Papal Infallibility: The Catechism Of The Catholic Church

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Papal Infallibility

Those outside the Church generally misunderstand the Catholic teaching on papal infallibility. In particular, fundamentalist Christians often confuse the charisma of papal infallibility as something that affects the pope’s status. They imagine Catholics believing the pope to be sinless or unable to sin. Secularists and irreligious people believe papal infallibility to be a fairly new concept. They also speculate it was invented as a means to defend the church against the emerging threats of scientific innovation. Others insist Catholics believe every statement by the pope to be infallible, whereas some believe a teaching of the church can only be infallible when the pope uses a magical incantation to explicitly define it.
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An infallible declaration, made by an ecumenical council, such as the First Vatican Council, or by the pope, is usually only made when some dogma (doctrine) has been called into question. Moreover, the large majority of Catholics has never doubted most doctrines. Similarly, there are many teachings within the Catechism of the Catholic Church, most of which have never been formally defined, yet they are still considered doctrine. To that end, there are many major topics a pope could not infallibly define without repeating one or more infallible pronouncements from earlier ecumenical councils or the ordinary magisterium of the Church. Furthermore, doctrine cannot be changed. The doctrines of the Catholic Church are considered the deposit of faith revealed by God, taught by the apostles, and completely handed down to the successors. Since revealed truth cannot change, and because the deposit of faith is comprised of revealed truth, the deposit of faith cannot change. The Pope does not have the power to do the impossible, to alter or remove divinely revealed truth that forms the deposit of faith. Christ said the gates of hell would never prevail against his Church (Matt. 16:18), meaning that his Church can never pass out of existence. But if the pope, the leader of the Church, ever apostatized the Church by teaching heresy, then it would cease to exist and thus cease to be Christ’s Church. Thus the Church and the pope cannot teach heresy, meaning that anything he or the Church solemnly defines for the faithful to believe is

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