Lots of people have questions about infallibility. How does the Catholic Church come off saying that the Pope is infallible?
Infallibility does not mean that the pope is a perfect man or that he’ll always say the right thing at the right time. Rather, it may be best to explain it as a negative charism, meaning that infallibility is something that the Holy Spirit prevents the Church from doing—namely, formally teaching error. It is not that the Church knows all things, but that by the will of God, his Church will always be preserved from error, enabling her to pass on the purity of the apostles’ teaching. 1 Timothy 3:15 speaks of the Church as the “pillar and bulwark (foundation) of the truth.” If this is so, and the truth is absolute, then it follows that those guiding the church will not guide in error. Keep in mind that the pope and Magisterium are not infallible through anything they do, it is a gift, a charism, of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that keeps the Church’s doctrine free from error, and the Holy Spirit will not allow the pope or Magisterium to deviate from the truth.
Numbers Chapter 11
27: And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28: And Joshua the son of Nun, the minister of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, forbid them.” 29: But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!”
Numbers Chapter 12
1: Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman; 2: and they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the LORD heard it. 3: Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all men that were on the face of the earth. 4: And suddenly the LORD said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.” And the three of them came out. 5: And the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the door of the tent, and called Aaron and Miriam; and they both came forward. 6: And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream. 7: Not so with my servant Moses; he is entrusted with all my house. 8: With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in dark speech; and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” 9: And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them, and he departed; 10: and when the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow. And Aaron turned towards Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. 11: And Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned. 12: Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he comes out of his mother’s womb.” 13: And Moses cried to the LORD, “Heal her, O God, I beseech thee.” 14: But the LORD said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut up outside the camp seven days, and after that she may be brought in again.” 15: So Miriam was shut up outside the camp seven days; and the people did not set out on the march till Miriam was brought in again.
Deuteronomy Chapter 17
8: “If any case arises requiring decision between one kind of homicide and another, one kind of legal right and another, or one kind of assault and another, any case within your towns which is too difficult for you, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the LORD your God will choose, 9: and coming to the Levitical priests, and to the judge who is in office in those days, you shall consult them, and they shall declare to you the decision. 10: Then you shall do according to what they declare to you from that place which the LORD will choose; and you shall be careful to do according to all that they direct you; 11: according to the instructions which they give you, and according to the decision which they pronounce to you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside from the verdict which they declare to you, either to the right hand or to the left. 12: The man who acts presumptuously, by not obeying the priest who stands to minister there before the LORD your God, or the judge, that man shall die; so you shall purge the evil from Israel.
Matthew Chapter 16
15: He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16: Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17: And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18: And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 19: I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Ed. Note: This shows how God bestowed infallibility on Peter the first pope.
Matthew Chapter 18
15: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16: But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17: If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18: Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Matthew Chapter 23
1: Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, 2: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3: so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.
Matthew Chapter 28
18: And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20: teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”
Luke Chapter 10
16: “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
John Chapter 11
47: So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council, and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48: If we let him go on thus, every one will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.” 49: But one of them, Ca’iaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all; 50: you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.” 51: He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, 52: and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
John Chapter 14
16: And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, 17: even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you. 18: “I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you.
John Chapter 16
13: When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
Romans Chapter 13
1: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2: Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
Galatians Chapter 1
8: But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed.
Ephesians Chapter 1
22: and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23: which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all.
Ephesians Chapter 3
4: When you read this you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5: which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6: that is, how the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Ephesians Chapter 4
11: And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12: to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13: until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; 14: so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. 15: Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16: from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.
Hebrews Chapter 13
17: Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account. Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that would be of no advantage to you.
1 Peter Chapter 5
2: Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, 3: not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock.
2 Peter Chapter 1
20: First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,
1 John Chapter 4
6: We are of God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
So, how do we define infallibility? Infallibility is exercised when the Roman Pontiff, in virtue of his office as the Supreme Pastor of the Church, or the College of Bishops, in union with the Pope especially when joined together in an Ecumenical Council, proclaim by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals…Infallibility is also exercised when the Pope and Bishops in their ordinary Magisterium are in agreement in proposing a doctrine as definitive. Every one of the faithful must adhere to such teaching with the obedience of faith.