[quote="Marc_Anthony, post:2, topic:199727"]
Here is what the Pope can and can't do:
Create new dogmas.
Create an official, infallible ruling on a previously unofficially ruled upon matter of faith and morals. The same as making new dogma really.
That isn't strictly true - 'dogma' is an infallible truth that is held to have been divinely revealed, whereas many infallible teachings are categorised as 'only' Catholic doctrine rather than divine revelation. Infallible declarations can thus be either dogmatic or non-dogmatic. Only a minority are dogmatic, and in the area of morals it is not typical for teaching to be dogma.
Just to make things even more complicated, although infallible teachings are always definitive, they can be declared through an act that is either defining or non-defining. A defining act is solemn teaching expressed by an ecumenical council or in an ex cathedra declaration by a pope (both of which would be expressions of the extraordinary magisterium).
A non-defining act would be where a pope wished to reaffirm a teaching without resort to a such a solemn (extraordinary) or defining act and indicates that the teaching belongs to the ordinary magisterium. It is still infallible, however. Thus it is possible to have a definitive teaching established through a non-defining act. (I said it was complicated!).
Precisely because it is necessary to be able to determine the level of a teaching, forms and formulas should be explicitly indicated within any document to clearly demonstrate which level is being invoked. But the rules for this are very recent - some are established in Pastor Aeternus (1870) and others in Lumen Gentium (1964), but because it would be difficult to apply these standards retrospectively, debate sometimes rages as to which teachings dating before these documents hold what kind of status. :confused:
An example would be ex cathedra teachings: the only two indisputable examples of this type of declaration are Ineffabilis Deus (1854) defining the immaculate conception, and Munificentissimus Deus (1950) defining the assumption. Some theologians have made claims for other documents, but there is no definite consensus that supports this. However, people will often claim ex cathedra status for other documents, often because they are either mistakenly of the opinion that any teaching document by a pope is an ex cathedra teaching, or unaware that infallible teachings can be produced in other ways and, having been told that a document is infallible teaching, assume that it must therefore be an ex cathedra teaching.
This subject is considered in detail in a 1998 commentary by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, which identified the different types of teaching the church can produce. It is a very dense piece of writing, but it does answer most of the questions one might have on this subject.
More mundanely, its safe to say that in the contemporary world, if a pope produces an infallible teaching, we will be told very explicitly and very loudly that this has happened, because it is a pretty rare occurrence.
Hope this helps. And just in case anyone is wondering, I'm definitely no expert on this subject. Its an exceptionally complex area of theology and church practice. :shrug: