What exactly are "faith and morals" when talking about infallibility?

The CCC is clear that infallibility is guaranteed regarding issues of faith and morals, but hat exactly are the official definitions of these terms? Faih, I suppose, could reasonably be assumed in relevant conversations but “morals” is a very broad term in it’s common usage. Thanks in advance or your help.


These are absolute truths that get challenged for instance abortion is always going to be a moral wrong. Divorce is always going to be a moral wrong, cheating the government on your taxes is always going to be a moral wrong, excessive greed and love and security of money is going to be a moral wrong, self pleasure is always going to be a moral wrong. When something like inverto fertilization was created the Church has the responsibility to declare it moral or immoral.

Faith is what the Church teaches, (Teaching Magisterium of the Church) and Morals are how we are to live that Faith. The Church guides us in all these truths. There are other ways of infallibility too. God Bless. Memaw

Memaw is exactly correct. Morals are standards of behavior, what is and is not acceptable for us to do. Morals are the practical application of our faith in everyday life.

Morals are covered in the Part III of the Catechism - Life in Christ.


Thank you for that reference. I will check the CCC. With that said, I am still not clear where the line is drawn regarding morality. If the church makes a declaration, how do I know it’s covered under “faith and morals?”

Accept it as if it were from the lips of Christ. You will know.

As an example from my own life, Pope Francis recently said that every bit of food we throw away is stolen from the mouth of the poor. Americans especially don’t want to be told this, but I took it to heart and have tried to buy less, cook less and eat whatever is left over for the next day’s lunch. I finish the pot of coffee instead of brewing a fresh one and throwing the old stuff down the drain. His teaching has made me conscious of how much I really need and how much just goes in the garbage.

When we talk about “The Church” making declarations on faith and morals we have to pay particular attention to our Bishop. He is the source of authoritative teaching in our dioceses and God has placed him there for us, and has placed us under him for our own good. To “think with the heart and mind of the Church” is to embrace what the Bishop embraces, but many balk at this. The Pastor of our Church is important too.

In my life it is about meekness and docility. Moses was called the world’s most meek man. In the Bible meek means teachable. Moses was teachable.

Brother JR said “Christ speaks through legitimate authority of the Church.” The Church is the voice of Christ but that voice doesn’t come from some ambiguous metaphorical megaphone somewhere in Rome. The voice of Christ speaks through real people very close to us whom God has placed in positions of legitimate authority over us. We have to be docile to that voice, even when the message is uncomfortable, even when it is abhorrent.

We have to be like Christ who said, “Not my will but thy will be done.” So take a deep breath and sigh. Then say, “Yes Lord, I don’t like it but I will do it because I love you more than I love myself.”


Because the Church said so. We are to be obedient to the teachings of the Pope, (Church) even when he is not speaking infallibly. Such as Encyclicals etc. God Bless, Memaw

Yes but there are clearly times when the faithful should not be obedient to teaching of the Pope…which is why this question is so important. You cannot simply say…“The Pope said so…” The Church admits the Pope can err and only speaks infallibly in certain situations. Further, Pope Benedict himself (prior to becoming Pope but with the blessing of Pope John Paul II) said, “Even men of the church, in the name of faith and morals, have sometimes used methods not in keeping with the Gospel.” Catholics need to know when to draw the line and that’s what I am trying to determine.

When the Pope is ‘teaching’ the faithful we are always obligated to obey. That’s the problem today, many are trying to figure out ways to NOT listen to the Pope. It’s not just saying. “The Pope said so.” I agree, sometimes 'men of the Church" did use methods that were not in line with Chrch teaching. Especially after Vatican II. They used that as an excuse to do their own thing. They are not the Pope! The Pope has the guidence of the Holy Spirit to not teach error. Infallibility covers a lot of things. Christ promised that HIS Church would never teace error.So you can trust HIM. God Bless, Memaw

Infallible statements are also necessary to end debate

For example

the language St JPII uses is meant as an irreformable statement i.e. an infallible teaching.

(all emphasis mine)

“Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”


compare what’s highlighted in red previously with the definition of papal infallibility that follows, particularly what’s in red

*]we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that
*]when the Roman pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA,
*]that is, when, [LIST=1]
*]**in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, **
*]**in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, **
*]**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.

Since Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, clearly established His Catholic Church to teach, rule and sanctify in His Name, She has clearly taught what actions are right and what actions are wrong – morals, and that authority is clearly shown by steve b.

In Evangelium Vitae, #74, St John Paul II wrote that “each individual in fact has moral responsibility for the acts which he personally performs; no one can be exempted from this responsibility, and on the basis of it everyone will be judged by God himself.” The mission of the Church is to ensure that as many people as possible will be saved—to, in effect, prepare souls for judgment. And the Church’s greatest moral gift to the larger world is the certainty that no one is exempt from moral behavior: Not the rich, not the powerful, not the intellectual elite, not “the State”.

110. “The Church’s Magisterium intervenes not only in the sphere of faith, but also, and inseparably so, in the sphere of morals. It has the task of “discerning, by means of judgments normative for the consciences of believers, those acts which in themselves conform to the demands of faith and foster their expression in life and those which, on the contrary, because intrinsically evil, are incompatible with such demands”.172 In proclaiming the commandments of God and the charity of Christ, the Church’s Magisterium also teaches the faithful specific particular precepts and requires that they consider them in conscience as morally binding. In addition, the Magisterium carries out an important work of vigilance, warning the faithful of the presence of possible errors, even merely implicit ones, when their consciences fail to acknowledge the correctness and the truth of the moral norms which the Magisterium teaches.”
Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 6 August, Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, in the year 1993, the fifteenth of my Pontificate.

I interpret the “faith” part in “faith and morals” as having to do not just with “what the Church teaches” but more specifically with what the Church teaches about the Catholic faith. In other words, teachings that relate to the deposit of faith.
Each and every thing which is proposed definitively by the magisterium of the Church concerning the doctrine of faith and morals, that is, each and every thing which is required to safeguard reverently and to expound faithfully the same deposit of faith, is also to be firm-ly embraced and retained; therefore, one who rejects those propositions which are to be held definitively is opposed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church. (Source)

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.