everything the Pope says or does is NOT infallible. Papal infallibility refers
to the Pope's protection from error when speaking "ex cathedra". Infallibility
is limited to certain items under limited circumstances. As proclaimed by the
First Vatican Council (emphasis added)...
"But since in
this very age, in which the salutary efficacy of the apostolic duty is
especially required, not a few are found who disparage its authority, We deem it
most necessary to assert solemnly the prerogative which the Only-begotten Son of
God deigned to enjoin with the highest pastoral office. And so We, adhering
faithfully to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith,
to the glory of God, our Savior, the elevation of the Catholic religion and the
salvation of Christian peoples, with the approbation of the sacred Council,
teach and explain that the dogma has been divinely revealed: that the
Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when carrying out the office
of pastor and teacher 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, through the divine assistance promised him in blessed Peter,
possesses that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that His
Church be endowed for defining doctrine regarding faith and morals; and so such
definitions of the Roman Pontiff of themselves, and not from the consensus of
the Church, are irreformable. But if anyone presumes to contradict this
definition of Ours, which may God forbid: let him be anathema." (Vatican Council
I, 1870 A.D.)
As stated in the Catechism of Pope St. Pius X...
is the Pope infallible?
Pope is infallible when, as Pastor and Teacher of all Christians and in virtue
of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or
morals to be held by all the Church.
As stated in the Catechism of Pope St. Pius X...
has God granted to the Pope the gift of infallibility?
has granted the Pope the gift of infallibility in order that we all may be sure
and certain of the truths which the Church teaches.
Yes, the Popes have
always enjoyed infallibility, as this is necessary to the Church's mission.
Although the doctrine of infallibility was not formally defined until 1870, it
was always a part of the deposit of faith. For example, when Pope St. Agatho
said "The Roman See has never erred, and never will err, because of Christ's
promise" in 680 A.D. he recognized the doctrine of infallibility, even though
the formal definition would not be issued for more than a millennium.
Yes, St. Peter enjoyed papal infallibility. Scripture clearly shows that
Peter "had all the right answers" (e.g. Mt. 16:16, Mt. 17:26, Lk. 7:43, Acts
1:15-22, 2:14-36, 2:38-9, 15:7-11). That didn't stop him, however, from also
having weaknesses. When he denied Our Lord, he wasn't formally teaching against
our Lord, he was instead fearful and weak. When he was rebuked by St. Paul, he
was erring in "pastoral practice", not in matters of faith or morals. He had
taught correctly, but was not living up to his teachings.
No, infallibility has
never failed. No ex-cathedra definition of a pope has ever been found to be
erroneous. Although it is said that more than 40 popes have preached doctrinal
error, none were speaking "ex cathedra". In other words, some popes have
personally taught error, but these errors were not taught in an infallible
manner, binding the entire Church. These errors of popes were carefully examined
by the First Vatican Council which defined the dogma of papal infallibility, and
none of them were found to violate the dogma of infallibility. One might say
there have been some "close calls", but, by Divine Providence, the doctrines of
the faith have been preserved intact.
Freedom from sin and freedom from formally teaching error are two separate
things. A Pope may, unfortunately, be a very bad sinner, but that doesn't mean
his teaching is therefore corrupt. In fact, there were some very sinful popes in
the Church's history, but none of them ever formally taught error.
Catholics are obliged to believe in infallibility as it is a defined dogma of the
faith. As stated in the Catechism of Pope St. Pius X...
Q. When was it
defined that the Pope is infallible?
A. That the
Pope is infallible was defined by the Church in the [First] Vatican Council; and
should anyone presume to contradict this definition he would be a heretic and
Bishops do not
individually partake of infallibility. Collectively, bishops may enjoy
infallibility of teaching only in certain matters (i.e. teachings regarding
faith and morals which have always been held by the Church), and only when
exercised in union with the Pope.
Note: For more information on papal infallibility (including some limits of
here and try links below.
Reminder: We make no guarantee whatsoever regarding any item herein. Items herein may be the opinions of their authors and do not necessarily reflect our views.
All applicable items may be subject to change at any time without notice. Utilize any link(s) appearing on this page at your own risk.
For more terms information, see "Important Notice" below.