The meaning of infallibility


#1

I don’t know the circumstances under which the Pope speaks infallibly except for when he speaks ex cathedra, and I’m not sure I know what speaking ex-cathedra entails. From what I understand, there are conditions that define when a Pope is speaking infallibly and when he’s not. Assuming the Pope is in some situation where he is speaking infallibly, what I want to know is this: Is what he’s saying true because he says it, or does he say it because it’s true?


#2

[quote=ephphatha]I don’t know the circumstances under which the Pope speaks infallibly except for when he speaks ex cathedra, and I’m not sure I know what speaking ex-cathedra entails. From what I understand, there are conditions that define when a Pope is speaking infallibly and when he’s not. Assuming the Pope is in some situation where he is speaking infallibly, what I want to know is this: Is what he’s saying true because he says it, or does he say it because it’s true?
[/quote]

When the Pope speaks ex-cathedra, meaning that he’s speaking as pastor and doctor of all Christians, on doctrine regarding faith or morals, he is infallible. This is because he’s been guaranteed Divine assistance, though Apostolic authority, that was promised to St. Peter.

To be speaking ex-cathedra there are conditions. Here’s a link that explains the conditions in detail:

newadvent.org/cathen/07790a.htm#IIIB

You’ll have to scroll down about half way to “Explanation of Papal Infallibility”.


#3

FWIW, in the whole of Church history, there have been only TWO instances that a Pope exercised this particular charism (namely the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption).

 Some have claimed that other Papal teachings meet the criteria of infallible pronouncement (Paul VI’s *Humane Vite*, for example) because the necessary elements of *ex cathedra* teaching are definitively implied, even if not all of the elements are formally stated. But until the Teaching Office of the Church (through a Pope, or the ordinary or extraordinary Magisterium) acknowledges the infallible nature of such pronouncements they lack the full force of infallible doctrine.

Infallible doctrine is usually promulgated by the ordinary and extrodinary Magesterium, not by Popes acting ex cathedra.


#4

This is something I never could figure out. Why do we even have “ex cathedra” if all this other stuff is infallible too? How can something be more true than infallible?

Or is it just a matter of whether it is the Pope or Magesterium who promulgates it? Therefore “infallible” v. “ex cathedra” might be like potayto, potahto as far as the rank-and-file are concerned?

BTW, I’ve asked several times in different places, and never has anybody pinpointed for me exactly what this “Magesterium” is, or who is a member of it, or how we know that any given fact – such as in the Catechism – is endorsed by the Magesterium. It’s like – is it animal, vegetable, or mineral? I looked on the New Advent Encyclopedia and though I admittedly did not read it thoroughly, it sounds like it’s more a conceptual thing than anything. So far, it seems so vague to me that it really isn’t useful for anything except a source of argument over which teachings are infallible.

Alan


#5

[quote=AlanFromWichita]BTW, I’ve asked several times in different places, and never has anybody pinpointed for me exactly what this “Magesterium” is, or who is a member of it
[/quote]

Who is easy - It is composed of the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him. So Eastern Orthodox Bishops are not a part of the Magisterium, even though they have full episcopal powers otherwise.


#6

[quote=AlanFromWichita]This is something I never could figure out. Why do we even have “ex cathedra” if all this other stuff is infallible too? How can something be more true than infallible?

Or is it just a matter of whether it is the Pope or Magesterium who promulgates it? Therefore “infallible” v. “ex cathedra” might be like potayto, potahto as far as the rank-and-file are concerned?

[/quote]

This thread (especially Ghosty’s excellent input - #5) deals with this topic.


#7

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.