What is infallible?


#1

This is one of those conversations that I think that should be had before many of the others. It would seem that some people think that the Pope is only infallible when he speaks ex-cathedra. Here’s a few pieces against this theory.

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=58552&highlight=infallible+infallibility

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=26160&highlight=infallible+infallibility

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=18984&highlight=infallible+infallibility

newadvent.org/cathen/05030a.htm

newadvent.org/cathen/07790a.htm

newadvent.org/cathen/05092a.htm

newadvent.org/cathen/07790a.htm

Dave did a great job here of compiling here:
itsjustdave1988.blogspot.com/2005/04/are-ecclesiastical-disciplines.html


#2

I often explain it to Protestants like this:

[font=Verdana]Infallibility means an objective standard whereby a lay person can infallibly identify the true teaching of the Catholic Church.

There are three such standards:

  1. The Ordinary Magesterium, which is the teaching of the Catholic bishops, world-wide under the authority of the Pope.

  2. The Extraordinary Magesterium, which is a pronouncement by an [font=Arial]Ecumenical Council of the Catholic bishops under the authority of the Pope. Such councils are usually convened to deal with disputed matters.[/font]
    [font=Arial][/font]
    [font=Arial]3. The Pope, speaking ex Cathedra (as the Church.)[/font]

It is quite possible (and your cites gave examples) for the Pope to speak infallibily when not speaking ex Cathedra. In these cases he speaks as a bishop reiterating what the bishops agree upon.[/font][font=Arial]
[/font]


#3

[quote=bear06]This is one of those conversations that I think that should be had before many of the others. It would seem that some people think that the Pope is only infallible when he speaks ex-cathedra. Here’s a few pieces against this theory.
[/quote]

Infallibility is just another unproven (and unprovable) assumption, and quite dangerous at that. Since we are all humans, we cannot be infallible, and to deny that is to deny our human nature. To be aware of fallibility and to take it into account is the best way to ensure that our mistakes can be discovered and corrected. The usual argument that the Pope is imbued by the Holy Spirit cannot be accepted. First, there is no proof that a Holy Spirit exists, and second, even if there is such a phenomenon, there is no way to discern if it actually dwells in any person, even the Pope. To declare anyone “infallible” is to take away the possibility of rectifying an error or mistake this person may have made.


#4

[quote=Hitetlen]Infallibility is just another unproven (and unprovable) assumption, and quite dangerous at that. Since we are all humans, we cannot be infallible, and to deny that is to deny our human nature. To be aware of fallibility and to take it into account is the best way to ensure that our mistakes can be discovered and corrected. The usual argument that the Pope is imbued by the Holy Spirit cannot be accepted. First, there is no proof that a Holy Spirit exists, and second, even if there is such a phenomenon, there is no way to discern if it actually dwells in any person, even the Pope. To declare anyone “infallible” is to take away the possibility of rectifying an error or mistake this person may have made.
[/quote]

OK, not that this isn’t a fun debate but it’s not exactly what I was thinking of when I posted this so I’ll add that this is a topic for those who believe in the Catholic Faith. It is not a discussion revolving around “Is there a God”. I’m sure “Does God exist?” is already in play so be a good little atheist and find that thread. :wink: I think I already posted there.


#5

[quote=vern humphrey]I often explain it to Protestants like this:

It is quite possible (and your cites gave examples) for the Pope to speak infallibily when not speaking ex Cathedra. In these cases he speaks as a bishop reiterating what the bishops agree upon.[font=Arial]
[/font]
[/quote]

I agree. Let’s not forget the canonization of saints too. This is also not spoken ex-cathedra but is held infallible.


#6

[quote=bear06]OK, not that this isn’t a fun debate but it’s not exactly what I was thinking of when I posted this so I’ll add that this is a topic for those who believe in the Catholic Faith. It is not a discussion revolving around “Is there a God”. I’m sure “Does God exist?” is already in play so be a good little atheist and find that thread. :wink: I think I already posted there.
[/quote]

I did not intend to derail it into a different direction, I simply said that the concept of infallibility has its dangers. Sorry for the possible misunderstanding.


#7

[quote=Hitetlen]I did not intend to derail it into a different direction, I simply said that the concept of infallibility has its dangers. Sorry for the possible misunderstanding.
[/quote]

No problem. I was going for the more precise topic. Still it would be fun to banter on your subject. Why don’t you start a thread and I’ll join you over there for that one. :thumbsup:


#8

[quote=Hitetlen]Infallibility is just another unproven (and unprovable) assumption, and quite dangerous at that. Since we are all humans, ……… To declare anyone “infallible” is to take away the possibility of rectifying an error or mistake this person may have made.
[/quote]

Hitetlen, I realize that you don’t approach this matter as a person of faith but even from a secular viewpoint you should be able to see the organizational benefits that infallibility provides. And I don’t mean in a Machiavellian way but in a way that consistent with the stated purpose of the organization.

If you posit that there is an afterlife and that your actions in this life determine your fate in the next, then making the right choices in this life is very important. (I know that you don’t agree but many do and they are the only ones who will really be concerned with infallibility in the first place so humor me for a moment)

Now even in secular matters humans are capable of almost endless second-guessing, self-doubt, and hand wringing. (We have a multi billion dollar a year therapy business as evidence of that) Above and beyond that on may complicated issues if you ask 4 people for their opinions you’ll get 5 or 6 answers or endless internet forum threads. :wink:

So, here we have a situation where making the right life choices is important (eternally important) but sometimes those choices aren’t self-evident. It seems to me that from a purely managerial point of view in an organization whose purpose is to provide guidance on moral issues, having one person with the final say so would be key.

Since one of the core functions of the Church is to provide a mechanism for forgiving sins and easing men’s burdens, She has to claim final authority on moral matters. She has to or the average guy in the pew could always have that nagging feeling.

The alternative would be a ceaseless bickering (even with his authority the Pope always has theologians at straining at their tethers) or the Protestant approach of going down the street and forming a new church whenever there is a disagreement.

As to the possibility of the Pope making a mistake…well you may not believe in the Holy Spirit but since you aren’t a member that doesn’t matter. :wink:


#9

I will risk a response, though as I said, I do not wish to derail the conversation.

[quote=steveandersen]So, here we have a situation where making the right life choices is important (eternally important) but sometimes those choices aren’t self-evident. It seems to me that from a purely managerial point of view in an organization whose purpose is to provide guidance on moral issues, having one person with the final say so would be key.
[/quote]

I wholeheartedly agree with your post. The only point I wished to make that one should not a priori exclude the possibility of making a mistake.


#10

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