With papal infallibility, why does the Church still has council for issues on Faith and morals?

I feel a tension here: How to understand that the Church would still need (eventual) future Councils, if there was something to be settled?
Why can’t the Pope just say look, you know and have to believe that I am the ultimative voice about this and cannot be mistaken on this, so a council is not needed, just follow what is revealed to me.

Thank you :slight_smile:

Actually, a lot of people after Vatican I thought there would be no more councils. That’s one more reason that Pope St. John XXIII surprised everyone by calling Vatican II.

The Church has been questioned on various matters regarding faith and morals since the beginning. So, it has clarified things, answered questions, and deals with changes in social behaviors as it regards faith and morals. For example, as the motion picture spread, the Church was obligated to define its proper and improper uses in regards to its effects on people. The same with artificial contraception, like The Pill, and increased pressure, at the time (1967), to relax the Church’s teaching about artificial birth control. Pope Paul VI did not follow the advice of his advisers and had to explain to the faithful how to view such things. To guide them and help them understand the proper role of a married couple, conjugal love and children. And to warn them of the consequences if his words were not heeded. We are living through the negative consequences right now.


Honestly, the Pope is not allowed to teach error in faith and morals. However, when great crises have hit the Church, councils have been called. Part of the reason is that, even though the Pope cannot teach falsehood, that doesn’t keep people from misrepresenting what he says. In addition, a Council represents the fullness of the Church, and has the ability of uniting the bishops with the Pope. Why is this important? First of all, by keeping the individual bishops from heretical teaching themselves. It’s said that at the Council of Nicaea, the bishops were astounded to see how much of a hold Arianism had on the Church.

In addition, by having a Council, the bishops can go back home and say, “This is what WE believe, not just what the Pope is telling us that we must believe”. Popes have generally held their fellow bishops in great esteem, as fellow shepherds of the Church. Sure, they could have always lorded it over them and said, “I can’t teach error - you must believe what I tell you” every time. But honestly, that shows no respect for the office of bishop, which is the fullness of orders. Instead, by following Peter’s example and allowing for debate at a Council, the Pope fosters unity over disunity. As bad as the Great Schism was for unity in the Church - not to mention the Reformation - imagine how divided the Church would be if the Pope just issued “ex cathedra” decrees every time there was a controversy of belief. The only diocese that would still be faithful to the Pope would be his own! It’s not surprising that the “ex cathedra” power of the Pope has been used extremely rarely (other than for beatifications and canonizations) - the last time it was used outside of beatifications and canonizations was to fully declare the Immaculate Conception as a tenet of the Catholic faith.

Papal infallibility was not “new” when it was dogmatically declared it was simply defined. So the Pope has been infallible all along. The Pope was infallible before during and after every council that has already taken place…So why change now?


Exactly! Even at the Council of Jerusalem, everyone knew that Peter would have the final word, but he would be acting imprudently if he didn’t listen to what all of the others said, first. This is how the Bishops know that what they agree on is from the Holy Spirit, and not just from their own ‘feelings’ or intellect. But, even if all of the other Bishops disagreed with the Pope, he still has the power to override them and make his own decision. If he really believes that he’s absolutely correct, and the others might not fully understand the implications of their action, he will always follow what the Holy Spirit inspires him to do. The Holy Spirit is always guiding their final decisions, either way. He always protects them from making any error on faith or morals.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all Catholics believed this. Thank you, God Bless, Memaw

the last time it was used outside of beatifications and canonizations was to fully declare the Immaculate Conception as a tenet of the Catholic faith.

Correct me if I’m wrong but I think the last ex cathedra statement was the declaration of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Catholic dogma at 1950.

So I understand we could simplify this in this way: Per se the Pope could define by himself, what would not be changed by the whole Church anyway, since others than the Pope are fallible and don’t have the power to define.

BUT it is to show the unity of the Church,
to show that the Body of Christ act united to define Truth (also suffering in some of Its members),
that this definitions or constitutions or actually these documents made during such a time in the Church are something the members of the Church are in accordance on, and relying on the faith in the Spirit

Again, I could make a parallel between a Council and the confession of Simon Peter. God knows him better than he does, but Peter needs to confess, to show, to answer God, and say yes, this is so.

Run that by me one more time. I’m a little confused as to what your actually trying to say. God Bless, Memaw

The infallibility of the Pope would be enough to define faith and morals without needing to gather the Church. But this gathering through a Council is a visible way of what I underlined in my post above yours.

Just like Jesus knew Peter loved him, he wanted him to say it, to confess to show.

I disagree, although it is a common misconception held by many in the Latin Church. I’d say collegiality and primacy are both necessary for infallibility to be properly understood. Infallibility is a charism for the good of the entire Holy Church, even though expressed by the Pope of Rome.



When we read Mt 18:15-18 we see the instruction to “tell it to the Church” - not to an individual. The Holy Spirit works in with and through the Church as a whole. The Charism of papal infallibility is an important piece of that working of the Spirit, it is not the only piece.
Council, discussion and consensus all play a role as well.


Ok thank you. I also found this on collegiality by Mardukm, a member:

What is the proper understanding of the concept?
The proper view (the High Petrine view):
The authority and infallibility of the College consists of the Pope TOGETHER WITH his brother bishops, never apart. The supreme authority can be formally exercised in a PERSONAL manner by the Pope FOR the College, never apart from or opposed to it, or in a COLLEGIAL manner together with his brother bishops.

Aberrant concepts:
The Absolutist Petrine view (held by SSPX and certain Latin Catholics):
The Pope ALONE has authority and infallibility and the College can share in it ONLY because the Pope is a member of it. The Pope can exercise this authority APART FROM the College.

The Low Petrine view
The authority and infallibility of the College consists of what the majority wants. The head bishop must always concede to the will of the majority. The head bishop does not have any inherent personal authority to exercise the supreme authority, but can only do so with the approval of the college.

You mean Matt. 18:18 show collegiality, because it shares the power of Peter?

15 “If another member of the church[a] sins against you,** go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.[c] 16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.**

Except this was pretty much held as belief by the Church since the beginning - it was just the Pope affirming what the majority of Catholics (and Orthodox) have always believed about Mary. The Assumption has been part of the Rosary for centuries, and the Assumption had been on the Catholic calendar for a long time (and in the East, for even longer).

Yes, it would be wonderful. It’s sad enough that those outside the Church don’t believe it, but much sadder when Catholics don’t believe it, either. :frowning:

God Bless you, too, Memaw. :wink:

I see. I also found that Peter was the power of the keys (that would be faith and morals, let’s name it a) plus the power to loose and bind (that would be jurisdiction, canonical law, forgivness of sins, excommunication and so on, let’s name it b)

Both apostles and Peter have b, only Peter has a. Why does Peter need those who have b to use a, which they don’t have?

I don’t like me sounding mathematical, but it is a simple way to show what I mean, not to undermine collegiality or undermine the powers given by Christ.

Also, how can I better understand that Collegiality doesn’t undermine the Primacy? I believe it, but I would like to understand, and the only reason I see is the power of the Keys.

Not sure how much help I can be here but consider…
It is much easier for an individual to get something wrong than it is for a group.
An individual, no matter how well intentioned, has only their own abilities to rely on.
A group has the sum of many abilities.
Ideas, thoughts and insights are openly discussed (what I call the “yea but what if…” method). Such discussions are beneficial to all because that which is good becomes more apparent and that which is bad is exposed and discarded.
For all his blessings and charism…the Holy Father remains a simple human being. He, and the Church as a whole benefits from such discussion.
It allows for the building of consensus…and demonstrates the humility of all (including the Holy Father) in being willing to listen and to submit to each other in the name of Truth.
Far from undermining Primacy, collegiality supports it in a wonderful way.

Just some thoughts


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