Monday, October 16, 2006

Papal infallibility

A parishioner sent me an email recently which read, "Hi Fr. Greg. In light of the ongoing controversy over the Pope's remarks on Islam, I thought a good topic at some point might be that of Papal infallibility. I often have to clear up what this means for non-Catholic friends (I hope I do it right!), and I suspect many Catholics
might not know precisely what this means." It is important to point out that the Pope was not giving a formal teaching on faith and morals in his Sept. 12 speech, so he did not invoke infallibility. The doctrine of papal infallibility says that when the Pope declares a teaching on faith and morals, it is free from error, as guided by the Holy Spirit.

The following are excerpts from an article online which addresses papal infallibility. To read the full text, please click on the title of this post:

"The Catholic Church’s teaching on papal infallibility is one which is generally misunderstood... (people) often confuse the charism of papal "infallibility" with "impeccability." They imagine Catholics believe the pope cannot sin. Others, who avoid this elementary blunder, think the pope relies on some sort of amulet or magical incantation when an infallible definition is due...

"Infallibility is not the absence of sin. Nor is it a charism that belongs only to the pope. Indeed, infallibility also belongs to the body of bishops as a whole, when, in doctrinal unity with the pope, they solemnly teach a doctrine as true. We have this from Jesus himself, who promised the apostles and their successors the bishops, the magisterium of the Church: 'He who hears you hears me' (Luke 10:16), and 'Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven' (Matt. 18:18)...

"The infallibility of the pope is not a doctrine that suddenly appeared in Church teaching; rather, it is a doctrine which was implicit in the early Church. It is only our understanding of infallibility which has developed and been more clearly understood over time. In fact, the doctrine of infallibility is implicit in these Petrine texts: John 21:15–17 ('Feed my sheep . . . '), Luke 22:32 ('I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail'), and Matthew 16:18 ('You are Peter . . . ')...

"As Christians began to more clearly understand the teaching authority of the Church and of the primacy of the pope, they developed a clearer understanding of the pope’s infallibility. This development of the faithful’s understanding has its clear beginnings in the early Church. For example, Cyprian of Carthage, writing about 256, put the question this way, 'Would the heretics dare to come to the very seat of Peter whence apostolic faith is derived and whither no errors can come?' (Letters 59 [55], 14). In the fifth century, Augustine succinctly captured the ancient attitude when he remarked, 'Rome has spoken; the case is concluded' (Sermons 131, 10)...

"It is the Holy Spirit who prevents the pope from officially teaching error, and this charism follows necessarily from the existence of the Church itself. If, as Christ promised, the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church then it must be protected from fundamentally falling into error and thus away from Christ. It must prove itself to be a perfectly steady guide in matters pertaining to salvation...

"If the Church is the foundation of religious truth (see 1 Tim 3:15) in this world, then it is God’s own spokesman. As Christ told his disciples: 'He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me' (Luke 10:16)."


At 11:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the most difficult teaching to defend to non-Catholics. Thank you for an excellent explanation, Father G.

At 2:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Psalm 23
>The Lord is my Shepherd
>That's Relationship!
>I shall not want
>That's Supply!
>He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.
>That's Rest!
>He leadeth me beside the still waters.
>That's Refreshment!
>He restoreth my soul
>That's Healing!
>He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness.
>That's Guidance!
>For His name sake
>That's Purpose!
>Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
>That's Testing!
>I will fear no evil.
>That's Protection!
>For Thou art with me
>That's Faithfulness!
>Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me,
>That's Discipline!
>Thou preparest a table before me in ! the p resence of my enemies.
>That's Hope!
>Thou anointest my head with oil,
>That's Consecration!
>My cup runneth over.
>That's Abundance!
>Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.
>That's Blessing!
>And I will dwell in the house of the Lord.
>That's Security!
>That's Eternity!


Post a Comment

<< Home