The infallibility of the Pope

By Tom Quiner

Papal infallibility really gets non-Catholics worked up.

I know. I used to be one. Most of us misunderstand what this means. Bishop elect Robert Barron weighs in on this unique teaching of Catholicism in this excerpt from his documentary, “Catholicism.”

Dogmatically speaking, infallibility has only been exercised twice, according to Catholic theologian, Jimmy Akin. But it has been used many other times to establish dogmatic facts.

With Pope Francis in America this week, this blog invites its readers to bone up on what papal infallibility means … and doesn’t mean.


  1. Shawn Pavlik on September 23, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    No one is infallible. Well, one man was, and we hung Him from a cross.

    • quinersdiner on September 23, 2015 at 2:56 pm

      To be clear, the Pope is not infallible, except when confirming Church dogma.

      • encourage the faithful on September 23, 2015 at 4:31 pm

        You just said something very profound, Tom. Your one sentence on infallibility is probably more concise than most people realize. For those who don’t understand I will explain. Dogma, in its essence, is truth. That means it is something already true. The key there is the word “already.” So, in fact, the pope doesn’t make dogma. He sifts through revelation and memorializes it in the Church deposit. So when a pope speaks or writes infallibly, he is proclaiming what God has already revealed to His Church about faith and morals. It is at once simple and amazingly mysterious. So when the various theologians and Catholic pundits go on and on and continue to explain to us through the ages how fearfully and wonderfully we are made and how perfect God made creation it is more about praising Him than anything else. The truth is much simpler than the ode.

        • quinersdiner on September 23, 2015 at 4:36 pm

          And thanks to you for building on this important subject.

    • encourage the faithful on September 24, 2015 at 11:02 am

      Shawn, one could say that you are right. We Catholics who believe in infallibility know that no man is perfect. It is the Godhead who is perfect. And it is the Godhead (the third person of the Holy Trinity) who enters man metaphysically to ensure that the faith, which is the truth about God’s creation, is never compromised. Therefore one can say that the Pope’s declarations on faith and morals made from the seat of Peter, God’s chosen apostle, are infallible, rather than say that the Pope himself is infallible. It is like splitting hairs, Shawn. We Catholics say that the pope is infallible when he proclaims doctrine, and what we mean is that the charism of infallibility, the doctrine of infallibility, is God giving authority to Peter and his successors such that they are preserved from the possibility of error when in the performance of this miracle of perfect teaching to God’s beloved children. Spiritually, it is the veil opening up between Heaven and earth. It is considered one of the mysteries of the Catholic faith, not fathomable by reason alone.

      • quinersdiner on September 24, 2015 at 11:11 am

        You have articulated this mystery with great eloquence. Thank-you.