Infallibility and fallibility of the Supreme Pontiff



The Roman Pontiff, as with the charism of infallibility as master of the faith, still remains a human being fallible and sinful, where does not play this charism. If the doctrine of the faith is infallible, in the field of his pastoral action and Government, as well as in private conduct can sin in various ways, such as prudence, in justice and charity.



Author John Cavalcoli OP
John Cavalcoli OP
Pope Francis
the Holy Father with a native headdress during the visit to Brazil

The question of infallibility or less of the Roman Pontiff somehow coincides with that of the infallibility of the Magisterium of the Church. That means in fact with this expression? The power that the Episcopal college has, under the guidance of the Pope, to teach, interpret and spread the Gospel. Of course there is a magisterial power of the Pope's own personal: what he teaches his own initiative, regardless of whether or not consensus of the Episcopal body. For instance, the catechesis on the "Theology of the body" performed by Saint John Paul II from 1979 to the 1983. We have here then the Papal Magisterium. But we again: the College of bishops has the duty to adopt this Magisterium, as application of Christ's command to Peter: “strengthen your brethren” [cf. LC 22,31-34]. And, other parte, It is inconceivable a Magisterium of the Bishops which is not chaired and approved by Pope.

Pope Francis
the Holy Father with a native headdress during the visit to Brazil

Speaking of infallibility or papal infallibility not, It is as if you spoke then of infallibility or papal infallibility not of the Church, as guided by the Episcopal body United to the Pope, the so-called "teaching Church", though then in the end, says the Second Vatican Council, the whole Church, and then every Member of the faithful, is infallible in believing and proclaiming the word of God, means under the guidance of the bishops and the Pope. The reader of the readings of the mass, When the proclamation, foolproof. The child of the Catechism, If he responds well to teacher's questions, foolproof.

Pope headdress 4
the Holy Father wearing the hat of a groom in St. Peter's square

Anyway, in the Church the Pope is the only member to enjoy a personal charism of infallibility. All other bishops and Cardinals, as the learned and Holy, do not hold any personal charisma of infallibility and can fall into heresy, as is proved by the history. Or you can say I'm infallible, individually or in groups, It was a Conciliar Assembly, just as United to Peter and submitted to Peter. The conciliarism, repeatedly appeared in history, is a heresy, does not correspond to the will of Christ. As well as the simple "primacy of honor" without judicial and magisterial power supported by the schismatic Eastern Churches, is a heresy contrary to what Christ willed and commanded to Peter and his successors.

Pope headdress 5
the Holy Father with the hat of the infiorata of Spello

The Pope is assisted by the Holy Spirit infallibly When performs its task to proclaim and interpret the Gospel and strengthen his brethren in faith. Of course the Pope, because sinful man, son of Adam, fallible in things would also of Christian faith and morals, If you do not have this support and is indeed fallible, when, for various reasons, This assistance is not. And fallibile means you can't go wrong, who can pass up a mistake. Or you can give for sure what it is, or vice versa can lead to questionable what is certain. The greater certainty that the Pope is a master in faith and when infallibly teaches God's Word, We when he claims to speak on behalf of Christ and will define a dogma of faith, as is taught in the first Vatican Council.

the Holy Father wearing the hat of the alpini

Because there is the infallibility These are not required explicit declarations and solemn, rather rare, but it is enough that the Pope proposes teachings that still refer to dogma or tradition or develop them and clarify or teach some doctrine necessarily connected to dogma or which in any way touches the truth of faith taught by our Lord Jesus Christ. As well as the doctrines of the ecumenical councils, that explain or deepen or interpret the truths of Scripture and tradition, even if they are not defined, are definitive anyway, that is absolutely and eternally true and infallible; and repeat their authority from that of the same Supreme Pontiff who approved. On the contrary, as is apparent from the letter To defend the faith St. John Paul II 1998, There are three grades of infallibility of the doctrines of the Church's Magisterium. The first, that requires faithful the Divine faith or theology reports, is that of the truths of faith defined, commonly called "dogmas". Reject this doctrine is heresy.

Pope: General audience
the Holy Father with the fire brigade helmet

On the second level are the doctrines not defined yet definitive, that is absolutely and eternally true, from the object of belief in the authority of the Church, the so-called "ecclesiastical faith". Can touch the thing revealed, or historical truths or necessarily connected with speculative thing revealed, as for example the existence of the human soul, God, truth or freedom or the legitimacy of a Pope or a Council; things that, If they were not true, they would crumble or would make impossible the truths of faith. Reject this doctrine is error close to heresy.

Pope headdress 8
the Holy Father with a sports copricato

The doctrines of the third degree yet concern issues of faith or faith-related, so this is always true and certain doctrines, but the faithful must not give assent of faith, but only pay "homage of his intelligence". There is no question here of the Church, serving, without defining it dogmatically, a doctrine of faith, but a doctrine of the Church, that has connection with the doctrine of the faith. Doctrine of this kind is for instance the principle of religious freedom or the principle of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue announced by Vatican II. Reject this doctrine is error against the doctrine of the Church. In the first instance we have the doctrine defined, in accordance with the definitive doctrine, in the third binding doctrine.

Because these three degrees? They do not refer to the question of truth, as if, for instance, were true only the doctrines of first instance. They respond to a pastoral reason and how to join the real of the human mind. Meet, In other words, educational purpose and the nature of the human mind to accept the truth.

Pope headdress 9
the Holy Father with the helmet of the workers of the Terni steelworks

The Church has received from Christ the deposit of revelation in its entirety beginning. But it has not learned from the outset with equal clarity and certainty all the truths of the faith. Some, those on which Christ had insisted that more or appeared in continuity with the old testament, or that seemed more appropriate to reason, have emerged for the first symbols of faith. Other, you could infer from early or were latent or implied under the first, maybe less important or maybe even more difficult to understand, "bear", at the beginning they were veiled or not as safe as the first. Hence this process of differentiation more degrees of certainty.

Pope headdress 10
the Holy Father with the bersaglieri Hat

The progress of the Church in the knowledge the data revealed does not imply that God throughout history add new truth, but in the fact that the Church always knows better and more clearly all those truths, that Christ taught the apostles before returning to heaven. Now Christ from heaven, now, and until the end of the world, adds nothing to what he then delivered to the Apostles, but through his spirit assists the Church under the guidance of Peter in ever better understand and explain the truth revealed.

The Church has not only to clarify itself the quality and number of revealed truths, but once it, under the guidance of the Pope, clarified, It is his duty to teach the world. And even at this point there is the need for a gradual approach: gradually in to propose so doctrinal content next, starting with the easiest or the most important or most urgent. And gradually the emphasis or force or emphasis or severity with which propose the same doctrines, Depending on the needs or the needs of the faithful.

Pope headdress 11
two hats in addition to the Holy Father by the coast guard in Lampedusa

The infallibility of the Pope is historically proven: It has never happened that a Pope has belied his predecessor in matters of faith. Küng's thesis therefore is false. It may happen that a Pope instead accidentally fall into heresy or why not in full possession of his mental faculties or because threatened. The teachings of the Pope or his doctrinal position must be considered always with kindness, trust and respect, But even with wise discernment, in order to assess how, the level of authority and the kind of actions or pronouncements or the provisions of the acts or practices of Government.

Pope headdress 12
the Holy Father wearing the hat of Special Olympics delegation

After you make sure, at safe sources, objective and authoritative of the true content of what he says or said, the first thing to do is categorize the type and level of decision. The post-Conciliar Popes, especially from San Giovanni Paolo II, increased and further diversified kinds of their speeches. Not uncommon is the fact that they intend to demonstrate simple personal views, for example publications, speeches or interviews, perhaps following certain trends or Exegetical theology. It is evident that here are not infallible. I'm, these, interventions that are added to the traditional exercise of their moral and doctrinal Magisterium, that is expressed in the documents at various levels, from encyclicals to speeches, at general audiences or homilies in Apostolic visits; they retain the expression of their jurisdiction, pastoral, specification, of Government, diplomat, legislation.

In their moral teaching, be careful as it is traceable to the truths of faith distinct directives, that can be discussed. In this regard,, worthy of every respect, Indeed, obedience of faith, is papal moral teaching that makes reference to the natural moral law, as for example rules of sexual or social ethics, the pastoral care of homosexual persons, the prohibition of contraceptives, artificial insemination, or the defence of the rights of the poor and oppressed.

Pope headdress 14
the Holy Father with a hat of the alpine guides

Likewise with respect consideration should be given to the discipline of the sacraments and liturgical norms, even here, however, distinguishing what refers to the essential values of faith from what can be a simple pastoral value or changeable revisable. Also in directing the ways of salvation to those brothers and sisters who have travelled in an exemplary manner — the Saints — the Papal Magisterium cannot be infallible.

Different is the case of judgments in cases of schism or excommunication or death in canonical field, While the Pope can do no wrong in judging a heretical doctrine. As for pronouncements about charismatic phenomena, such as Marian Apparitions, Here the judgement is not infallible, However, it must be assumed that it is marked by prudence.

Pope Francis and queen elizabeth
the Queen Elizabeth with his hat for special occasions close to the Holy Father at the hearing

The Papal Magisterium, and in general the Church can and should be assessed in the light of tradition, Yes and writing, but not with the watchful attitude, wary presumptuous, We could say pharisaical, of him which is held usually with gun pointed to see the Pope in challenge, Maybe to accuse him of modernism, but with the confidence that we have the correct interpretation of Scripture and tradition. It is wise and right well interpret some of its expressions that can surprise at first. So similarly, before denying the infallibility of the doctrines of the Second Vatican Council, as some, It reflects well on the fact that they, If they do not contain new dogmas defined, However, present new developments and new explanation of Scripture, You cannot bind, Maybe the third degree of authority, the sincere treat of true Catholic.

But it is also the duty of loyalty and honesty to the sovereign pontiff pull on our side, like the modernists, just because the Pope shows open to the values of modernity, forgetting the huge attack that he addresses in his Encyclical Laudato si against what was the worst poison of modernity: the antropocentrismo.

Pope on the throne
the Holy Father Francis, 266° Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, the Chair of the Bishop of Rome

The Roman Pontiff, as with the charism of infallibility as master of the faith, still remains a human being fallible and sinful, where does not play this charism. If the doctrine of the faith is infallible, in the field of his pastoral action and Government, as well as in private conduct can sin in various ways, such as prudence, in justice and charity. For this he needs our help, first prayer, but also, for those who can, of constructive proposals in the doctrinal field, moral and pastoral, always leaving him the last word. It is very important therefore to know clearly where the Pope can be criticized and which must be obeyed. This clarity is essential for continued fruitful advanced on the way of salvation.

Varazze, 13 July 2015


And I tell you:

"You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven ".

[Mt 16, 18-19]

About Father John

Giovanni Cavalcoli Dell'Ordine dei Frati Predicatori Presbitero e Teologo ( Click on the name to read all its articles )

7 thoughts on "Infallibility and fallibility of the Supreme Pontiff

  1. No, I understand: heresies are inspired by the devil! But we have a Pope (Indeed we have had more than one) inviting heretics, that is inspired by the devil, to join in prayer of the one God… Invites you to get it all together annually to Assisi; He himself prayed in places of worship built by these heretics inspired by the devil, and calls on the “Lutheran Christians and Catholics [Note: Lutheran Christians, not about heretics inspired by Devil] to COMMEMORATE the Fifth Centenary of the reform” [Note: commemorate TOGETHER one product of the devil, and uses the verb commemorate that has a positive connotation]… I wonder what would Saint Therese of the child Jesus, doctor of the Church!

  2. Therefore, If I understand correctly, on the first point, It should be clarified at the outset that “heresies are inspired by the devil”… and then: dialogue with Lutherans, but we immediately, and prior, clear that “in Lutheranism there is the Holy Spirit but more likely the devil”: Let's say for the Protestants before you even begin to talk to them, in fact as a precondition to dialogue…

    But then, When the Pope says that “in 2017 [therefore, in two years] Lutherans and Catholics Christians will commemorate the Fifth Centenary of the reform”, turn to God and a “common prayer and the request for forgiveness […] for each other's faults”, What do you mean? that will commemorate the work of the devil? We will pray together with inspired by Satan?

    As for the principle of religious freedom, I understand, It accepts only because cheaper, and better safeguards (in the current historical conditions) Church rights, the expansion of Catholicism and civil peace… therefore, It is accepted only for a reason of convenience… Why can't I, or should not, act like you…

    1. Therefore, If I understand correctly
      The point is just that: She does not understand, much less understand.

      heresies are inspired by the devil
      And who wants to be inspired, by Saint Therese of the child Jesus, doctor of the Church?

      etc. … etc. …

  3. Therefore, She really supports that “in Lutheranism can doubt a true indwelling of the Holy Spirit and is rather think the devil”…

    and as to the “the principle of religious freedom”, proclaimed by the Second Vatican Council, is something which a faithful must (but I mean, is not just a duty) pay homage, but it could also remain stationary as proclaimed by Pius IX in the Syllabus, where claims that it is incorrect to claim that instead “today is no longer convenient that the Catholic religion is considered as the only religion of the State, excluding all other cults, what you want to”…

    essentially, I'm a little’ These are your key points…

    1. First point. Scripture says quite clearly that the heresies are inspired by the devil. That's not to say he didn't value the dialogue with Lutherans. However should be advised of this fact.

      Second point. The principle of religious freedom is already taught by Christ in the Gospel when He inculcates respect for others ' good faith: "Whoever is not against you, is for you».

      The teaching of the Council about it is therefore optional, but is binding, How to make explicit the teaching of Christ. As to the doctrine of blessed Pius IX in Syllabus, It contains an element and a dogmatic legal pastoral.
      the first recalls the superiority of Christianity over all other religions, What about nothing contrary to the principle of religious freedom, intended not liberal or indifferentistico, but the Gospel.

      As regards the question of Catholicism as State religion, This is not a principle of divine right, but a simply principle legal pastoral, so historically conditioned and abrogabile, passed today, because there are no more historical-political conditions that allow the implementation.

      For this reason, the Council, assuming the constitutions of modern democratic States, as for example the UNITED STATES of AMERICA, decided to replace it with the principle of religious freedom, which, in the current historical conditions, is what better safeguards the rights of the Church, the expansion of Catholicism and civil peace.

  4. Good morning, reading your article on infallibilita’ Pontifical required for color’ of the faith of the Church I was wondering how come the various Orthodox churches for over a thousand years of missing an infallible Magisterium only kept faith integrates del primo millennio unlike community’ where Protestants from the outset by rejecting the Ministry of Peter began skidding in the doctrine. At the Orthodox clashes between the various Patriarchs are for reasons of territorial competence etc. But even without PETER keep United doctrine and faith. Wondered a clarification. Thanks

    1. Dear Enzo,

      While Michael Cerularius was rejected the primacy of the Pope's jurisdiction, but not his episcopate, Luther destroyed the very concept of the episcopate. Now it is true that the Pope is the Supreme custodian and guarantor of the truths of faith, but this is already guarded by apostolic succession, It remained in orthodoxy, whereby, If his episcopate is valid, It means that derives from Peter and is founded on Peter, though Constantinople currently forbid submit themselves to Rome from the judicial point of view and so not recognize the primacy of Rome. Missing then certainly the Papal infallibility, but there remains a certain which guaranteed the infallibility of the episcopate, Although not subject to the Pope.

      Far more serious is the disaster caused by Luther, which, by rejecting the sacrament of Holy orders, He thereby itself undermined the foundations of the doctrine of the faith, that, as saith the prophet Malachi, must be kept by the priest. For this, While in orthodoxy continues to be felt the Holy Spirit in maintaining sound doctrine, in Lutheranism can doubt a true indwelling of the Holy Spirit and is rather think the devil.

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