Talk:Papal Infallibility

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General questions and issues[edit]

"Papal Infallibility" is a proper noun? I'm grammatically confused then. FWIW, the Catholic Encyclopedia doesn't capitalize "papal infallibility" (except where it would capitalize common nouns, as in titles). [1], nor is it capitalized in the body of this article (nor do I think it should be - actually at present it's inconsistently capitalized there). I don't doubt that you've seen it somewhere consistently capitalized, but this is probably the result of specialists tending to overcapitalize words within their fields of expertise). -- Someone else 07:07 Feb 19, 2003 (UTC)

It is both a formal term and a description. It depends on the context as to whether it is capitalised. Where it is used in the context that we have it here, it is generally capitalised, though there are exceptions, often due to someone hitting the wrong key and the copy-editor never spotting the error and uttering a string of expletives when it is finally printed! (I had this sort of stuff hammered into me by a lecturer once when studying how to write history. And by my editor at my publishers.) It can in different contexts be written as 'papal infallibility' or 'Papal Infallibility' but using 'Papal infallibility' which it was in here as, makes no sense (I know, I know we are supposed to capitalise first letters of first words). It looks alkward, is grammatically problematical and doesn't clarify whether we are using it in its proper noun or descriptive sense. Treating it as a proper noun is the logical solution. After all, it is used in a very very strict manner by the RC Church, who take the term in its most formal meaning, a fact not always understood by people who comment on papal infallibility in general, and don't grasp its strict formal application and definition. Because it is a formal term for a strict definition applied with strict rigidity (or actually not applied; you could count on the fingers of one hand the occasions when it has been used since the First Vatican Council (oh God, there I go adding in [['s again. I did it yesterday in the next of a newspaper article I was writing. I guess I've become wiki-ised!!!)) it is often given proper noun status, particularly in titles and definitions. But there are exceptions. In this instance, when the alternative is Papal infallibility, I believe it is the better solution. JTD 07:31 Feb 19, 2003 (UTC) (I can't believe I am writing about papal infallibility at 7.32am! I must be mad!!!)

Cool, as long as it's a matter for a copy-editor and I don't have to dramatically rearrange my mental/grammatical furniture! -- Someone else 07:38 Feb 19, 2003 (UTC)

This discussion is continued below.... Lawrence King 07:19, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Hi, I added this page to current disputes. I was involved with it, so I'm not protecting it myself. Pakaran 21:15, 5 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Good move. FearÉIREANN 21:39, 5 Jan 2004 (UTC)
Good article.

Interesting that the Pope cannot be infallible if he promulgates something at odds with previous teachings. In this case, since the dogma of the Assumption was not accepted by the earlier church, does it not fall outside the requirements for infallibility - and in fact does not this definition (must be in line with former teaching) make infallibility impossible in practice? Exile

If the pope, or an ecumenical council, dogmatically defines something that contradicts previous non-infallible teaching, then there is no problem. It just means the previous teaching was wrong.
If a pope -- or any Catholic -- were to contradict previously-defined dogmas, he would be a heretic. Many theologians (including many great medieval and Renaissance theologians) believed that if a pope became a heretic he would cease to be Catholic, and thus cease to be pope. This is not a unanimous view. In any event, it has never happened.
Since the Assumption was not ever defined as false, there is no contradiction. It should be noted, however, that many in the early church did believe in the Assumption.
Also, note that most famous early Christians, including the apostles, have famous graves. Even if you don't believe that Andrew is buried in the grave of Andrew, this still proves that the early church felt it was important to venerate the graves of great saints. Yet no one in the early Church claimed to know where Mary's body was buried, and no city ever claimed that Mary's grave was in their city! Interesting, eh? Lawrence King 07:19, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Title of article[edit]

I might start the article with "The Catholic dogma of Papal Infallibility" to get in the adjective Catholic, which I think is appropriate :)


Re this recurring nonsense about contraception. The RC Church has not had a consistent teaching on the issue. The Church since Pius XII has endorsed natural methods of contraception that time sexual intercourse for periods of low fertility. That runs absolutely counter to earlier teachings up as far as Pius XI, which argued that any use of sexual intercourse with the deliberate intention of avoiding pregnancy, whether through artificial or natural means was interfering with the god-given role of generating a child, and so a mortal sin. John Paul II's teaching on the use of natural methods of contraception is diametrically opposed to those of Pius X, Leo III, Pope Pius X and Pius XI and in tune with the teachings of Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul I. And neither is fully in tune with St. Ambrose, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine. So the argument that RC teaching on contraception has been consistent is laughably wrong and balderdash. FearÉIREANN 17:29, 27 Dec 2003 (UTC)

The Church has taught consistently on the issue of artificial contraception, i.e., that artificial contraception is wrong. There is nothing inherently wrong with mutually agreed-upon periodic abstinence, though (and nothing wrong with mutually agreed upon total continence, for that matter) -- and never has been -- and that is the only "contraception" allowed. However, even periodic abstinence is not to be practiced with a "contraceptive mentality" or with the view that the primary reason for the marital act is not the begetting of children. It is in this last point -- and this last point only -- that the human element of the postconciliar Church contradicts former Magisterium insofar as the ends of marriage are now wrongly (i.e., in contradiction with past teaching) described as the unity of the couple/mutual help, etc., and THEN the raising of children.
The ends of marriage aside, at no time has any Pope or Council or Father okayed artificial contraception, and at no time have any of these said that a married couple must have sex every night. So get real here. This is the consistent teaching of the Church and, therefore, an expression of the Universal (Constant) Magisterium; it is infallible teaching.
The infallibility of the teaching on contraception is disputed. Almost everyone agrees that Papal Infallibility has never been used for it. Certainly Humanae Vitae was not intended as an ex cathedra definition. However, some theologians argue that the unbroken teaching of the bishops -- the "ordinary and universal magisterium" -- has taught this infallibly. Lawrence King 06:58, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)

female priests[edit]

IIRC, JPII used Papal Infallibility to rule that women cannot be priest. --Ann O'nyme 09:07, 23 Aug 2004 (UTC)

  • I'm rather sure that that is not the case. I seem to recall his saying that his ban on ordination of women was NOT infallible, and a priest at my parish told us that only the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception were infallible doctrines. --User:Jenmoa 05:30, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)
John Paul II's letter regarding women's ordination did not use papal infallibility. However, both Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger believed that the church's inability to change the ancient tradition against ordaining women is infallible because of the "ordinary and universal magisterium". See Infallibility of the Church for this distinction.
Jen, the priest at your parish was listing only those doctrines which have been declared infallibly by popes. There are many doctrines that have been taught infallibly by ecumenical councils (e.g., that Jesus is God) or by the universal belief of the church (e.g., that God loves us). Moreover, not everyone would agree that the list of papal definitions includes only those two items. (See later on this page.) Lawrence King 07:02, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Edit regarding pope's "inerrancy" and "infallibility"[edit]

I had to remove this because it was awkwardly placed at the front of the article and also removed the summary of the topic:

The Catholic Church has never held as doctrine or taught that the person of the pope is inerrant or infallable. In particular, these terms are only used to connotate issues of moral faith or Church dogma as they are intended to be applied to the entire body of christianity

Unfortunately, I'm not sure what the person who added this means or I would put it somewhere else. To the author: are you saying that the Roman Catholic Church says that the person of the Pope is not infallible but the office of the Pope is? Or are you saying that the Pope isn't infallible period? If it's the former, I guess a case could be made for that. If it's the latter, then we have a problem. Pmadrid 23:38, 7 Apr 2005 (UTC)

List of ex cathedra declarations[edit]

Suggestion: Can someone add a link to a list of ex cathedra declarations? If they're rare, such a list should be short. Or maybe a link to an external site that lists them all. I'm having trouble finding a definitive list. Thanks. --Sue D. Nymme 19 Apr 2005

Unfortunately, there is no definitive list. I have seen lists put together by different theologians. The lists can be as short as two items or as long as a dozen. No official statement by any church leader has ever listed them, although the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith did put out what was effectively a partial list in 1998 -- but even this is disputed, because it was released in the names of Cardinal Ratzinger and Cardinal Bertone, rather than as a formal CDF document. So even this document may just be Ratzinger and Bertone stating their opinions as private theologians.
Would a summary of these lists be worth Wikipedia-ing? Recall that the list of things defined by papal infallibility is short compared to those defined or established by other forms of the Infallibility of the Church. Lawrence King 07:07, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Capital I-nfallibility[edit]

Why is the article redirected from Papal infallibility? If the term is used as "papal infallibility" in the text, shouldn't it be lowercase in the article name as well? --Malyctenar 13:40, 20 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Agreed. Who wants to volunteer to make this edit and change all the links? I'll do it in two weeks if no one else does.... Lawrence King 07:10, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)
I also agree. Very inconsistent. Also, your two weeks are up. It's been six months. :) -Silence 21:35, 10 December 2005 (UTC)


Peter does not mean rock. It means stone. Paul states that women should only teach other women and children. There is not one shred of evidence inside or outside the Holy Bible of Peter ever setting foot in Rome. Furthermore Paul often preached against heirarchy in the church. I am not trying to convert any Catholics, but the facts should be entered. "Peter, you are a stone and upon this "rock" (Peter's blind belief that Jesus was the Christ) I will build my Church."

Actually πέτρος had probably come to mean (among other things) a rock or large boulder by then (as several examples from the 'Anthologia Palatina' show). The word used for the second occurrence of "rock", a more common and less poetic form that certainly meant roack rather than stone, is the feminine πέτρα. It's far more likely that this was a perfectly acceptable change from a feminine to a masculine ending to form a proper noun. Also, I get the "Peter's blind belief that Jesus was the Christ" thing but if the word were understood to mean stone I'm not actually sure what that would be a metaphor for.

Other churches[edit]

As far as I know, no churches other than the RC and the few that are very closely linked with it accept Papal infallibility. Isn't it therefore redundant to list the attitudes of other churches towards it? Won't they all say the same? DJ Clayworth 14:00, 10 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Good point. KHM03 14:44, 10 Jun 2005 (UTC)
These are now subsections of a larger section, which fits them together more comfortably, IMHO. Lawrence King 07:50, 14 Jun 2005 (UTC)

"Vandalism" of page[edit]

This wasn't vandalism. Obviously all non-Catholics disgree with the doctrine of papal infallibility. I think a distinction needs to be made between an objection and a disgreement. The claim may be that most regard it as wrong or harmful for Catholics to accept papal infallibility (and not simply that most people aren't Catholics and don't accept Catholic beliefs in general). One example of such an objection might be popular opinions about papal attitudes to contraception. If this claim is being made about infallibility it needs to be backed up. If it's a statement of the obvious it's best left out because objections are dealt with in detail elsewhere. It's a poorly written and fairly ambiguous attempt to introduce something where no introduction is necessary.