What Catholic teachings do I object to?

On another thread PRmerger asked me “what teaching do you object to?” in reference to the Catholic Church. The question was sort of off topic, but I did want to provide an answer so I started this thread.

Off the top of my head, I told PRmerger that I disagree with papal infallibility and the exclusivist claims of the CC. He then responded:

We agree that the writers of Scripture were protected from error under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Though, I would not say that they were always and at every moment protected from error, though they definitely were inspired when writing scripture.

Fair enough.

As a Pentecostal, I continue to believe that God continues to speak to and inspire people. John 16:13 says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” While the canon is closed, revelation continues because the need to be guided into all truth did not end with the closing of the canon. Some Christians have the unfortunate habit of limiting what the Spirit can speak to the church today. They basically reduce the Holy Spirit to repeating the Bible and in the process they unintentionally raise the Bible above the Spirit who inspired it. But the Spirit existed before the Bible, and the proper hierarchy is Spirit, Scripture, Church. All that the Spirit speaks will be scriptural, but it will not always be in scripture.

The problem comes when we want to know how to test revelation. For Pentecostals, we discern what the Spirit is saying to the Church by referring to what the Spirit has always been saying to the Church as contained in Holy Scripture. There is no warrant in Scripture for ascribing infallibility to any office. I have no doubt that the Lord has used many Popes, and I’m sure that at times they have spoken prophetically to the benefit of their flock.

However, I find it odd that when some of the less reputable Popes in history are brought up, Catholics say things like “Yes, this person was immoral and corrupt but the office of the Pope is divinely protected so anything they said ex cathedra can be trusted.” How can anyone make such blanket statements like that? So, one issue I have is the assigning of infallibility to an office irrespective of the spiritual state of the person holding that office.

The other problem I have is the lack of accountability. The Scriptures say that the spirits should be tested. When Popes make definitive rulings on matters of faith and claim that they are divinely protected from error where is the accountability and the discernment? And how should accountability be measured? By Scripture or a vague and undefined sacred tradition?

This is what we believe about the Holy Father. The Holy Spirit protects us from error when he speaks on faith and morals.

May I offer four things in response to your valid objections.

  1. Chapter 14 of the Gospel of John.
  2. The explicit significance of the fullness of revelation in Christ Jesus.
  3. The protocol of the visible society of members of the Catholic Church on earth.
  4. People per se are not considered infallible. Not all “writings” are infallible. Properly defined and duly declared Catholic doctrines are infallible as they are part of the Catholic Deposit of Faith.

Here is an excerpt from New Advent:


**Infallibility **must be carefully distinguished both from **Inspiration **and from Revelation.

**Inspiration **signifies a special positive Divine influence and assistance by reason of which the human agent is not merely preserved from liability to error but is so guided and controlled that what he says or writes is truly the word of God, that God Himself is the principal author of the inspired utterance; but infallibility merely implies exemption from liability to error. God is not the author of a merely infallible, as He is of an inspired, utterance; the former remains a merely human document.

Revelation, on the other hand, means the making known by God, supernaturally of some truth hitherto unknown, or at least not vouched for by Divine authority; whereas infallibility is concerned with the interpretation and effective safeguarding of truths already revealed. Hence when we say, for example, that some doctrine defined by the pope or by an ecumenical council is infallible, we mean merely that its inerrancy is Divinely guaranteed according to the terms of Christ’s promise to His Church, not that either the pope or the Fathers of the Council are inspired as were the writers of the Bible or that any new revelation is embodied in their teaching.

It is well further to explain:

  • that infallibility means more than exemption from actual error; it means exemption from the possibility of error;
  • that it does not require holiness of life, much less imply impeccability in its organs; sinful and wicked men may be God’s agents in defining infallibly;
  • and finally that the validity of the Divine guarantee is independent of the fallible arguments upon which a definitive decision may be based, and of the possibly unworthy human motives that in cases of strife may appear to have influenced the result. It is the definitive result itself, and it alone, that is guaranteed to be infallible, not the preliminary stages by which it is reached.

If we are to judge the Popes, then we are to judge the Apostles and other writers of the Bible.

Can we judge David and say he was impeccable?

If your answer is no, then: Why would you not have a problem to say that his writings are infallible?

Can we say that Paul was impeccable?

I can go on for each writer of the Bible. But you see where I’m going.

Do you know that you claim infallibility on yourself when you say that the Bible is free from error in matters of Faith?

When you claim that the Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the Bible:

Did the Holy Spirit reveal this to you personally? and then You, by revelation, established the canon of the Bible?

Or are you claiming infallibility on others who say the Bible has a certain number of books?

You see, underneath our individual set of beliefs, we all claim infallible truths. Now imagine what would happen if we didn’t have any control whatsoever on how to implement these things into doctrine and dogma.

What would happen?

Countless of different Churches all claiming to be right.

So my next question would be:

What infallible statements made by a Pope are you against?

:thumbsup: could’nt put it better myself!!!

While some of the more popular explanations of infallibility do contain some truths, it is my own observation that Itwin is looking for the full meaning of infallibility in relationship to the visible Catholic Church on earth. Therefore, the four things offered in post 3 need to be examined and explained in depth.

What do you mean vague and undefined? The Sacred Tradition of the Roman Catholic Church is very FINELY defined. There is not the slightest ambiguity in this regard.

I would be VERY curious to know which statements you are referring to. I am currently under the impression that you have absolutely no idea (without looking it up on Google in order to form an intelligible response to my point) which statements have been made ex cathedra. I am, in fact, very confident in this because you seem to think there are countless statements being made ex cathedra by His Holiness every day that are questionable. Please help me understand where you are coming from here.

I would ask you also, what did the Christians do prior to the foundation of a canon of scripture? They had no way of “testing the spirit” it would seem.

How can you speak so highly of the Holy Bible, but then call the Tradition that put your Bible together vague and ill-defined? Without the Tradition of the Catholic Church then there very-well need not be a Gospel according to Saint Mark or the Acts of the Apostles. But for some reason, you accept that Galatians is divinely inspired even though the Tradition that was used in order to discern whether or not that book was inspired is, according to you, “vague and undefined”.

I would not speak so negatively about the Tradition that gave you the Bible.

The word “canon” comes from the rule of law that was used to determine if a book measured up to a standard. It is important to note that the writings of Scripture were canonical at the moment they were written. Scripture was Scripture when the pen touched the parchment. This is very important because Christianity does not start by defining God, or Jesus Christ, or salvation. The basis of Christianity is found in the authority of Scripture. If we cannot identify what Scripture is, then we cannot properly distinguish any theological truth from error.

What measure or standard was used to determine which books should be classified as Scripture? A key verse to understanding the process and purpose, and perhaps the timing of the giving of Scripture, is Jude 3 which states that a Christian’s faith “was once for all entrusted to the saints.” Since our faith is defined by Scripture, Jude is essentially saying that Scripture was given once for the benefit of all Christians. Isn’t it wonderful to know that there are no hidden or lost manuscripts yet to be found, there are no secret books only familiar to a select few, and there are no people alive who have special revelation requiring us to trek up a Himalayan mountain in order to be enlightened? We can be confident that God has not left us without a witness. The same supernatural power God used to produce His Word has also been used to preserve it.

Psalm 119:160 states that the entirety of God’s Word is truth. Starting with that premise, we can compare writings outside the accepted canon of Scripture to see if they meet the test. As an example, the Bible claims that Jesus Christ is God (Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 1:22-23; John 1:1, 2, 14, 20:28; Acts 16:31, 34; Philippians 2:5-6; Colossians 2:9; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; 2 Peter 1:1). Yet many extra-biblical texts, claiming to be Scripture, argue that Jesus is not God. When clear contradictions exist, the established Bible is to be trusted, leaving the others outside the sphere of Scripture.

In the early centuries of the church, Christians were sometimes put to death for possessing copies of Scripture. Because of this persecution, the question soon came up, “What books are worth dying for?” Some books may have contained sayings of Jesus, but were they inspired as stated in 2 Timothy 3:16? Church councils played a role in publicly recognizing the canon of Scripture, but often an individual church or groups of churches recognized a book as inspired from its writing (e.g., Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27). Throughout the early centuries of the church, few books were ever disputed and the list was basically settled by A.D. 303.

When it came to the Old Testament, three important facts were considered: 1) The New Testament quotes from or alludes to every Old Testament book but two. 2) Jesus effectively endorsed the Hebrew canon in Matthew 23:35 when He cited one of the first narratives and one of the last in the Scriptures of His day. 3) The Jews were meticulous in preserving the Old Testament Scriptures, and they had few controversies over what parts belong or do not belong. The Roman Catholic Apocrypha did not measure up and fell outside the definition of Scripture and has never been accepted by the Jews.

Most questions about which books belong in the Bible dealt with writings from the time of Christ and forward. The early church had some very specific criteria in order for books to be considered as part of the New Testament. These included: Was the book written by someone who was an eyewitness of Jesus Christ? Did the book pass the “truth test”? (i.e., did it concur with other, already agreed-upon Scripture?). The New Testament books they accepted back then have endured the test of time and Christian orthodoxy has embraced these, with little challenge, for centuries.

Confidence in the acceptance of specific books dates back to the first century recipients who offered firsthand testimony as to their authenticity. Furthermore, the end-time subject matter of the book of Revelation, and the prohibition of adding to the words of the book in Revelation 22:18, argue strongly that the canon was closed at the time of its writing (c. A.D. 95).

There is an important theological point that should not be missed. God has used His word for millennia for one primary purpose—to reveal Himself and communicate to mankind. Ultimately, the church councils did not decide if a book was Scripture; that was decided when the human author was chosen by God to write. In order to accomplish the end result, including the preservation of His Word through the centuries, God guided the early church councils in their recognition of the canon.

The acquisition of knowledge regarding such things as the true nature of God, the origin of the universe and life, the purpose and meaning of life, the wonders of salvation, and future events (including the destiny of mankind) are beyond the natural observational and scientific capacity of mankind. The already-delivered Word of God, valued and personally applied by Christians for centuries, is sufficient to explain to us everything we need to know of Christ (John 5:18; Acts 18:28; Galatians 3:22; 2 Timothy 3:15) and to teach us, correct us, and instruct us into all righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

No one is impeccable.

I do see where you are going. Impeccability is not the standard. David had many shortcomings, as do we all, but one thing that Scripture makes clear is that David walked close to the Lord and was “a man after God’s own heart.” And is David even analogous to the Papacy? God used David, but that didn’t mean that God spoke infallibly through all the Kings of Israel, even the one’s who worshiped Baal.

I made no such claim to infallibility. Neither did I make the claim that the Bible is free from error. That claim was already being made when I was born in 1989. I simply receive it and accept it in light of God’s word, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

Once again, it’s not a claim I make. It’s not up to me to decide such things.

Is that a bad thing? Perhaps the different churches are right on somethings and wrong on others. We can be witnesses to each other of the full gospel. Some ambiguity will always exist.

Off the top of my head, Mary’s Immaculate Conception, but its not that I don’t like what the Pope says in as much as I do not find the principle of papal infallibility persuasive from a biblical, historical, or practical standpoint.

Or perhaps too, where in the bible does it say it is infallible? And that is should contain 73 books? Or even 66…less printing presses removing 7.

I believe the Holy Spirit still guides the church. I’m not exactly sure how this relates to the pope though?

Can you explain what you mean by these last 4 points further, especially 2 and 4?

Itwin already said where the bible claims its infallibility with “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). A discussion of the canon of the bible, of course, is a worthwhile and valid discussion, though.

Papal infallibility has bothered me as well. Not so much the idea of a man being able to be infallible in certain circumstances, but that I don’t see a biblical basis for it. While catholic teaching holds that the bible alone is not the source of all truth, and that’s fine I suppose, I find the explanation of the papal office to be a glaring omission from scripture when it details the responsibilities of elders and deacons so specifically. I would have no problem accepting apostolic tradition myself if the bible created a basis for it, but those verses about “whatever you hear by word or letter” and such don’t hold much weight for me because there is nothing to suggest that the early traditions were not something later recorded. Likewise, we all know that the early church functioned differently than it does today. The amount of spiritual gifts directly passed on through the laying on of hands just doesn’t happen today. When someone with a gift of prophecy was speaking it was more expected that their words were worth heeding than someone writing an opinionated essay about the new testament.

Dear Itwin,

I think it important to keep John 16:13 in its proper context. We must remember to whom Jesus was speaking.

John 16 is part of the Last Supper Discourses. Christ had just instituted the Holy Eucharist and empowered those at the Last Supper to convert bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the Living son of God. Christ was speaking to the very first Priests, Bishops, if you will, as these 11 (Judas had already left) would be the LEADERS of Christ’s Church.

So it seems clear Christ was speaking to the original Church Leaders and NOT directly to you or me but only to the Leaders of His Church. We are given a record of these discourses in John Gospel so that we may TRUST that the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will indeed guide Christ’s Church until He returns.

Christ did not make this promise to just anybody nor to those who came along centuries later in time in protest to the Catholic Church. He gave it only to His Apostles at the Last Supper. That promise - the trust worthy guidance by the Holy Spirit - extends to those to whom it has been handed down. We also see elsewhere in the New Testament that the Apostles, and even St Paul, always looked to Peter to make the call. See Peter’s authority from Christ at Matthew 16 13-19.

It is not a promise just anyone can claim. Anyone can dress up as a General and act like a General, but is no real general unless he have been properly commissioned, regardless of how much he may love the mission and want to lead it.

So who should we trust in matters of Faith and Morals? Ask them just how they got their Commission from Christ. Unless they have a clear line back to Christ and the Last Supper Discourses, they cannot be fully trusted. But if they do have that clear line of authority, they can be fully trusted in discourses on Faith and Morals.

Above, you have answered your own doubts about Papal infallibility. Jesus was speaking only to the twelve, and not to every believer. Huge difference.

By declaring Papal infallibility void, you make your own pronouncement infallible, do you not?

“Continuing revelation” has produced the Trinity-denying Oneness Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and Muslims. Next question…

It is very interesting to note rellanor that when one runs a google search for the first sentence of your post they get a rather large number of results:-


If you are copying and pasting (which would appear to be the case) providing proper attribution to the places you are copying the text from would be a good idea.

I would certainly agree that Jesus was speaking to the twelve, and it’s probably why some of us Lutherans are eager for the East-West schism to resolve as it would allay most of our problems - in that we’d be comfortable with the heirs of the twelve pronouncing dogma, and not just one of the twelve.

What I mean is how is sacred tradition determined? How do we decide which traditions are sacred tradition and which ones are just manmade?

I’m not an expert on Catholicism. I’m still learning a lot (which is one reason why I’m on “Catholic Answers”). I do know that ex cathedra statements are rare. However, its not frequency that I have a problem with. My hesitations are on principle.

Actually they did. The books that now make up the Bible were in circulation throughout the ancient world. The books that became the canon became the canon because they were already in use by Christian communities.

I’m pretty sure it was the Holy Spirit that gave us the Bible, and it was the Holy Spirit that guided the men who compiled the canon and the criteria they used to determine authenticity.


Try watching that Irwin, it’s a good summary of how the Bible was cannonized.

But, no Pope has ever declared doctrine in a vacuum. It is always in unity with the college of Cardinals. Peter did not stand and say, “My way or the highway” in Acts 15. He spoke, influenced by the Holy Spirit, and it seemed good to all of the Bishops and Elders. No Pope since has done that, either. His authority is used to close the argument for all time, as it did with circumcision, and as it did against Arius. The Pope is the man who sets long-held beliefs in concrete - otherwise we would be cursed with “ongoing revelation.”

Such a reading does make sense if you assume Apostolic Succession.

I agree. Not everyone who says “thus sayeth the Lord” is speaking on behalf of the Lord.

But you reach this conclusion by appealing to Apostolic Succession.

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.