Wanting to respond to article in newspaper where reporter claims that the Pope is NOT infallible


Just hoping a few of you would read this recent article in a local newspaper and would either write a response yourself to the newspaper or give me some ideas for a response. Honestly, I am hesitant to write a response using my real name.



the bible can and will stand up to historical scrutiny, the problem is with the interpretations of the results of that scrutiny.

comparing paul’s word count to jesus’ word count is ridiculous as is comparing a doctor’s infallibilty to that of the pope speaking ex cathedra! the comparisons they are making speak volumes to their agenda.

good luck with your response


Thanks. I want to take my time but don’t want to wait too long as this article appeared this past Saturday.


His argument is so full of holes and fallacies, it barely warrants attention.

Second, If a secular reporter will not accept the bible as “fact”, then how can he have credibility accepting the opinion of those investigating the bible as “fact”?

This is an attack on faith pure and simple. Write him and tell him you will respond in kind right after he does a piece on the fallibility of Islam and Judaism. Or would that be considered “hate speech” or “not respecting others’ religion”?

When he bashes ALL religions equally, then one can defend their faith. But this is a direct attack on christianity pure and simple. I wouldn’t waste your time. Matthew 7:6

This is just my humble opinion.


Here is what I plan to submit. Any comments are welcome.

“Whatever our druthers that there be a guaranteed guide in life, the truth of the matter is …the pope speaking ex cathedra is not infallible, the Bible is not infallible.” – Gary Huffenberger

Mr. Huffenberger’s statements are full of holes, fallacies, and are an attack on the Catholic Faith, pure and simple. If the reporter will not accept the bible as “fact”, then how can he have credibility accepting the opinion of those investigating the bible as “fact”? I think the fair thing for him to do would be to do a piece on the fallibility of Islam and Judaism. Or would that be considered “hate speech” or “not respecting others’ religion”?

Since Mr. Huffenberger made the assertion, the burden of proof is on him to show that when the Pope speaks ex cathedra he is not infallible. But since he probably will not do this, I would like to go ahead and focus on his statement about the Successor of Peter (the Pope) not being infallible when speaking “ex cathedra.”

Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, the Magisterium, the Early Church Fathers and 2,000 years of Church teaching would all disagree with Mr. Huffenberger’s assertion. As Catholics, we DO believe the Vicar of Christ (the Pope) to be infallible when he speaks ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals and I am willing to support why we believe this. It is important to explain what infallible is NOT. Infallibility does not mean a pope is incapable of sin. Infallibility does not mean that the pope is inspired. Infallibility cannot be used to change existing doctrines or proclaim new ones. Infallibility does not mean that a pope cannot err when he speaks as a private teacher. Infallibility is not something that endows a pope with divine powers, but rather it is a gift of the Holy Spirit that protects the Church from the human frailties of a pope.

It would be proper to define ex cathedra here. Literally “from the chair”, a theological term which signifies authoritative teaching and is more particularly applied to the definitions given by the Roman pontiff. It has come to denote the magisterium or the teaching authority of the Church.Its present meaning was formally determined by the Vatican Council, Sess. IV, Const. de Ecclesiâ Christi, c. iv: "We teach and define that it is a dogma Divinely revealed that the Roman pontiff when he speaks ex cathedra, that is when in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, by the Divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals, and that therefore such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves and not from the consent of the Church irreformable.

When Jesus told Peter “whatever you bind or loose on earth is bound or loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:18-19), He was promising to protect Peter from teaching error to the universal Church. Otherwise, Jesus could not make such a sweeping promise to Peter. Because God cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18), Peter must be protected from teaching error, since what he binds or looses, heaven binds and looses as well. Indeed, God intrudes into the mind of the pope and prevents him from teaching error, just like the Father penetrated the mind of Peter when he confessed that Jesus was the Christ.

Jesus said Peter is the rock upon which He would build the Church and gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven. The basis for infallibility is the ability of the pope to accept and confess God’s divine guidance without error. It has nothing to do with the pope’s private opinions or conduct. The fact that all the popes have spoken with one voice over the past 2,000 years when it comes to dogmatizing principles of Catholic faith and morals proves that Jesus has kept His promise.

Note also that nothing the Church teaches on faith or morals just “pops up.” This is because the Church’s teaching comes from the Tradition of the apostles, which we call the sacred deposit of faith. The Church may try to clarifying the way she expresses doctrine, but there can be nothing new under the sun, as they say. Often, the Church will issue a dogmatic teaching to clarify a point of contention or refute a heresy. But clarifying the way in which she expresses the divine deposit of faith does not mean she makes up new doctrines. The doctrines remain the same.



“The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful - who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals… The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,” and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.” This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself. – CCC #891

The Early Christian writers have much to say about the infallibility of the Pope and here are just two examples. Cyprian declares: “If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?” (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4, 251 AD). Irenaeus writes: “Where the charismata of the Lord are given, there must we seek the truth, with those to whom belongs the ecclesiastical succession from the Apostles, and the unadulterated and incorruptible word. It is they who …are the guardians of our faith…and securely expound the Scriptures to us” (Against Heresies 4:26:5, 180-199 AD).

Much more can and probably should be said about the Catholic teaching on Papal Infallibility when it is attacked in the media such as it was by Mr. Huffenberger.

New American Bible and RSV-CE
The Catechism of the Catholic Church


Personally, if I made any response, I’d make it more centered on the idea that looking at the “historical Jesus” is to miss the point. Jesus is the Christ. When we take out this component of reality, Jesus is just another good preacher/teacher/leader like Confucious, Aristotle, Abe Lincoln etc. Before long, we have just slid down the slope into relative merit of their various teachings.

If you make your response about the specifics of Catholicism, you’ve made it personal about Catholics and not the direct assault on Jesus the Christ.


But isn’t an attack on the Catholic Church an attack on Jesus Christ and when defending the specifics of Catholicism it is defending Jesus Christ at the same time? Thanks for your input by the way.


We Catholics know that. However, the general public doesn’t see it that way. I think the main thing you want to do in a public forum is to discredit this program to the broadest possible audience. If you make it about the Catholic Church you might inadvertently give it creditability w/ those who are not Catholic. This “historical Jesus” **** is an insidous strategy and tactic to ultimately denigrate any and all authority and influence of Christianity. Our separated breathren should be unified with us on this issue and we shouldn’t drive them away. It reminds me of a recent evangelical friend who said he was going to the Golden Compass because if it is condemned by the Catholic Church, it can’t be all bad. But when I showed him some non-Catholic fundamentalist criticism, he changed his mind.


You actually might want to focus your response more on the underlying issue, which is that of moral absolutism versus moral relativism. He is clearly arguing in favor of moral relativism, and if you go that route and argue for moral absolutism, you may get more support from other denominations, who are unlikely to care about the status of the pope (although your rebuttal is good). He is working under a flawed premise, and if you can prove that moral absolutism is a good thing (Socrates and Plato thought so too, so it’s not just a religious issue), then everything else will fall into line.


Ahh, I see your point. Is there a way to succinctly or pithily correct his comment about the pope? This newspaper is the only newspaper in a small, rural, farming community in southwestern Ohio that is predominately Quaker. Catholicism is definitely the minority in the County, but it is only about 45 minutes north of Cincinnati, which is predominately Catholic. Actually, that part of Ohio is mostly Catholic. Anyway, it just seems this staff writer for the newspaper shouldn’t get away with saying the pope is not infallible when speaking ex cathedra.

I honestly don’t feel I am educated enough on the “Jesus Seminars” program to articulate why it is nonsense. Maybe I shouldn’t write anything?


Oh wow! Unfortunately, that is beyond me at this point in my faith journey. I am not educated enough about moral absolutism versus moral relativism.


Why exactly do you think that?

Are you suggesting that no newspaper writer can express an opinion that is contrary to Catholic Church teaching?


I’m not suggesting that. I am suggesting his comment should not go unchallenged.


The writer of a newspaper column has an obligation to report the facts. Not attack a religion because he feels it is wrong.

Besides, if this occurred with any other religion besides christianity there would be a call for his job for his “hate speech”. But since it is against christianity it is OK? Can you imagine if he printed an article where he opined that Mohammed was wrong? It would be all over the news and he would have already received death threats.


Ok… here’s the short lecture (I’m a professor at a small private southern college)! :stuck_out_tongue:

Most people hold to one of two positions in this world. The positions are moral absolutism, or moral relativism. In moral absolutism, morality is definitive and cannot be changed. Either something is right, or something is wrong. Some people may disagree, but if you believe in moral absolutism, then those people are wrong, even if they don’t think that they are. The other possibility is moral relativism. This is the idea that morality depends upon the eye of the beholder, so to speak, and that it’s objective. What is right for one person may be wrong for another. People who believe in moral absolutism tend to believe that their religion is right and others are wrong. People who believe in moral relativism tend to believe that all religions are more or less correct, none are better than the other, and that they reflect different expressions of some underlying truth. Lets look at some examples:

Case 1: Somebody gets pregnant and goes out and has an abortion. A moral absolutist would say that this is ALWAYS wrong since it is destroying a life. If you disagree, then you are wrong. One moral relativist might believe that an abortion is wrong, while another might think it’s ok in certain circumstances like rape, and a third might say it’s always ok. They would all agree to disagree with each other, since all views are of equal validity (in their opinion). There is no universal truth.

Case 2: Premarital sex. A moral absolutist would say that this is ALWAYS wrong, even though the vast majority of society would disagree with them. The vast majority, in their opinion, is in fact incorrect. A moral relativist would say that it would depend on the individual’s conscience as to whether it was a sin or not.

This debate is extremely old, and predates Christianity. The great Greek philosophers debated this. One famous group was called the Sophists. They originally were teachers that were hired out to help citizens become better orators, but eventually, they came up with some unique political views. The most famous of their group was a man called Protagoras, who coined the famous phrase “Man is the measure of all things”. This is essentially the moral relativist viewpoint. In other words, since there is no absolute reality, man has to measure everything according to his own standards that are unique to him. We create our own truth.

One philosopher in particular was extremely offended by this idea, and that was the famed philosopher Socrates. He decried this idea, because he said that if it were true, how could society and government ever function? How could a government pass laws that some people thought were correct and others thought were wrong? Some people HAD to be wrong, and there WAS absolute truth. His student Plato went on to write about the role of government and morality in his famous book The Republic.

So, we get to the Christian era. Many Christian writers picked up on the ideas of Socrates and Plato and incorporated their lines of reasoning into their Christian arguments (St. Augustine comes to mind immediately). As Catholics, we believe in absolute morality. We believe that the pope can be infallible. Your writer does not. Many believe that the Bible can be inerrant. Your writer does not. He is writing from the position of moral relativism, and this was a position that was condemned by the church in the early 20th century. One of the most famous documents to this effect was the condemnation of modernism by Pope Pius X in 1907, in his encyclical Pascendi Dominici gregis, and his papal decree Lamentabili Sane.

I hope that helps!


Indeed! I am going to save this if you don’t mind. Thank you Professor Rolltide. By the way, I’m a Buckeye fan. Go Bucks! :smiley:
I still haven’t decided if I’m going to respond to the article. This helps though.


Not to nitpick here, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that the reporter is arguing for moralrelativism. Rather, he’s advocating theological relativism. Though one is the logical result of the other, they are not the same thing.



Actually, most columns in news papers are called opinion pieces. They call them that because the authors express opinion. Which he did.

Besides, if this occurred with any other religion besides christianity there would be a call for his job for his “hate speech”. But since it is against christianity it is OK? Can you imagine if he printed an article where he opined that Mohammed was wrong? It would be all over the news and he would have already received death threats.

Unlikely, especially in Ohio.


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