Friday, 15 August 2014
The Pope's infallibility is a subject sometimes raised by non-Catholics when discussing our Faith and beliefs.
What we have perhaps not made clear is what we mean by the Pope's infallibility.
In effect it means that he is totally dependable and fail-safe when pronouncing Catholic dogma which we are to accept and believe. This is known as speaking "ex cathedra" - that is, when in the exercise of his office as pastor and teacher of all Christians he defines, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.
In all of our Church's history this speaking ex cathedra has only happened twice.
In the Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December 1854, Pope Pius IX pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."
That is to say, the Virgin Mary was born without original sin.
This is not in the Bible, but a dogma of the Catholic Church.
About 100 years later, by promulgating the Bull Munificentissimus Deus, on 1 November 1950, Pope Pius XII declared infallibly that the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was a dogma of the Catholic Faith.
That is to say that she was raised to Heaven both body and soul. Her body did not decay in the ground as would happen if buried.
Again, this is not in the Bible, but Catholic dogma.
At no other time did a Pope speak ex cathedra.