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No, 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...

Q. When is the Pope infallible?

A. The 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...

Q. Why has God granted to the Pope the gift of infallibility?

A. God 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.


Yes, 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 excommunicated.


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 infallibility), try here and try links below.


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Other Resources:

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Infallibility (Topic Page)

The Pope (Topic Page)

 

  

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