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:
- 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.