by Sebastian R. FamaThe issue of Papal Infallibility evokes strong reactions from those who oppose it. This isusually due to a misunderstanding of what the Church means by "Papal Infallibility." Themost common misconception is that the Church claims that the pope himself is infallible,that in all things he is incapable of error. This, of course, is not true!It is a necessity of Christian theology that every person be allowed the exercise of free will.Everyone, the pope included, must be free to accept or reject Christ for himself. If Godwere to make the pope infallible in the ultimate sense, he would be depriving him of hisfree will.
Infallibility does not mean that a pope is incapable of sin.
All popes are human andtherefore sinners.
Infallibility does not mean that the pope is inspired.
Papal infallibility does not involveany special revelation from God. A pope learns about his faith in the same way thatanyone else does--he studies.
Infallibility cannot be used to change existing doctrines or proclaim new ones.
It canonly be used to confirm or clarify what has always been taught. The teachings of Christcannot change. As the Scripture says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today andforever" (Hebrews 13:8).
Infallibility does not mean that a pope cannot err when he speaks as a privateteacher.
As a man he is fallible and capable of error.
Infallibility does not guarantee that a pope will officially teach anything.
However,when he does teach he is protected. If he decides to teach the truth, the Holy Spirit allowsit. If he decides to teach error, either knowingly or unknowingly, the Holy Spirit will stophim.
Infallibility is not something that endows a pope with divine powers, but rather it is agift of the Holy Spirit that protects the Church from the human frailties of a pope.
All Christians believe that God used men infallibly in writing Scripture. Why then is it sohard to believe that He would work through men to protect it from corruption? Surely sucha protection was implied when Jesus said to His disciples, "He who hears you hears me"(Luke 10:16).The First Vatican Council taught that three conditions must be met in order for apronouncement to be considered infallible:1. The pope must speak ex cathedra (from the Chair of Peter) in his officialcapacity.2. The decision must be binding on the whole Church.3. It must be on a matter of faith or morals.The first two conditions can be reasonably deduced from Matthew 16:19: "I will give youthe keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound inheaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." The acts of bindingand loosing in the context of the verse would by necessity be something more than casualremarks. The passage begins with Jesus saying, "You are Peter and upon this rock I willbuild my Church" (16:18). The acts of binding or loosing would have to be official andmeant for the whole Church.