A Catholic Response to a Question
About Papal Infallibility

I had asked a question concerning the Catholic doctrine of Papal Infallibility. A number of Romish apologists leaped on my question, but one—I shall call her Mary—provided excellent examples of the guerrilla apologetics so typical of those who would defend the Roman Church. In what follows, please note that, while Mary homed in on a limiting phrase in my question, she never did respond to the question. I did not include the question itself here because the emphasis is on Catholic guerrilla apologetics. In what follows, Mary's words are in boldface; my words that she quoted are not.


First, let me correct a small error in the following statement:

If the Roman pope, when speaking to the church in general on matters of faith and morals is infallible,

“Infallibility” does not apply to “speaking in general”, infallibility ONLY applies when speaking “ex cathedra”, when a pope specifically says something that he proclaims to be a “defined” truth of the faith.


It never ceases to confound me how those who would speak for Rome can be so literal-minded when addressing just about anything but the Word of God, which they tend to deal with quite imaginatively. Perhaps you have not noticed that I sometimes use words to express something other than their most basic definitions. In this case, however, it would appear that you have read the sentence you challenge in much the same way the Magisterium reads Scripture, overlooking its basic structure and clear meaning. Why not read it as written? “when speaking to the CHURCH IN GENERAL?” The prepositional phrase 'in general' modifies the noun 'church', not the verb 'speaking'.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines the use of "general' thusly:

1. Concerned with, applicable to, or affecting the whole or every member of a class or category [My emphasis]
2. Affecting or characteristic of the majority of those involved; prevalent
3. Of or affecting the entire body
4. Being usually the case; true or applicable in most instances but not all . . . -- The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Thus, when applying the literal/historical/grammatical hermeneutic to my statement, it would appear that it is accurate as written. Consistently applying the same hermeneutic to the Word of God would likely provide some enlightening results for those who are more accustomed to applying the various hermeneutics imaginatively and selectively used by Roman Catholic exegetes.


This has happened only twice in the last 150 years, both times they were Marian dogmas.


Wow! You write this with authority and conviction, reminding me of the wonderfully authoritative manner of the Magisterium. Let us examine this statement as one should examine all similar declarations when proposed by the mighty and infallible Magisterium. After all, I am every bit as concerned with the accuracy of what I post here as you apparently are; though, of course, I imagine our reasons are quite different. My purpose for seeking accuracy is to provide a clear and truthful examination of Catholic doctrine in the light of Scripture. I suspect your interest is only to find some reason, however picayune, to declare all of what I post to be inaccurate. Would this, perhaps, fall into one of the categories mentioned by Paul in his letter to Titus?

But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. (Titus 3:9)

In this verse, the Apostle is warning Titus, and by extension all the Church, to avoid becoming embroiled in senseless discussions with false teachers. Paul here was specifically referring to the many false teachers and Judaizers on Crete who contended that a Christian must be obedient to the Law--a view that, in common with the Roman Catholic Semi-Pelagian doctrine of justification by works, assaults the biblical doctrine of grace alone. But back to your declaration, made with authority, that the popes have only exercised the charism of infallibility but 'twice in the last 150 years, both times they were Marian dogmas.' If I were able to demonstrate that this is an inaccurate declaration would you, perhaps, be willing to admit the bare possibility that you just might be wrong in some of the other 'authoritative' declarations you make in this board? Naah! I have a pretty fair imagination, but I cannot imagine a Romish apologist acknowledging an error. Prove me wrong. Please.

I observe that, in your non-responsive response, you failed to identify the documents in which some pope supposedly made those two infallible Marian declarations. Isn't it interesting, the way Catholic apologists all appear to be cut from the same bolt of cloth? I refer to the observable tendency they display to use arguments\ against their Christian opposition that can easily be turned against themselves.

But enough of life's little pleasures, time to get to work.

The Roman church, in that wonderful way it has of referring to itself as the source for its own truths, did not formally define and declare the doctrine of infallibility until 1870:

9. Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our Saviour, for the exaltation of the catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the sacred council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman pontiff speaks ex cathedra, that is, when,

1. in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians,
in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority,
3. he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals.

Therefore, such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the church, irreformable.

So then, should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this definition of ours: let him be anathema -- First Vatican Council, 4th Session, First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ:, July 18, 1870

Strong stuff. Either believe what we say or you'll be cast out. No wimps at Vatican I.

That document was infallibly proclaimed by Pope Pius IX, placing him in the curious position of infallibly declaring his own infallibility. And there you have it, straight from the horse's . . .. . mouth.

The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (November 18, 1965), closes, over the signatures of Paul VI and the other bishops, with these words:

The entire text and all the individual elements which have been set forth in this Constitution have pleased the Fathers. And by the Apostolic power conferred on us by Christ, we, together with the Venerable Fathers, in the Holy Spirit, approve, decree and enact them; and we order that what has been thus enacted in Council be promulgated, to the glory of God.

I suppose you could argue that this is a document of a church council and, almost by definition, infallible and that it does not count as a papal use of the charism of infallibility.

How about another example of a pope declaring something to the church in general concerning an issue of faith and morals?

My Catholic Dictionary defines 'Apostolic Constitution' thusly:

The highest form of ecclesiastical legal, or legislative, pronouncement issued by the Pope himself.--Catholic Dictionary, Peter M.J. Stravinskas, Ed., Our Sunday Visitor (1993), p. 65

The same authority defines 'Constitution' as follows:

1. The highest and most authoritative form of a papal pronouncement.
2. The organizational rule of a body within the Church, such as a religious community.--Ibid, p. 150

Lemme see here. I'm just a poor, ole Texas country boy, but it seems to me that if something is issued as one of the “highest and most authoritative” forms of papal pronouncement, it just might be intended to apply to the whole Catholic Church and, to press the point, may even be considered to have something to do with faith and morals. Further, I do declare, from my provincial point of view, that such an issuance to the Church in general and dealing with a matter of faith and morals just might be considered to have been promulgated by the Pope ex cathedra. Of course, I have not taken into account the wonderful ability of Rome to dance around any such simple logic.

Continuing with my simplistic understanding of infallibility, it would appear that Pope Paul VI acted infallibly when he proclaimed the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) on November 21, 1964. Oh! Darn! That is another council document and doesn't count. Or does it? Well, there was no church council involved when John Paul II proclaimed the Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities (Ex Corde Ecclesiae), on August 15, 1990. Or is that 'highest and most authoritative form of a papal pronouncement' not to be considered infallibly promulgated? Inquiring minds really want to know.

On November 21, 1963, Pope Paul VI proclaimed the Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio) with these words:

Each and all these matters which are set forth in this Decree have been favorably voted on by the Fathers of the Council. And We, by the apostolic authority given Us by Christ and in union with the Fathers, approve, decree and establish them in the Holy Spirit and command that they be promulgated for the glory of God.

Wasn't he infallibly declaring the results of the Council's deliberations and voting to be binding on the entire Catholic Church? Isn't this an exercise of the charism of infallibility?

On October 15, 1976, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published Inter Insigniores, a doctrinal statement addressing the question of admitting women to the ministerial priesthood. Given that the document, which addresses an issue of faith for the entire church, was reviewed, passed and ordered published by Pope Paul VI, can it not be argued that in so doing the Vicar of Christ was acting ex cathedra? The document closes with these words:

His Holiness Pope Paul VI, during the audience granted to the undersigned Prefect of the Sacred Congregation on 15 October 1976, approved this Declaration, confirmed it and ordered its publication.

Those closing words read very much the same as those used by the same pope in proclaiming the Decree on Ecumenism, when he wrote “approve, decree and establish them.”

Paul VI closed his Apostolic Constitution on Penance (Paenitemini) -- February 17, 1966, with these words that, since they do not involve Marian dogma, do not fit your definition of the two infallible proclamations of popes in the past 150 years:

IX. 1. It is strongly desired that bishops and all pastors of souls, in addition to the more frequent use of the sacrament of penance, promote with zeal, particularly during the Lenten season, extraordinary practices of penitence aimed at expiation and impetration.

2. It is strongly recommended to all the faithful that they keep deeply rooted in their hearts a genuine Christian spirit of penitence to spur them to accomplish works of charity and penitence.

X. 1. These prescriptions which, by way of exception, are promulgated by means of L'Osservatore Romano, become effective on Ash Wednesday of this year, that is to say on the 23rd of the present month.

2. Where particular privileges and indults have been in force until now -- whether general or particular of any kind, vacatio legis (suspension of the law] for six months from the day of promulgation is to be regarded as granted.

We desire that these norms and prescriptions for the present and future be established and effective notwithstanding, in as much as is necessary, apostolic constitutions and regulations issued by our predecessors and all other prescriptions, even if worthy of particular mention and revocation.

I could go on and on, but I think I have made my point. If one were to accept the argument you struggle to make--that the Popes rarely speak infallibly, especially in the past 150 years--the logical assumption that follows is that statements and guidance in all the other papal documents issued during that period are little more than reflections of the personal opinions of the various popes and, as such, might contain theological or doctrinal error and, to push the envelop, may not even be binding on the Church. Is that what you are declaring? Are you saying that the Holy Spirit did not infallibly inspire Paul VI when he promulgated Humanae Vitae (On The Regulation of Birth) in 1968? Or that the words of Pius XI were not infallibly pronounced in Casti Connubii (On Chastity in Marriage)? Can it be that what John Paul II published in Redemptoris Mater (On the Blessed Virgin Mary) contains error? Goodness gracious! Sakes alive! If that is what you are implying, then I commend you for being one of the few Catholic apologists I have encountered who is willing to acknowledge that the popes are not always teaching truth when they make declarations to the Catholic faithful.


So in fact, neither of the following two quotes apply.


Golly gee! I thought the popes were incredibly powerful, to the point of having the power even to modify or reverse Divine Law. Given that much authority, it seems strange that the holder of the office is so strictly limited in his ability to speak infallibly. I know that the assembled bishops present at Vatican I had a terrible time coming up with a formula to define papal infallibility and that the outcome of their deliberations was far from a unanimous affirmation of the published document.

There is support for the nearly absolute ecclesiastic power and authority of the Roman pope. Lucius Ferraris, an 18th Century Franciscan canonist, professor, provincian and consultor of the Holy Office, wrote, in his Prompta that:

The Pope is of so great authority and power, that he is able to modify, declare, or interpret even divine laws. (Papa tantae est auctoritatis et potestatis, Ut possit quoque leges divinas modificare, declarare, vel interpretari, ad num.) (Lucius Ferraris, Papa, art. 2, Prompta Bibliotheca Canonica, Juridica, Moralis, Theologica, Ascetica, Polemica, Rubristica, Historica, (Handy Library), Vol. 5, published in Petit-Montrouge (Paris) by J. P. Migne, 1858 edition, column 1823, Latin.)

The doctrine of infallibility was not formally defined and declared until 1870. Are you implying that such definitions and declarations are to be applied ex post facto to all the decisions, declarations, ruminations and proclamations of all the Roman bishops all the way back to Linus?

Joseph McCabe, sometime Catholic monk, wrote, in his Rationalist Encyclopedia:

In view of the innumerable blunders of Popes since the second century, some imagine that the Catholic doctrine is that the Pope began to be infallible only when the Church officially declared this at the Vatican Council of 1870. It is, on the contrary, that all Popes from the legendary days of Peter (even John XII, Boniface IX, John XXIII, and Alexander VI) have been infallible. It is, however, useless to argue with Catholics about Papal blunders and heresies. Although the most powerful of the mediaeval Popes, Gregory VII and Innocent Ill, claimed to be infallible, the hierarchy stoutly resisted the claim century by century, and still, in 1870, there was formidable opposition among the bishops and theologians. The Pope's determination to have the measure carried was realized only by bribery and intimidation and after a long and very heated struggle. Prelates who were present told the present writer, twenty years later, that iced water was consumed in amazing quantities, and that episcopal opponents angrily asked “if the Pope pretended to have the Holy Ghost in his inkpot.” The finest historical scholars of the Church, such as Hefele (who yielded and became a bishop) and Doellinger (who left the Church and never rejoined it), had long lists of errors of Popes drawn up, and the wording of the definition of the dogma was drafted by the Papal officials with these in view. The Pope was declared to be infallible only when he speaks ex cathedra: when he addresses a message on faith or morals in his official capacity to the universal Church. With much sophistry earlier Papal blunders are then excluded.


However, I am always open to criticisms, and research and take them seriously, but to do that I need to know how to look stuff up. (This is just common practice in any real scholarship.) [I told above that I was using her words against her]


Of course you do, as do I. Perhaps you will identify for me, and all our silent readers, those lone two infallible papal documents issued during the past 150 years. After all, this IS just a common practice in any real scholarship.


As in, I need a reference as to where/when Gregory VII supposedly said:

Gregory VII (1073-1085) declared “The Pope cannot make a mistake,” and established that popes are not subject to councils in matters of faith and morals.

I need at least the name of the document.


Of course you do. How thoughtless of me not to provide it for the benefit of those lacking the resources or ability to do their own research. The comment in parentheses is a synthesis of the 27 decrees in Dictatus Papae, which read as though they were chapter titles in an unfinished work. Two representative decrees that support my synthesis are:

18. That a sentence passed by him may be retracted by no one; and that he himself alone of all, may retract it.

19. That he himself may be judged by no one. -- Gregory VII: Dictatus Papa, 1075 A.D., translated in Ernest F. Henderson, Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages, George Bell and Sons, 1910, pp. 366-367)

You continued your apparent search to find reasons to reject what I had written:


As far as: Adrian VI (1522-1523) confessed at the Diet of Nuremburg in 1522 that all evils in the church proceeded from the Roman Curia. “If by the Roman Church you mean its head or pontiff, it is beyond question that he can err even in matters touching the faith. He does this when he teaches heresy by his own judgment or decretal. In truth, many Roman pontiffs were heretics. The last of them was Pope John XXII (1316-1334).”

to state that he “confessed. . .that all evils in the church proceed from the Roman Curia” again, it would be most helpful to have the EXACT words he said (and not someone else's interpretation), and a document reference at this Diet if possible.


Given the sharp edge of your discernment, I hesitate to point out that what I provided above was in quotation marks. However, I shall accede to your wish and provide a source and, just to please you, some of the Pope's own words — in Latin!!

Adrian's exact words concerning the need to begin his reform with the Curia were: “Ut primum curia haec, unde forte omne hoc malum procesit, reformatur.” If you wish to read the entire document, look in Raynaldus, add. Ann. 1522, Tom. XI. 363. Hope that helps

A highly respected church historian had this to say about Adrian VI and the Diet of Worms:

...the Diet met at Nurnberg, March 23, 1522, and again Nov. 17, under the presidency of Ferdinand, the brother of the Emperor. To avert the danger of the Turks, processions and public prayers were ordered, and a tax imposed; but no army was raised.

Adrian demanded the execution of the Diet of Worms, and compared Luther to Mohammed; but he broke the force of his request by confessing with surprising frankness the corruptions of the Roman court, which loudly called for a radical moral reform of the head and members. Never before had the Curia made such a confession.

We know,” wrote the Pope in his instruction to his legate, Francesco Chieregati, “that for some time many abominations, abuses in ecclesiastical affairs, and violations of rights have taken place in the holy see; and that all things have been perverted into bad. From the head the corruption has passed to the limbs, from the Pope to the prelates: we have all departed; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” He regarded Protestantism as a just punishment for the sins of the prelates. He promised to do all in his power to remedy the evil, and to begin with the Curia from whence it arose.--Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol VII, Charles Scribner's Sons (1910) reprinted 1987 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, pp. 3 93-4


babblings of a self-serving apostate church.

Here, if you would oblige, I would be interested to know just when you believe the Church became apostate (a date or at least a range would be appreciated).


By definition, the Roman Catholic Church could not have become apostate until it came into existence. It did not exist, except in the imaginative declarations of the Magisterium, until after Constantine published the Edict of Milan (313 AD) and, soon after, established the Christian faith as the de facto official religion of the Roman Empire, with himself as its sovereign ruler. All this began to happen not terribly long after Constantine's victory at the Milvian Bridge in 310 AD. Though there already had been numerous corruptions of Scripture and doctrine by this time, there had not been a Roman Catholic Church. Under the thumb of Constantine and succeeding Roman Emperors for a time, the evolving church at Rome became increasingly apostate, but it really was identifiably so, in my opinion, when it co-opted the priesthood, believers, rites and doctrines of the soldiers' cult of Mithras. This all happened during the early years of the 4th century, but I don't believe there was a Roman Catholic Church until after 404 A.D., when emperors stopped acting as rulers of the Christian church and started allowing popes to do that. The Romish Church has never stopped renaming pagan beliefs and practices and, by making them her own (though changed in name only), she only adds to the shame of her apostasy.


The folks at the St. Benedict Center, self-described as The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, provide some interesting information concerning papal infallibility. Of course, these folks are what conservative Catholics sometimes call “Feeneyites,” but what the heck, these are ecumenical times.

On their web page one might read:

Infallibility: Possessed by all the Apostles: The doctors and the fathers of the Church teach that not only was Saint Peter blessed with the gift of infallibility, but so were all the twelve apostles, and Saint Paul. However, they also clearly teach that only in the successors of Saint Peter was this special grace to be perpetuated. And for good reason. Had the successors of each of the apostles received this gift which the founders of their Churches possessed, we would have not one Catholic Church, under one supreme shepherd, but twelve Churches, under as many supreme shepherds.-- Infallibility of the Pope, Copyright © 2004 Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

This is interesting. The people at SBC seem to believe the teaching of 'doctors and fathers of the church' that all the twelve apostles (including Judas or Matthius, his replacement?) and Paul exercised the charism of infallibility; and that only Peter's alleged successors continued to receive the gift. Don't you have to wonder where the doctors and fathers of the church got their information? Was it information infallibly received? But how could that be, since they weren't popes speaking ex cathedra to the whole church on matters of faith and morals. In other words, why should anyone believe them when they say anyone else is infallible?

A bit farther down the page, the SBC declares that the pope,

As supreme lawgiver, however, he can only bind the baptized. He does not legislate for non-Christians. Therefore, all separated Christians are required to obey the disciplinary, as well as the doctrinal, teaching of the Church in order to be saved. The grace of their baptism is working on them to accept the papal authority. The successor of Saint Peter is not infallible when he speaks merely as a private theologian, a simple priest, the Bishop of Rome, the Archbishop of the Roman province, the Primate of Italy, or the Patriarch of the West, all of which offices he holds. —Ibid. [My emphasis]

“Grace of their baptism?” I was baptized a Catholic when but two months or so old. I declare to the world that absolutely nothing is working to get me to accept papal authority. I serve but one Lord and Master, and He is not the leader of a demonic church based in Rome. My loyalty, my submission, my faith are to the Lord God Almighty, through His Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ. Forget Rome and her ambitious popes.

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.--Matthew 6:24

The Catechism teaches:

891 The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful -- who confirms his brethren in the faith -- he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals--Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed., © 11994/1997 United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

Vatican Council II put its rubber stamp of approval on the doctrine of papal infallibility in this manner:

The infallibility, however, with which the divine redeemer wished to endow his Church in defining doctrine pertaining to faith and morals, is co-extensive with the deposit of revelation, which must be religiously guarded and loyally and courageously expounded. The Roman Pontiff; head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful -- who confirms his brethren in the faith (cf Lk. 22:32) -- he proclaims in an absolute decision a doctrine pertaining to faith and morals--Lumen Gentium, Dogmatic Constitution promulgated by Pope Paul VI on November 21, 1964, para. 25

Apparently, in their passion to make sure that Catholic sheep remain submissive, Rome's powerful and ever ambitious Magisterium was not content with the rules established 'infallibly' by the 'infallible' 1st Vatican Council and 'infallibly' promulgated by an 'infallible' pope. So, the equally 'infallible' Vatican Council II (Some say that it produced no dogma definitions) somewhat extended the 'infallible' declarations of those earlier 'infallible' sources when it “infallibly” declared, 'infallibly', of course:

This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and that one sincerely adhere to decisions made by him conformably with his manifest mind and intention—Ibid.

What all this mumbo-jumbo is saying is that, for Roman Catholics, ex cathedra statements are equally as infallible as the Sacred Scriptures--rather as though God Himself were speaking through the mouth of the Roman Pope. A few examples of such authoritative declarations are:

There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which no one at all can be saved--Pope Innocent III, 4th Lateran Council, 1215.

We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff--Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302.

[The Holy Roman Church] firmly believes, professes and teaches that none of those who are not within the Catholic Church, not only Pagans, but Jews, heretics and schismatics, can ever be partakers of eternal life, but are to go into the eternal fire 'prepared for the devil, and his angels' (Mt. xxv. 41), unless before the close of their lives they shall have entered into that Church; also that the unity of the Ecclesiastical body is such that the Church's Sacraments avail only those abiding in that Church, and that fasts, almsdeeds, and other works of piety which play their part in the Christian combat are in her alone productive of eternal rewards; moreover, that no one, no matter what alms he may have given, not even if he were to shed his blood for Christ's sake, can be saved unless he abide in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.--Pope Eugene IV, The Bull Cantate Domino, 1441 (Mansi, Concilia, xxxi, 1739.

What these declarations, which we are to believe to be as infallible as the inspired Word of God, all boil down to is that no one can be saved who does not bend the knee to the Roman pope. In other words, for Roman Catholics, faith in Christ and the efficacy of His atoning sacrifice is only incidental to the salvific process. The road to Heaven leads through the Roman pope. The Christian holds to an entirely different understanding of soteriology. For us, salvation is centered on full and exclusive trust in the Person and redemptive work of Christ. We know that no man, no denomination, no combinations of works, magic or superstition can obtain for us eternal life. That is granted only to those who place their faith in Christ alone.

Rome infallibly teaches that people must believe in Christ and be in submission to the pope for salvation. Such ex cathedra declarations are in blatant opposition to the clear teachings of Scripture and, therefore, constitute heresies. Where, in this passage, is the pope mentioned?

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.--Ephesians 2:8-10

We are required to believe for salvation, but even that faith is part of the gift of God that saves and cannot be exercised by one's own power. God's grace is preeminent in every aspect of salvation (cf. Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16). Good works will not produce salvation but are subsequent and resultant God-empowered fruits and evidences of it (cf. John 15:8; Phil. 2:12, 13; 2 Tim. 3:17; Titus 2:14; James 2:16—26). Like his salvation, a believer's sanctification and good works were ordained before time began. Nothing in this 'salvation passage' about the Roman pope.

For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.--Titus 3:3-7

The above ex cathedra statements contradict this clear biblical teaching; therefore, belief in papal infallibility must be rejected! As has been declared here many times, 'infallible' statements such as those last three constitute “another gospel” as denounced by Scripture:

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.--Galatians 1:6-9

Every life is characterized by grievous sin prior to salvation. Were it not for God's grace toward His own, all of us would continue to live wicked, sin-filled lives. (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15; 2 Tim. 2:25; Rom. 1:18-32; 1 Cor. 6:9,10; Eph. 4:17-19). Salvation has never been by works (Eph. 2:8,9; cf. Rom. 3:19-28.). Salvation brings divine cleansing from sin and the gift of a new, Spirit-generated, Spirit-empowered, and Spirit-protected life as God's own children and heirs (cf. Ezek. 36:25—29; Eph. 5:26; James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23). This is the new birth (cf. John 3:5; 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1). The central truth of salvation is justification by faith alone. When a sinner repents and places his faith in Jesus Christ, God declares him just, imputes the righteousness of Christ to him, and gives him eternal life by virtue of the substitutionary death of Christ as the penalty for that sinner's iniquity. (cf. Rom. 3:21—5:21; Gal. 3:6—22; Phil. 3:8,9. As adopted children of God through faith in Jesus Christ, believers become “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17; cf. 1 Pet. 1:3,4). And God does not disinherit us for failing to kiss the toes of the Roman pope.

In the Scriptures, we frequently are warned concerning false prophets and false spiritual leaders (Mt. 7:15; 24:11; Rom. 16:18; 2 Cor. 11:13; Eph. 4:14; 1 Tim. 4:2; 2 Tim. 3:13; 4:3; Tit. 1:10, 2 Jn. 7; 1 Jn. 4:1; etc.). What can one conclude except that what these past popes said regarding salvation is on a par with what the founders of Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seven Day Adventism and other false prophets have declared. All need to be flatly rejected, not only as error, but deadly error--even “damnable heresy” (2 Pet. 2:1, KJV)!

Having gone through all this, it might be useful to enlighten those who are reading these things for the first time. It is not only the Catholic pope who is considered infallible, when meeting the requirements examined above. In her delightful way of twisting words into fanciful new arrangements, the Roman Church, in the 'infallibly' proclaimed Constitution on the Church, explains that bishops, though not infallible themselves, nevertheless are able to “proclaim Christ's doctrine infallibly.”

Although the bishops, taken individually, do not enjoy the privilege of infallibility, they do, however, proclaim infallibly the doctrine of Christ on the following conditions: namely, when, even though dispersed throughout the world but preserving for all that amongst themselves and with Peter's successor the bond of communion, in their authoritative teaching concerning matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement that a particular teaching is to be held definitively and absolutely. This is still more clearly the case when, assembled in an ecumenical council, they are, for the universal Church, teachers of and judges in matters of faith and morals, whose decisions must be adhered to with the loyal and obedient assent of faith.—Lumen Gentium op. cit.

That papal infallibility has not always been, nor is even to this day, a belief universally accepted by Catholic clergy may be seen from the writings of William of Ockham, a Fransciscan who once worked in the court of Pope John XXII at Avignon (around 1236 AD). Ockham rejected papal infallibility, though he did acknowledge that a papal teaching might be free of doctrinal error.

Pronouncements and the documents containing them may very well be without error and thus irreformable, but their warrant in that case is the immutability of the faith which happens to be accurately reflected, not an infallibility on the part of the pronouncing pontiff--J. J. Ryan, Ockham's Dilemma: Tierney's Ambiguous Infallibility and Ockham's Ambiguous Church, Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 13 (1976), p. 38

Ockham discussed disagreement between popes, but did not suggest that one papal pronouncement must be right because it was earlier or because it was made according to the right procedure. Catholics are expected to presume that papal definitions are correct. When they conflict, or there is some other reason for suspecting error, what is true has to be decided by examining the Bible and evidence of the universal belief of Catholics. In reference to the beatific vision controversy Ockham wrote:

John XXII was bound to believe explicitly what Innocent III asserted of the vision and blessedness of holy souls on account of the authority of divine scripture and the assertion of the whole Church, on which Innocent III's assertion was based... For this is a general rule, that if ever different Supreme Pontiffs are shown to have contrary assertions or opinions about something pertaining to the orthodox faith, to know which is to be preferred to the other it is necessary to have recourse to sacred scripture and the teaching or assertion of the whole Church... For no Supreme Pontiff is the rule of Christian faith, since he can err and fall into heretical evil, dist. 40, c. Si papa, and dist. 19, c. Anastasius. But sacred scripture and the teaching of the whole Church, which cannot err, is the rule of our faith--Contra loannem, 72.20-35).-- William of Ockham. Quoted by John Kilcullen in Ockham and Infallibility, The Journal of Religious History, 16 Blackwell Publishing (1991), pp. 387-409; revised

Ockham and others disagreed with the idea of papal infallibility in the 14th century, but the disagreements did not end with him. In 1870, when the 1st Vatican Council defined the infallibility of the Pope, Dr. Doellinger, the leading scholar of the German Catholic Church, and other professors of Munich University, broke away and some founded the separate body of the Old Catholics. They held that it was the Papalists, or New Catholics, who were disloyal to the Church. They were excommunicated, of course.

Following the First Vatican Council in 1870 (at which the hierarchy of the Church of Holland were refused admittance), a considerable dissent among Catholics, especially in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, arose over the dogma of papal infallibility. The dissenters, while holding the Church in General Council to be infallible, could not accept the proposition that the Pope, acting alone, in matters of faith and morals is infallible. Many formed independent communities that came to be known as Old Catholic. They are called Old Catholics because they sought to adhere to the beliefs and practices of the Catholic Church of the post-Apostolic era.--Maclin R. Milner, Jr.; History of the International Free Catholic Communion, © 2003 Maclin R. Milner, Jr.

Even today, some Roman Catholic religious do not accept as infallible the pronouncements of their pope. On December 8, 1995, the National Coalition of American Nuns released a statement that included these words:

The National Coalition of American Nuns is surprised and deeply disturbed that the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has used the claim of infallibility to support and perpetuate the injustice of the Church's teaching which excludes women from the ordained priesthood.

The National Coalition of American Nuns holds that this teaching cannot be infallible because the teaching is unjust and, therefore, in error. The Church may not employ gender to limit the call of the Holy Spirit to minister in a priestly fashion. This Teaching Cannot Be Infallible, Hypertext version © 1996 Ingrid H. Shafer

Whoa! Since these nuns reject the infallible teaching of their pope and a Sacred Congregation, I reckon that means they have all been declared anathema. Wonder how many of them still are working and going about the business they trained for within the RCC? Hypocrisy is Rome's watchword, after all.

In an old catechism teaches:

Q. Must not Catholics believe the Pope in himself to be infallible?

A. This is a Protestant invention; it is no article of the Catholic faith; no decision of his can oblige, under pain of heresy, unless it be [p. 306] received and enforced by the teaching body,— that is, by the Bishops of the Church.--Stephen Keenan, A Doctrinal Catechism, Edward Dunigan & Brother (1848), pp. 305, 306)

Sheesh! We poor Protestants get blamed for everything that goes wrong in the Roman Church

From Keenan's response, it seems clear there was no defined doctrine of papal infallibility, at least as late as 1848. Then, the 1st Vatican Council iterated a doctrine of infallibility, so Keenan' s catechism had to be revised to match the evolved doctrine of the RCC:

The Pope as the constant head of the Church we hold infallible in decisions ex cathedra: but not exempt from falling into personal sin.--Stephen Keenan, A Doctrinal Catechism, Imprimatur by John Cardinal McCloskey, Archbishop of New York, Copyright 1876 by T. W. Strong, p. 369

Many of the Romish apologists that I have encountered just love raising up the specter of 'Martin Luther' to make some obscure point. Well, those folks should really enjoy what that old boy had to say concerning papal infallibility:

They assume authority, and juggle before us with impudent words, saying that the Pope cannot err in matters of faith, whether he be evil or good, albeit they cannot prove it by a single letter... We will quote the Scriptures. St. Paul says, “If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace” (1 Cor. 14:30). What would be the use of this commandment, if we were to believe him alone that teaches or has the highest seat? Christ Himself says, “And they shall be all taught of God” (John 6:45). Thus it may come to pass that the Pope and his followers are wicked and not true Christians, and not being taught by God, have no true understanding, whereas a common man may have true understanding. Why should we then not follow him? Has not the Pope often erred? . . . Therefore it is a wickedly devised fable—and they cannot quote a single letter to confirm it—that it is for the Pope alone to interpret [p. 70] the Scriptures or to confirm the interpretation of them. They have assumed the authority of their own selves. And though they say that this authority was given to St. Peter when the keys were given to him, it is plain enough that the keys were not given to St. Peter alone, but to the whole community.--Luthers Werke (Erlangen, 1828—1870), trans. and ed. by H. Wace and C. A. Buckheim in First Principles of the Reformation (Philadelphia, 1885), pp. 159—239, passim. Reprinted in Louis L. Snyder, ed., Documents of German History (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1958), pp. 69, 70. Copyright © 1958 by Rutgers, The State University; quoted in Anonymous, Papal Claims to Authority

A final comment on the significance of papal infallibility from the pen of Philip Schaff:

The dogma of Papal Infallibility ... involves a question of absolute power... [p. 165] It is the direct antipode of the Protestant principle of the absolute supremacy and infallibility of the Holy Scriptures. It establishes a perpetual divine oracle in the Vatican. Every Catholic may hereafter say, I believe—_not because Christ, or the Bible, or the Church, but—because the infallible Pope has so declared and commanded... If the dogma is false, it involves a blasphemous assumption, and makes the nearest approach to the fulfillment of St. Paul's prophecy of the man of sin, who 'as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself off that he is God' (2 Thess. ii. 4).--Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom (4th ed., rev.; New York: Harper, 1919), Vol. 1, pp. 164, 165.

In closing this paper, I invoke the Word of God:

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.--2 Thessalonians 2:3-4

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