without change and is everywhere the same. It has the testimony of the Prophets and Apostles and all their disciples.

St. Vincent of Lerins: “Avoid the profane novelty of words,” St. Paul says (1 Timothy 6: 20) . . . For if novelty is to be avoided, antiquity is to be held tight to; and if novelty is profane, tradition is sacred.

St. Cyril of Alexandria: “The ancient doctrines must be confirmed, but novel and absurd inventions must be condemned and cast aside.

Pope St. Leo the Great: “The devil is always discovering something novel against the truth.

St. Vincent of Lerins: “To announce, therefore, to Catholic Christians anything besides that which they have received has never been lawful, is lawful nowhere, and never will be lawful; and to anathematize those who announce anything besides that which has been once received has always been necessary. This being the case, is there anyone of such audacity as to teach other than that which has already been taught in the Church, or anyone of such levity as to receive anything besides that which he has once received from the Church? St. Paul, the teacher of the Gentiles, cries aloud, and he cries out loud again and again, to all men, to all times, and to all places that, if anyone announces a new dogma, let him be anathematized!

Pope St. Innocent I: “Wherefore, by the authority of Apostolic power, We declare inventors of novel notions, which as the Apostle Paul has said are of no edification, but rather are practiced to beget most foolish questions, are to be deprived of the communion of the Church.

St. Vincent of Lerins: “This custom has always prevailed in the Church: that, the more religious a man was, the more promptly did he withstand novel inventions.

St. Ambrose: “We do not innovate anything . . . How is it that novelties are introduced which were never even thought of by our predecessors?

St. Vincent of Lerins: “All novelty in faith is a sure mark of heresy.

St. John Eudes: “Any innovation in matters of faith is extremely pernicious and utterly damnable!

St. Alphunsus Maria Ligouri: “New revelations regarding faith or morals . . . have always been abhorred and challenged in the Church . . . Hence, the Sovereign Pontiffs, the Councils, and the Fathers have been most careful to reject all novelties or new doctrines on matters of faith which differed from those already received.

Pope Benedict XV: “ Let nothing new be introduced, but only what has been handed down.

St. Vincent of Lerins: “Nothing new is to be accepted except what has been handed down by tradition.

Pope St. Simplicus: “Let whoever attempts to disseminate anything other than what we have received be anathema. Let no approach be open to the pernicious plans of undermining, let no pledge of revising any of the old definitions be granted…"

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