The Infallibility of the Pope and the Magisterium

In discourse in the Catholic blogosphere in the last two years, it has become increasingly evident that Catholics grossly misunderstand the infallibility of our holy ecumenical Pontiff, presently, Benedict XVI, pope of Rome, and the universal Magisterium. This point of clarification is, to be honest, in response to a dispute on another column that began with the claim that “an encyclical is not dogma.”

Following the First Vatican Council, a number of Catholic theologians oversimplified the dogma of papal infallibility due to Orthodox and Protestant criticisms. The unfortunate result is that it has given rise to a flawed understanding of the dogma promulgated by the Council. The most prevalent, profoundly erroneous practice has been to view the dogma of papal infallibility as a formula, which severely misunderstands the teaching of Vatican I.

This is most obvious in a number of myths surrounding the dogma that are unfortunately still taught to some Catholics. For example, to exercise papal infallibility, the Holy Father does not have to be actually seated on the Papal Throne, nor does the ecumenical Pontiff have to explicitly cite the fact that he is invoking infallibility, and neither does the Bishop of Rome have to be issuing a dogma or doctrinal definition for his words to be infallible and therefore binding on all the faithful.

If one takes the contrary perspective, any time our holy ecumenical Pontiff is not seated in the Chair of St. Peter, explicitly mentions his authority to make infallible statements, and proceeds to “define” some doctrine, then it logically follows that in no other circumstance is the Holy Father infallible. This is undoubtedly an incorrect view.

The difficulty is with the term “defines,” as it can be confusing because it leaves the laity to imagine that it is a solemn pronouncement, which is not always the case. This has led to the contemporary, wide-spread notion that the definition of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 by our holy ecumenical Pontiff of venerable memory, Pius IX, and later the Assumption in 1950 by the Venerable Pope Pius XII are the only cases of the exercise of papal infallibility in the two millennia of Christianity. Such a view is incorrect. The idea that the exercise of papal infallibility has only ever occurred twice in history began in circles of dissenting Catholic theologians who wished to diminish the practical impact of the doctrine of papal infallibility on their dissenting views. By holding that there are only two known infallible dogmas, they implicitly suggested nothing else the Pope says can be interpreted as infallible, which allowed dissenting Catholic theologians to be free to promote heretical ideas. This established the breeding ground for contemporary wide-spread dissent as commonplace in the Catholic Church.

But a closer reading of history (or some of vibrant theologians of today, including the theologian who is currently the Bishop of Rome), papal infallibility has been exercised far more than two times. This was the understanding of the First Vatican Council, as is evident by Archbishop Gasser’s relatio (this can be found in a highly recommended book, entitled The Gift of Infallibility) which was read to the Bishops gathered at the council. This “briefing,” as it were, was to confirm there was a common understanding of the proposed definitions of papal infallibility that were to be voted on. The particular interest for purposes of the subject being raised here is that Gasser references to a number of instances that papal infallibility had been exercised before Vatican I. In other words, the Bishops voting at Vatican I believed they were solemnly defining a truth that had been known in Christian tradition for centuries, as the gift of infallibility, to their minds, had been exercised by the holy ecumenical Pontiffs throughout the ages.

At second reflection, such a view is perfectly logical. It would be a terribly odd (and suspicious) thing for an ecumenical council to declare papal infallibility and for there to be only two recognized exercises of this charism in history, which both fall after the council declared it. For if the pope truly possessed the charism of infallibility, he would not need a council to declare such a thing, he could do it himself. Furthermore, this reading of the facts gives considerable credence to Eastern Orthodox assertions that the dogma was an “invention” because nowhere in Christian history, given this stated view, has the pope ever used this alleged charism until after an ecumenical council stated that he possessed it—an ecumenical council he did not even need to elucidate such a divinely revealed truth because, technically, he could have defined it himself.

Such speculation, however, is irrelevant. The First Vatican Council believed the charism of papal infallibility had been used before and this view is obviously essential. The “Tome of Leo,” (449) by Pope St. Leo the Great, on the two natures of Christ received by the Council of Chalcedon, the Letter of Pope Agatho (680) on the two wills of Christ received by the Third Council of Constantinople, and a host of other historical instances of popes definitively resolving disputes are cited as instances of papal infallibility. The speculation still continues today among Catholic theologians.

Truly, our ecumenical Pontiff of venerable memory, John Paul II the Great exercised papal infallibility more than any of his predecessors, if only for the reason that papal canonizations are infallible. This very point highlights the very “crux” of the pervasive misunderstanding of papal infallibility. Going into the First Vatican Council, there was an ultramontanist view that held that every infallible element of bulls, encyclicals, etc., every decree of the Roman Congregation, if adopted by the Pope should be seen as stamped with the mark of infallibility; in short, “…every doctrinal pronouncement is infallibly rendered by the Holy Spirit.” Such an attitude treated papal pronouncements the way Protestants treat the Bible.

This view was rejected by the Council (yet many Orthodox and Protestants think this is what was adopted). The danger of such a theological position is not only the ultra-monarchist, dictatorial overtones but the inevitable historical problems of the past popes who obviously erred—the most notable examples being Pope St. Liberius, Pope Vigilius, Pope Honorius I, Pope John XXII, Pope Sixtus V, Pope Paul V, Pope Clement XIII, and Pope Pius VIIII.

Yet the view adopted by the First Vatican Council, the authentic understanding of the papal infallibility, easily survives all these historical objections with little difficulty. The council never intended the oversimplified equation of solemnity to infallibility. Archbishop Gasser at the council addressed the very point of emphasizing solemnity as the innovation that it is:

“…most eminent and reverent Fathers this simply will not do because we are not dealing with anything new here. Already thousands and thousands of dogmatic judgments have gone forth from the Apostolic See and where was the form that was attached to these judgments?” (Relatio).

The Archbishop was obviously speaking in hyperbole claiming that “thousands” of dogmatic judgments have been given by the Bishop of Rome, but it was to underscore his point—definitive papal judgments, underscored by infallibility, was not a new concept. It is not something that the Church invented. From the perspective of the development of doctrine, as articulated by Cardinal Newman, of venerable memory, the dogma has not always been fully understood, in terms of its extent and its limits. Whenever it was employed, as the First Vatican Council surely thought it had been, it lacked the rigid formulas and the insistence of formal solemnity that was being imposed upon the charism—even though these things do, arguably, serve the purpose of clarity. Yet given this insistence, those who hold the view that equates solemnity to infallibility will never find a moment in history where a pope exercised papal infallibility outside of the two instances claimed to be the only ones, at first by dissenting Catholics, and now virtually by most Catholics.

The form or relative level of solemnity cannot be germane to the infallibility of a papal judgment. Such a claim is preposterous. A church under persecution or fighting widespread contentious heresy, at the time of the historical rise of Christianity could hardly be given to such a view requiring such form. Solemnity, at best, may have its proper place, in the modern context, concerning the importance of the truth being taught or defined, but it is not some sort of formulaic requirement for whether or not a given teaching is or is not infallible. It is into even relevant.

The First Vatican Council employed the term “define” to highlight an important point: for the Bishop of Rome to be exercising papal infallibility the teaching must be addressed explicitly or by implication to the universal church, hence, the employment of the phrase “exercising his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians.” In addition to this, the Holy Father must be intended to make a teaching definitive in a manner that makes such an intention known. Such a teaching is infallibly given ex cathedra.

At Vatican I a group of bishops (called a “Deputation”) was given the task of drafting the definition of papal infallibility. They submitted their definition in a first draft as a tentative document to be revised by suggestions for correction and additions. A second draft incorporating such changes was submitted to the council. It read as follows:

“Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian religion, for the glory of God our Savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic faith and the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the sacred council, we teach and define that it is a divinely revealed dogma that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks “ex cathedra,” i.e., when exercising his office as pastor and teacher of all Christians he defines, by his supreme apostolic authority, a doctrine of  faith or morals which must be held by the universal Church, enjoys, through the divine assistance, that infallibility promised to him in blessed Peter and with which the divine Redeemer wanted His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith or morals; and therefore that definitions of the same Roman Pontiff are irreformable of themselves.”

Following the presentation of the draft, virtually identical with the official dogmatic statement of the council, Archbishop Gasser stood before the council and made a noteworthy point of clarification about the draft concerning the connotation of the word “defines” as it relates to papal infallibility:

…the word ‘define’ as it is found in our Draft.  It is obvious from the many exceptions that this word is an obstacle for some of the reverend fathers; hence, in their exceptions, they have completely eliminated this word or have substituted another word, viz., ‘decree,’ or something similar, in its place, or have said, simultaneously, ‘defines and decrees,’ etc.  Now I shall explain in a very few words how this word ‘defines’ is to be understood according to the Deputation “de fide.” Indeed, the Deputation de fide is not of the mind that this word should be understood in a juridical sense so that it only signifies putting an end to a controversy which has arisen with respect to heresy and doctrine which is properly speaking “de fide.” Rather, the word signifies that the Pope directly and conclusively pronounces his sentence about a doctrine which concerns matters of faith or morals and does so in such a way that each one of the faithful can be certain of the mind of the Apostolic See, of the mind of the Roman Pontiff; in such a way, indeed, that he or she knows for certain that such and such a doctrine is held to be heretical, proximate to heresy, certain or erroneous, etc, by the Roman Pontiff. Such therefore, is the meaning of the word ‘defines.’

This point specifically refutes the common notion espoused by many Catholics, apologists or otherwise, regarding papal infallibility. The pope in “defining” a doctrine is not only defining a doctrine as an article of faith to be held—in the Archbishop Gasser’s words, “a juridical sense…only…putting an end to a controversy which has arisen”—but also in a stating what is and what is not in accord with Catholic teaching and what views the faithful cannot hold on matters of faith and morality.

This problem was specifically addressed by Venerable Pope Pius XII in 1950 when a number of dissenting Catholic theologians, influenced by “modernism,” began to dismiss the Ordinary Universal Magisterium and claimed that only ex cathedra teachings understood in the sense of solemn definitions were infallible and irreformable (as mentioned above). The view of the dissenting Catholic theologians was that only the dogmatic pronouncements regarding the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary were infallible and nothing else the pope said, particularly in his encyclicals, was binding and that Catholics could dissent in good conscience from the Holy Father’s statements on faith and moral principles. This view could not be more erroneous and unfortunately today it is mainstream.

This is obvious from the clarification that the term “defines” encompasses not only positive teachings but doctrinal and theological condemnations of “secondary truths” of divine revelation. In this sense, Vatican I dealt with only a narrow aspect of papal infallibility because the decree only addresses what is to be beliveved de fide, it does not address the other areas where the pope can and does speak with infallibility. Addressing the assent owed to the Magisterium of the Church, Venerable Pope Pius XII stated in Humani Generis:

[It must not] be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority [The Ordinary Magisterium], of which it is true to say: ‘He who hears you, hears me’; [Luke 10:16] and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion…

Pope Pius XII noted that the Bishop of Rome passing judgment on a theological or moral dispute in his official documents (such as an encyclical), either by affirming or condemning, is sufficient to remove that issue from being open to debate. In short, this is a reference of papal infallibility—the Pope declaring a position to be either certain or in error, in varying degrees.  Such an act is not ex cathedra (the “Extraordinary Magisterium”) but would still be infallible according to the Supreme Ordinary Magisterium, which is equally infallible but not as solemn or precise in form. The Ordinary Magisterium emphasizes truths of the Catholic faith, which are definitively, i.e. infallible, but are not de fine; the degree of assent owed is identical, but the canonical penalty for willful rejection by any Catholic differs. Solemn definitions (called dogmas) fall under the censure of heresy for disbelief (as being divinely revealed) and truths of doctrine (infallible non-solemn teachings) do not incur the censure of heresy for dissent but vary according to the theological matter from dangerous to erroneous (and in some cases, “proximate to heresy”).

20 Responses to The Infallibility of the Pope and the Magisterium

  1. Eric Brown says:

    Some theologians make an interesting case for Ordinatio Sacerdotalis being an exercise of the extraordinary magisterium by Pope John Paul II. It is worth reading and considerating. Many other theologians aside from the one linked to make the same case, though the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith affirmed the infallibility of the encyclical as an exercise of the supreme ordinary magisterium.

  2. Eric Brown says:

    Two more things.

    First, I want to make a specific note on canonizations of saints by popes (at least in the Roman church because the Eastern churches approach the matter differently).

    Following what has become the customary use of a formula, the pope in canonzing a saint states “we declare and define that Blessed N., is a saint.” The term “declare” and “define” is to signify that the infallibility of the Magisterium, if not the pope himself, is being invoked (not that those terms are formulaic requirements to invoke the charism, in the same way that certain words must be said for a Baptism to be valid).

    So even in contemporary canonizations, the pope utilizes a particular sort of language to signify the invocation of infallibility. Thus, the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption are not the only two exercises of papal infallibility; they are arguably the only two dogmatic definitions secured by papal infallibility, but far from the only exercise of the charism.

    Second, the following is an adaptation of a chart that can be somewhat useful:

    (1) The Pope (ex cathedra) – Extraordinary (and universal) – Infallible – Requires Full Assent

    (2) Bishops, in union with the Pope, defining at an ecumenical council – Extraordinary (and universal) – Infallible – Requires Full Assent

    (3) The Pope (or any Bishop) dispersed, but in communion, definitively stating a teaching of faith or morality consistent with Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition – Ordinary (and universal) – Infallible – Requires Full Assent

    (4) The Pope – Ordinary – Authoritative but fallible – Requires Submission of Intellect and Will

    (5) Bishops – Ordinary – Authoritative but fallible – Requires Submission of Intellect and Will

  3. Donald R. McClarey says:

    At Vatican I Eric, there was a conflict between those who wanted virtually every thing written or said by a Pope to be considered infallible and those who wanted a restrictive definition. By and large those who wanted a restrictive definition prevailed. The problem with a broad view of infallibility is that popes often contradict each other. Consider Pio Nono’s view of religious liberty as compared to that of Pope John XXIII.

    This is a complex area filled with minefields for faithful Catholics, and my thoughts in this area have been aided greatly by the writings of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, especially the essay linked below:

    “It in no way depends upon the caprice of the Pope, or upon his good pleasure, to make such and such a doctrine, the object of a dogmatic definition. He is tied up and limited to the divine revelation, and to the truths which that revelation contains. He is tied up and limited by the Creeds, already in existence, and by the preceding definitions of the Church. He is tied up and limited by the divine law, and by the constitution of the Church. Lastly, he is tied up and limited by that doctrine, divinely revealed, which affirms that alongside religious society there is civil society, that alongside the {340} Ecclesiastical Hierarchy there is the power of temporal Magistrates, invested in their own domain with a full sovereignty, and to whom we owe in conscience obedience and respect in all things morally permitted, and belonging to the domain of civil society.”

  4. Eric Brown says:

    “The problem with a broad view of infallibility is that popes often contradict each other.”

    I don’t think it is a very broad view. It is very specific, if attention is paid to the details.

    If anything, I concur with Newman’s approach. Though a pope can contradict a previous pope or even some teaching with instances in history that show Christians held contrary to what a modern pope is saying if that teaching was never promulgated infallibly. The pope is limited in that he cannot contradict infallible teachings, ever. The implicit suggestion is that a pope can contradict other things that are not of a fallible nature.

    The most obvious example of this to my mind is the Immaculate Conception. It is not “obvious” from a glance at Christian history that everyone always believed in the Immaculate Conception, for it is evident from reading St. Thomas Aquinas and his contemporaries that it was seen as an open theological quesiton for which Catholics could debate. Even still, the idea of the Immaculate Conception is alien to Eastern Christianity as a whole due primarily due to different preconceptions about sin.

    There was no one view being necessarily promulgated as infallible until Pope Pius IX definitively said so.

    On the matter of Pius X versus John XXIII — it is highlighted that what is taught in papal encyclicals (and the teachings of the pope in general) falls under the category of ordinary magisterium, which includes both infallible and fallible teaching, which is why attention must be paid to the details and to the context.

    From a perspective of the “hermeneutics of continuity,” Pope Pius X is condemning religious relativism and the false belief that people may believe whatever it is they wish, despite the Truth. Pope John XXIII and what followed from Vatican II is highlighting the subjective nature of faith — it is a free act, it is not brought on by external coercion or force. But to say that man has religious freedom and the right to believe according to his conscience does not mean a right to believe whatever, for there exists a duty to form conscience, to actively seek the truth, which the Church believes should lead one to enter into the Body of Christ.

    These two points, despite the seeming tensions, are not necessarily in contradiction.

    The concern you raised should be appreciated; it is a valid concern that many thinkers including our ecumenical Pontiff, Benedict XVI, wish to address particularly in ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox as to how the Roman primacy should be exercised, which by necessity includes practical guidelines on the exercise of papal infallibility.

  5. Bill Bannon says:

    Well said. In section 80 of Splendor of the Truth, John Paul II calls slavery an intrinsic evil but Leviticus 25: 44-47 has God giving chattel slavery to the Jews over foreigners.
    John Paul also calls deportation an intrinsic evil in the same section and last May, Benedicts life was saved by Italy deporting two Islamic students who were planning to kill him….and Benedict allowed Italy to protect him by deportation. Did not Benedict then dissent from section 80. Sincere dissent is absent in the catechism but present in moral theology tomes for decades and postdating Lumen Gentium 25….e.g. Germain Grisez’s ” Way of the Lord Jesus” volume one, page 854….which does not apply to the clearly infallible but does apply to the questionally infallible. If there is dissent, a Pope should use ex cathedra to move the questionable in the ordinary magisterium into clarity. If Popes do not work at that when faced with massive dissent, maybe they are not as sure of an issue as infallible as those below them are.

  6. Eric Brown says:


    Pope John Paul II is talking about a specific for of slavery that is not comparable to the slavery refered to in Leviticus. To say anything of the fact, slavery does not seem to be glorified in Exodus.

    Moreover, I am not sure the context of the terms “deportation” means — if anything, I think you’re reading out of context. “Deportation” is a vague term that can be used in reference to a number of things, with specifics and paramaters attached, depending on what iti s.

  7. Bill Bannon says:

        What you just did was journey outside common sense to make the ordinary magisterium infallible constantly. That is how pan infallibility perdures.  John Paul could easily have said that deportation of the innocent is an intrinsic evil…as he did in the wording of Evangelium Vitae on “klling the innocent”.  He did not specify the innocent when talking of deportation which would have taken only three extra words.  He said “deportation” simply which means all deportation. He was as incorrect there as both he and Benedict are in calling the death penalty “cruel” which God gave numerous times in the bible.

      To slavery, again you are covering for a mistake.  Levitcus is talking about chattel slavery clearly in the NAB translation…expressed and implied and it is harsh (implied):

    Leviticus 25:44    “Slaves, male and female, you may indeed possess, provided you buy them from among the neighboring nations.
    You may also buy them from among the aliens who reside with you and from their children who are born and reared in your land. Such slaves you may own as chattels,
    and leave to your sons as their hereditary property, making them perpetual slaves. But you shall not lord it harshly over any of the Israelites, your kinsmen.

       That is clearly the unfortunate kind of slavery….not something temporary if they can be passed on to heirs.  And it permits of harshness unlike the condition of fellow israelites.

  8. Eric Brown says:


    Thank you for the unnecessary comment implying that I responded in a way that defied common sense. Even if it were true, it was not necessary to making your point.

    Nevertheless, you are mistaken in thinking that I believe the ordinary magisterium is constantly infallible (as obvious in the aforementioned list in the com-boxes).

    I was arguing that when looking at what the popes are talking about — irrespective of the question of infallibility — it is not obvious they are contradicting each other, just at face value; they would have to be read in context.

    I am not sure that using the term “deportation,” in the context of talking about a specific matter, without qualifications, means all forms of thinkable “deportation.” I would have to read the document to state anything futher.

    Furthermore, Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI do not hold that it is intrinsically evil to use the death penalty, but that it is “cruel” and “scandalous,” if — and only if — justice can be achieved in a more merciful fashion that does not require recourse to violence to achieve the end of moral equilibrium. They do not neglect the fact that Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition do not condemn capital punishment wholesale–they, along with the rest of the Magisterium, are stating that certain conditions must be met for it to be morally licit, not that it is never morally licit.

  9. Bill Bannon says:

      You are again trying to make them sound better than they are.  Both men called the death penalty “cruel”.  They could have said what you in effect said: “the death penalty is cruel if bloodless means would also protect society in that context”.  But they did not say that and they could have.  And they are letting their spokesmen like Fr. Lombardi denounce it in toto as he did this past week.  You are combining for the Popes parts of Evangelium Vitae or ccc#2267 with their blanket statement that the death penalty is cruel and you are getting: “it is cruel if bloodless means are sufficient”.
    You are making some sense but they are never saying that combination that you are projecting onto them and they have not corrected once the mass media as it reports that the Catholic Church is against the death penalty.  Why not Eric?  Your explanation of their real position would logically lead to their correcting that impression.  Go to wiki’s list of the highest murder rate countries.  You will find 9 largely Latin American Catholic countries in the top 20 and they have no death penalty.  I don’t think either man even noticed that reality.

  10. This post was very helpful, as I’ve been wondering about this issue for a while. Thanks a lot for going in depth!

  11. Justin Aquila says:

    The best analysis of infallibility I have seen. This belongs in a theological journal, its obviously too nuanced to be understood by the ideologues on the blogsphere.

  12. Bill Bannon says:

       Try working rather than sniping.  it is the year 1585 and Pope Sixtus V issues a bull which reorganizes the papal choir and brings the castrati into the papal Churches because Sixtus feels that Paul’s “women are to be silent” means they are not to even sing in the churches.  So we have 9 to 12 year old boys being sterilized for life for this purpose of singing.  That is not the problem I’m pointing to.  One Pope makes a mistake.  the problem I am pointing to is that the next 28 Popes continued the involvement until in 1878, one Pope finally says no and issues a bull that ends the practice in the papal churches for good excepting the elder castrati who may live out their careers.  The problem is the over adulation of the first Pope’s mistake by 28 more Popes.  That was the opposite of a development in the Church.  It was a regression in the church and opera was out of the castrati practice 78 years before we were.  A regression results from over estimating papal wisdom in the ordinary papal magisterium.
       Move to 1253 where both Brian Harrison and new advent show that Innocent IV makes a torturous death mandatory by secular rulers for heresy and it is entered in the decretals and in 1520 Leo X is condemning Luther’s view that that position of buring heretics at the stake is against the Holy Spirit.  Now section 80 of john Paul’s aforementioned encyclical states that torture is an intrinsic evil.  If he is correct, hundreds of years of Popes kept up Innocent IV’s mistake….just as 300 years of Popes kept up Sixtus V’s mistake on castrati.
       My position is that ex cathedra should be used frequently so as to stop these mistakes that go on for centuries due to people over estimating the wisdom of Popes when they are not speaking infallible in a clear manifest manner.  Why did 28 Popes keep the castrati practice going if not because of over deference to the tradition because it was papal?  Why did torture of heretics last with declining enforcement from 1253 til 1816 when a Pope said no and banned it in the papal states?  Our mistakes are lasting too long because no one will gainsay a Pope even in prudential decisions which decisions have an underlying belief that is later condemned and only by another Pope.  I believe in infallibility and think Popes should work far harder on using ex cathedra because the ordinary magisterium can be universal ordinary but it is always subject to debate which ex cathedra can clear up. 

  13. Phillip says:


    A bit unfair, especially given your rather unnuanced and inaccurate claims that CatholicVote was making “dogmatic” claims for their endorsements.

    I think another good analysis of papal infallibility was Dulles’s in “Church and Society.” In that he noted with Newman that pronouncements that depend on changeable human sciences (social, historical, economic, etc.)are not infallible and are subject to change as human knowledge changes. Thus when one reads a social encyclical one must read carefully to distinguish between what are likely infallible (subsidiarity and solidarity) vs. those that are prudential judgments (health care as a right?).

    Even if the latter is a right, we then get into the (very fallible) discussion of what the Church means as “right.”

  14. Justin Aquila says:

    Bill, really your going to point to the castrati? Btw, castration was just as popular in the secular world of the time. I don’t think anyone is arguing that infallibility covers decisions about the papal choir. We are talking about issues pertaining to faith and morals. Eric clearly laid out the groundwork for infallibility that is consistent with the Church’s teaching.

    Phillip, I am fairly certain that just about everyone recognizes that the blogsphere is not a place for nuance. Its the nature of the beast. Clearly you failed to distinguish between policy questions which are prudential and principles which aren’t. We have the clear holding that medical care is a right since John XXIII. Every pope has upheld it and the universal magisterium (the bishops) have upheld it. As far as I am concerned you are free to reject that teaching, but it seems you are on shaky grounds in rejecting that it is a teaching. One could argue that JPII’s suggestion that all health care be free (Evangelium Vitae, 12), but thats because its a policy suggestion. The right doesn’t mean it has to be free or paid for the government all the time.
    Lastly, if you read my critique I did not say that Catholic Vote’s endorsements were dogmatic, I said their application of subsidiarity was dogmatic. This is an example of the lack of nuance I was referring to in my rather snarky comment.

  15. Phillip says:

    Perhaps you miss the nuance of the question mark in regards to health care. I am not rejecting it. I am merely stating that I do not know if health care is a right and certainly do not know how the Church is using “right” in this case.

    “I said their application of subsidiarity was dogmatic. This is an example of the lack of nuance I was referring to…”

    Though given that you note that the blogsphere is not the place for nuance and that Catholic Vote is essentially a blog you shouldn’t be overly concerned with “dogmatic” applications. Even though as one of their authors clearly notes in a response, it was not dogmatic at all in any sense.

  16. Bill Bannon says:

    The prudential decision on the castrati was rooted in an idea or principle such that the area of morals merged in that case with the area of decision. So 29 Popes were teaching something that was false in morals by their example in continuing the practice of Sixtus V. Ditto for burning heretics at the stake. That prudential decision carried an implied belief so that to say a morals question was not at stake is being circuitous shall we say.
    That castrati were also in the secular world has zero to do it….just as public school teachers molesting children does not ameliorate our recent crisis….they don’t say the Mass each day and then molest. The evil of the best is worst.

  17. Andy K. says:

    @ Bill Bannon

    Actions speak louder than words, so they say, but I don’t think Eric is saying that every action performed by the pope is an exercise of his infallible teaching authority. It sounds to me that you are attacking a strawman.

  18. Bill Bannon says:

    Your post falls below my minimum word and work quota.

  19. Winkyb says:

    The pope is God’s Mouthpiece. He is chosen under the auspices of the Holy Spirit by the Cardinals. He is represents God’s authority not only over the Catholic Church but the whole world. This representative of God’s authority and mouthpiece over the whole world isn’t void or limited because people refuse to reconize the
    above. I find enemies of the church, disobedience, and the devil is in the details if one must asked is this infallible or not. Those who do this are following their whims and undermining papal talks and declarations.

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