link below or scroll down to view all:
is Papal Infallibility?
is Infallibility Necessary?
Are Some Limits of Infallibility?
Infallibility Ever Failed?
infallibility refers to the pope's protection from error when speaking
"ex cathedra". As proclaimed by the First Vatican Council
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.)
not for papal infallibility, there would be no certainty in matters of
faith - all we would have is our fallible private judgment - and it is abundantly
clear from the many clashing Protestant sects what a poor guide this is.
If not for papal infallibility, we would have no means of knowing what
is true and what is not. We could have no finality of doctrine and each
person would be left to believe whatever he or she "felt" was
right. As a result, there would be error, disunity, rejection of truths,
adoption of errors, etc. We wouldn't even have a Bible since there would
be no infallible authority to determine the canon of Scripture. We
could never be sure that our beliefs corresponded with truth, and we
could never be sure we were on the true path leading to salvation.
being solemnly proclaimed by the First Vatican Council and being
consistently maintained by tradition, the dogma of papal infallibility
has a biblical basis. For example, In Matthew 16:18, we are told that
"the gates of hell shall not prevail" against the Church.
Clearly, the One who is Truth itself must have secured a means to
preserve truth in His Church against the gates of hell and against the
prince of lies. We are also told in Matthew 28:20 that Christ will be
"with you always, until the end of the age". How could this be
if the Church was teaching error? And, how could the Church be "the pillar and foundation of
truth" (1 Tm. 3:15) if she taught error? And furthermore, the
protection of the Holy Spirit is clearly promised in Scripture: "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate
to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you."
14:16-17) It is clear from Scripture that Christ's Church will be
protected from error; and history proves that papal infallibility - and
Christ's promises - have never failed.
infallibility is a "negative assurance" that protects against
formally teaching false doctrine. It does not mean that all utterances
of the pope are infallible or that everything a pope says or does is
free from error and good for the Church. It also does not mean that a
pope is free from sin. Infallibility does not extend to the pope as an
individual, but resides in his office as Supreme Pastor.
infallibility is limited in scope and does NOT...
extend to anything prior to one's being elected pope
prevent a pope from sinning
* extend to every doctrinal matter (it is limited to instances "when
carrying out the office of pastor and teacher of all Christians, by
virtue of his supreme apostolic authority [the Pope] defines a doctrine
regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church")
mean a pope is impeccable (or sinless / faultless)
extend to every decree issued by a pope
extend to everything a pope says
extend to every regulation issued by the Church
extend to merely pastoral matters
extend to a pope's actions
mean all popes are good
extend to all disciplinary measures, judgments, legal rulings, etc.
mean a pope is doctrinally perfect
mean that a pope can create new dogma
apply to a pope's private decisions or teachings
mean all pastoral decisions are good or prudent
extend to others who act in the pope's name
* extend absolutely to a bishop or a council ("bishops may enjoy infallibility of
teaching only in certain matters, and only when exercised in union with
apply when the pope is not intending to bind the entire Church
mean that popes will never contradict each other (they may never
contradict only in infallible matters when each is speaking ex
apply in areas that are not protected by infallibility (e.g. pastoral
assure that a pope is holy
insure that a pope cannot err
transfer to others (although each succeeding pope will be invested with
mean that a pope is infallible in all matters (disciplinary, etc.)
mean that a pope does not personally hold erroneous views (even in
matters of faith or morals)
It should also be noted that the pope very rarely speaks infallibly and
that infallibility is limited to certain doctrinal matters. Merely
pastoral matters - including certain liturgical decisions - are
changeable [in contrast with doctrinal matters (which are unchangeable)]
and are not subject to infallibility. Pastoral decisions of a pope may
be erroneous, and may not be good for the Church. Infallibility may be
exercised only under certain conditions and in connection with certain
matters (i.e. "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").
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.
indicated above, not everything said or believed or taught by a pope (or
bishop/councils) is infallible.
Some popes have held erroneous views, some have taught error (though not
"ex cathedra"), and some have behaved scandalously.
fact, the history of the Church shows possible papal participation (or
* wrongful excommunications
* violations of treaties
* imprudent decisions
* poor administration
* failure to condemn heresy
* bad / scandalous decisions
* siding with / defending heretics
popes may have:
* approved of ambiguous creeds
* buckled under persecution
* engaged in secret arrangements
* ordered homicides / torture
* been guilty of simony & nepotism
* reversed / contradicted actions of predecessors (or their own)
held erroneous views
have shown weakness, made inappropriate concessions, made decisions
under pressure, etc. One pope was condemned as a heretic. Another exhumed
a dead pope and put his body on trial. One approved a five year old as
bishop. Some periods saw the papacy controlled by powerful families.
Other periods suffered from multiple claimants to the throne.
all of this, however, papal infallibility - and Christ's promise - have
never failed the Church. Even certain events in the history of the
Church that are considered "close calls" for infallibility
have still stopped short of breaching this doctrine. For example, the
pope who was declared heretical never taught error "ex
cathedra", the ambiguous creed signed by a pope could be taken in
an orthodox manner, one pope died before approving a faulty translation
of the Bible, and other popes who held doctrinal errors never taught
them infallibility. In fact, it is a testament to Christ's promise and
proof of the dogma of infallibility that despite faulty and
sinful popes, the Church's doctrine has been preserved unsullied for
about two thousand years.
View: Q & A
Infallibility (Topic Page)
this site you indicate agreement to all terms. For terms information, click