Exactly what does the word ‘Infallible’ mean when referring to the Bishop of Rome? There are so many misconceptions as to just what it means to others, especially to our Protestant brothers and sisters. Here are some answers we have received:
1. The Pope cannot tell a lie.
2. The Pope cannot sin.
3. The Pope cannot make a mistake.
4. Everything the Pope says is the absolute truth.
5. The Pope is perfect in every way.
And the correct answer is…
‘None’ of the above.
If I were told to believe any of those answers, I would have second thoughts about ‘Papal Infallibility’ myself.
Substitute the name ‘Jesus Christ’ for ‘the Pope’ in all the answers above and the correct answer to all of them is a resounding ‘YES’. The Pope is the human visible head of the Church, the Vicar of Christ on earth, just as Jesus Christ is the invisible head.
The correct definition of Papal infallibility (ex Cathedra), as defined by the First Vatican Council (1870), is:
“The Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra-that is, when in discharge of the office of pastor and teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding Faith or Morals to be held by the universal Church, by the divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that His Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding Faith or Morals; and therefore such definitions are irreformable of themselves, and not in virtue of consent of the Church.”
Condensed, this means, a Papal infallible statement, when all conditions are met, has freedom from error in teaching the universal Church in matters of faith or morals.
So, is the Bishop of Rome, the Pope a sinner?
Yes, we all are sinners. He is no different from the rest of us in that respect.
“But when Simon Peter saw this, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me for I am a sinful man, O Lord’
…And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; henceforth thou shall catch men’.” Luke 5:8-10.
Now what about the authors of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter and others? Were they infallible people or were they sinners? As I have already shown, Peter admitted that he was a sinner, and we all know the story of Saul who became Paul.
We know they were all sinners. How then, could fallible men write such inerrant documents as the books they authored? It is because they were guided by the Holy Spirit. GOD prevented them from writing error. GOD is the same yesterday, today, and forever. If GOD prevented these men from writing error, why then could He not do the same for the successor of St. Peter today?
The gift of infallibility was given by GOD to a very select few:
In Luke 10:16, Jesus said,
“He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
That verse is a verse of authority and it is a verse of infallibility as well. It is basic rule of Scripture interpretation to always discern Scripture verses in proper context. So, to put Luke 10:16 in its proper context, we must look at to whom Jesus spoke when He said those words of authority and of infallibility. He spoke to His disciples only, the Apostles, and not to anyone else.
Consequently, the only persons authorized to preach with authority and infallibility are the Apostles, and subsequently those who followed them in a long line of succession, the Papal office and the office of the Bishops (Psalms 109:8, Acts 1:20).
Today there are well over 38,800 non-Catholic sects in existence, each with at least one preacher and all of them are preaching something different from one another. So, given the fact that there can be only one truth of Jesus Christ with the one authority of Jesus Christ, which one of those tens of thousands has the authority and infallibility given to him or her by Jesus Christ?
Which one of the tens of thousands of them could lay claim to Luke 10:16?
“…and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” What else could this part of Luke 10:16 mean other than to be applied to those who reject the teaching of His Apostles and their successors through the one Church which He founded?
There is only one Church in the whole world which can lay claim to infallible teaching in the matters of faith and morals.
That one Church, the one founded by Jesus Christ, in but one example out of many, exercised its authority and infallibility over fifteen hundred years ago by deciding which books of the Bible were inspired by GOD and which books were not.
It required an infallible decision by Jesus Christ’s infallible Church to proclaim the canon of that one inerrant book.
“He who hears you hears me…”
Shared from facebook with permission STANLEY,2004