Friday 15 August 2014

Infallible Pope?

So ... is the Pope infallible or not? Does he really not make any mistakes? When I was young at school and we were taught about the Pope's infallibility in Catechism class, we assumed that it meant he was good at Maths and he knew all the capitals of the world. He was also good at science, languages and everything; and never made mistakes. Because he is infallible.

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.


  1. Thank you for the history lesson and explanation of Catholic beliefs. My agreement or not is not important--what IS important is we both believe is stated quite nicely in the Apostles Creed which all Christianity should embrace! Blessed Weekend, Victor!

  2. I agree with you Victor #1 when you say that our Blessed Pope's infallibility means that he is totally dependable and fail-safe when pronouncing Catholic dogma which we are to accept and believe.

    Long story short, His Holiness Papa Francis represents our First Pope, Saint Peter that "Jesus" our True Founder put in-charge so we should follow what Jesus wanted US (usual sinners) to learn... Right?

    God Bless

  3. Well said. Now don't we all wish we could be infallible? I would have had straight A's in college! :)

    1. I know what you mean, Manny.

      It's great to see you visiting here again. Thanx.

      God bless you and yours.

  4. Thanks Victor for that explanation. Not being Catholic myself I always wondered what was meant by the phrase that the pope is infallible.

    1. Hello Tracy,

      It's great to see you visiting me here. We hope that you'll return soon and often.

      The problem is, the Catholic Church is not always good at communicating its teachings and beliefs to its people and to non-Catholics.

      God bless you Tracy.

  5. Hi Victor! Great summation of the term 'infallible' which I think many Catholics still have questions and concerns about. I didn't realize that the ex cathedra was used so seldom. I learned a lot here!

    1. Thanx Ceil for your kind words. Yes, the ex cathedra has only been used twice. Our Church does not always make things clear for its followers and for non-Catholics.

      God bless you, Ceil.

  6. Hi Victor, I entirely agree with what you have written. How do others argue, quite vehemently, that the question of women's ordination to the priesthood was 'infallibly' settled by Pope St John Paul II in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis ?

  7. It's great to see you visiting here Nick. We hope you return soon and often.

    As far as I know the Pope(s) have only spoken twice ex cathedra.

    God bless.

  8. Thank you Victor, this article sheds some light on things. I completely agree with you though, but I find this gate gory of 'definitive teaching' slightly concerning. God bless you too ��

  9. Victor, thanks for this simple explanation. You have such a gift. BTW, I never realized ex cathedra has only happened twice. I knew the two instances you mentioned, of course, but just assumed those were the "most famous" two instances! God Bless you.

    1. Thanx Michael for your kind words. Yes ex cathedra only happened twice on those two occasions.

      God bless you my friend.



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