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No, the Church is not infallible because the Pope is infallible. It’s the other way around.

One of the more upsetting results of this Synodal chaos is the division it is creating between believing and sincere Catholics. Sadly, one of the more dire results of the last 50 years of non-catechesis has been a grave defect in the knowledge of most of the faithful on the limits and nature of papal infallibility.

Today I received the following note from a friend:
“I am now arguing with my pro-life friends about the petition. They see any lack of papal obedience as shocking and scandalous. Grrrrrrr. Have you written about it? What can I send them to show how wrong they are.”

I recommended that she google the terms “papolatry,” that is gaining wide use recently, and the newer and perhaps somewhat more technical term “hypermontanism”. I added, “Ultramontanism = Good. Hypermontanism = Bad.”

In the interests of our charitable duty to instruct the ignorant, WUWTS offers the following brief explanation of the traditional understanding of papal infallibility, from a bona fide member of the clergy. …HJMW

Crash Course in the Church’s Infallibility.

The Church is not infallible because the Pope is infallible.

It is the other way around.

The pope is infallible because the Church is infallible.

Jesus the Divine Teacher continues to teach in this world the “message of truth”, which he originally gave to the Apostles and through them to the world. This is the Deposit of Faith and Morals. It contains primarily supernatural knowledge about God and how to get to Heaven to see and rejoice in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit forever. This revealed treasure also contains a crystal-clear reaffirmation of the Natural Law of right and wrong, “the observance of which is also necessary for eternal salvation” (Humane vitae). If I turn my back on God the Creator I can’t get to Heaven.

In her constant and very firm teaching the Church is protected by Christ. She will not betray Him or His teaching. She is infallible.

The Pope has the keys. He can even command us what to think. Or rather, he can bindingly declare what Christ has taught, and therefore what God has said, and requires that we believe. But Christ will NOT let His Church be bound into error. So…

When the Successor of Peter, teaching on a matter of Faith and Morals, AS Successor of Peter , binds the universal Church to believe or to absolutely and “definitively ” hold a particular truth, he shares in the infallibility of the Church.

We are only required to believe that the Pope is infallible when all the above conditions are fulfilled. We are very safe in following the teaching of Pope Saint Pius X, in his Catechismo maggiore, that the pope is infallible “only” (soltanto) under those conditions.

From the “Catechismo magiore” of Pope Saint Pius X:

199. Quando è il Papa infallibile?Il Papa è infallibile allora soltanto che nella sua qualità di Pastore e Maestro du tutti i cristiani, in virtù della suprema sua apostolica autorità, definisce una dottrina intorno alla fede o ai custumi da ternersi da tutta la Chiesa.

“soltanto” = “only,” as in, “at no other time or in no other way”.

This means it is impossible for the pope to *bindingly* contradict the constant and very firm teaching of the Church.

But by ambiguity, implication, association, action, or in other ways, the pope can sow doubt. As unfortunately we have been seeing these days.


26 thoughts on “No, the Church is not infallible because the Pope is infallible. It’s the other way around.”

  1. Remnant Clergy says:

    Forced resignations, and those documents with errors, make the resignation invalid. Francis is an anti-pope. As to his election, search for From Rome Team Bergoglio for many details of the plot.

  2. RexRyan says:

    Benedict XVI resigned. he is not the Pope. Nor of course is Francis.

  3. RexRyan says:

    I’ve heard the music, but never knew the words…I suspect most American don’t either whereas I would venture 99% of Brits know and sing God Save the Queen.

  4. craig says:

    I have a fantasy that Benedict the White will appear at the Synod, preferably at the head of a team of Riders of Rohan…

  5. Dawg_em says:

    Here’s a conspiracy theory:
    Benedict saw a pronounced and powerful gay voice and lobby that was tearing at the seams of the Bride of Christ, and may have even been threatened. He decides to let them have their way, to “out” themselves so to speak knowing who the favored (canvassed for) candidate was, and show their true rainbow colors. When all Hades breaks loose, Francis has said he won’t be around for long, Benedict again sits in the Chair and sets things aright.
    (OK, so aren’t we all alllowed a little fantasy once in a while?)

  6. Dawg_em says:

    How so?

  7. pjm says:

    Oh, absolutely! The Holy Spirit could and did reveal new things, adding to Public Revelation, right up to the death of the last Apostle. The Epistles of St. Paul, or the Apocalypse of St. John…

  8. Remnant Clergy says:

    Actually you will see Francis use the infallibility card at some point to declare heresy. Many will say that’s impossible because a pope is protected from error. A pope is protected from error, but Francis is not a real pope, rather a fake, an anti-pope. So he has no protection. Benedict XVI is the real pope. Have you ever heard of “Pope Emeritus” in Tradition? Of course not, since there is no such thing. You are pope or you are not. Look for From Rome Team Bergoglio regarding the supposed election of Freemason Francis.

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  11. Deacon_Augustine says:

    “This means it is impossible for the pope to *bindingly* contradict the constant and very firm teaching of the Church.”

    Yeah but, yeah but, yeah but….this is Frank we are talking about. What if he does issue a binding teaching that contradicts the constant and very firm teaching of the Church? Will God strike him down if he attempts it? Will he automatically be deposed as a heretic? More importantly, can we put him in the stocks and throw eggs and rotten vegetables at him?

  12. prerealist says:

    The descent of the Holy Spirit remained with the Apostles throughout the remainder of their lives. So, yes, in this way, with the death of the last Apostle, the Deposit of Faith was completed. It is wonderfully explained in the classic Tradition and the Church by George Agius,

    My main point was that the source of the Deposit of Faith was not only from the Son of God (as I felt was suggested in Fr Parochus’ blog entry) but from the Third Person of the Trinity as well.

  13. Fred Johnson says:

    bigfred, are you suggesting that history is soon about to repeat itself? I believe the Tiber is still there…..

  14. Dorothy says:

    I am sure the citizens of the Thirteen Colonies (and one of my ever-so-great-grandfathers was a lieutenant in General Washington’s army, so I feel a family interest) would be horrified by celebrity worship. Who was that French philosopher who went on a tour of the early US? I believe he remarked on the sagacity and literacy of the average American farmer, craftsman and labourer. De Toqueville?

    Meanwhile, my American cousins wouldn’t have to know the lyrics to “Hail to the Chief”, especially not in this post-literate age, to understand the Kingship of the POTUS it celebrates, what with its instantly recognizable tune, all that “Oh Mister President” stuff, the big white palace, the Oval Office, Air Force One, the red-white-and-blue rosettes,Marilyn Monroe and the various First Ladies. The funny thing, though, is that both Martin Sheen and Harrison Ford has embodied it all so much better than the real deal for decades.

  15. Simon Platt says:

    I disagree. Given the limits of infalliblity (vide supra) both could have been. In fact – both were.

    I make no comment as to goodness.

  16. Simon Platt says:

    Interesting! It’s a catchy tune, but are those *really* the words? (Never heard them over here.)

  17. Jude says:

    As an American, I prefer either this version (from the movie “Dave”)

    Hail to the chief / He’s the one we all say “Hail” to. / We all say “Hail” / ‘Cause he keeps himself so clean! / He’s got the power, / That’s why he’s in the shower…

    Or this one from James Garner in “Hail to the Chief”

    Hail to the Chief, if you don’t, I’ll have to kill you.
    I am the Chief, so you better watch your step, you bastards.

    Really, no American sings Hail to the Chief. It’s like Pomp and Circumstance, just some background music.

  18. bigfred says:

    Not to be contentious, Dorothy, but I can’t imagine that any Americans actually know those lyrics or have ever heard them. Americans mostly worship celebrities (tv, movies, sports) and it is revolting. The Americans who carried out the Revolution of 1776 would be dismayed. Maybe.

  19. bigfred says:

    Pope Formusus was dug up from his grave on orders of a successor pope named Stephen. The cadaver was dressed in his old robes, put on trial, found guilty, stripped of robes and some fingers and then tossed into the Tiber.

    Both could not have been infallible, or even both been right and good.

  20. Barbara says:

    I think in a very few days those who think Francis has no knowledge of what those nasty prelates are doing will be weeping tears of frustration and anger. No point in asking how they could think Francis is above the fray, or is letting this mess fester so he can save the day. They do think that way. My personal pity goes out to Michael Voris and his followers. They will have a bitter climb up to reality.

  21. Barbara says:

    Yeah, I’d read that. Francis and cohort are especially favoured because of this specific lack of knowledge in the people of God…that they are clueless about infallibility.

  22. pjm says:

    This is not exact. The Deposit of Faith was complete at the death of the last Apostle. The Fathers developed it, unfolded items.

  23. Lynne says:

    I doubt that more than a handful of Americans know the words to Hail to the Chief. 🙂

  24. BrainSnob says:

    Maybe Father Parochus could write a Part 2 on what is required of a lay person in giving religious assent to non-definitive teachings touching on faith and morals?

  25. prerealist says:

    The Apostles were also given the “message of truth” through the descent of the Holy Spirit. From the “third glorious mystery of the Rosary” the Church Fathers were able to complete the totality of Deposit of Faith and Morals.

  26. Dorothy says:

    Are these American friends? I have noticed that Americans are very attached to the notion of an earthly king. The American President has way more power than any western monarch, but I have never heard the most liberty-loving American suggest getting rid of the office of “POTUS”. “God Save the Queen” is at least directed to God. Here are the lyrics to the American Presidential fanfare:

    “Hail to the Chief we have chosen for the nation/Hail to the Chief! We salute him, one and all./Hail to the Chief, as we pledge cooperation/In proud fulfillment of a great, noble call.

    “Yours is the aim to make this grand country grander,/This you will do, that’s our strong, firm belief./Hail to the one we selected as commander,/Hail to the President! Hail to the Chief!”

    With this kind of thing echoing in their national consciousness, it is no wonder they may be that attached to “my pope, right or wrong.” Maybe a nation made up of disparate groups needs a Big Daddy figure. That’s okay as it goes, but not when big earthly daddy usurps the place of God the Father.

  27. Carolyn C says:
    Quote from article: “What is amazing, and instructive, is that Pope Francis views this chaos around him—chaos he helped create—and does nothing to step away from the storm. Francis has chosen to put the Church at risk—small, but real, risk. And he has either chosen to do so for a reason. Or for no reason.”

    This journalist states that Francis has chosen to put the Church at risk. Wrap your mind around that…this journalist interprets Francis’ action as having chosen (chosen) to put the Church at risk. While St. Peter denied Christ 3 times, he wept and grieved deeply immediately after his offense. He did not actively seek to put Christ’s teachings at risk. St. Peter fell because he was weak. He did not seek to create chaos or a “mess” as this man has. But True Catholics know that the Church resides in the faithful, not in buildings or failed men. True Catholics know that the Church (The Mystical Body of Christ) consists of those Catholics who believe in all the Truths and know the Church cannot change. The purity of the faith is found in the Society of St. Pius X, and all those Catholics who are committed to Tradition, the True Mass and the Traditional Sacraments. For those who are confused, take the time to research what has happened to the Church since Vatican II. It is your duty to know. There are books, Websites, videos…there are countless resources to help you. Ultimately, you will learn that the changes to the Mass led to the downfall of the organizational Church.

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