Papal Infallibility

I agree with Cecil in part, and disagree in part. Papal infallibility is limited in the following way:

  1. The Pope must a priori declare a statement to be infallible, otherwise it is not, unless he states it anew and declares it infallible in a clear and distinct way (usually via a formal edict or Papal bull).
  2. The Pope’s statements are not infallible unless he speaks ex cathedra (“from the chair”) from which he is presumed to be making a pronouncement for which he has the approval of Jesus himself, as per Matthew 16:18.
  3. The Pope can only speak ex cathedra and infallibly about moral, religious, or spiritual matters. If the Pope came up to me and told me to wear only red pants from that day forward, I would not as a Catholic be required to do it.

As you can see, however, this still gives the Pope great leeway to make infallible pronouncements. We Catholics believe that the Pope is the successor to Peter and therefore, the Vicar of Christ. His very power, however, is what gives Protestants and others pause, even those who believe in the rectitude of scripture. Usually, such people opine that the power Christ gave that is mentioned in the scriptural passage above - if it did exist - died with Peter. From that point forward, one can only assume that every bishop was thought to have an equipotent ability to make pronouncements about religious affairs, however much such pronouncements might differ from those of others. And that is why Protestants differ from one another in so many points of doctrine, since no one person is presumed to have authority in these matters. We Catholics enjoy, then, what might be described as a lack of chaos in doctrine.

Referring to this column: What’s the deal with papal infallibility?

But if the Pope declared ex cathedra that religious ritual now requred the wearing of red pants then surely as a good Roman Catholic you’d have to obey. In other words isn’t it the Pontiff who decides what matters are moral, religious or spiritual?

The Pope is NOT ever going to do that. No Pope will ever do anything that frivolous.

Note from Cecil’s column that it is widely agreed that Popes have only officially spoken infallibly TWICE in history. And on those two occasions the Pope affirmed something that people already believed anyway.

As a hypothetical, this one just doesn’t fly.

Isn’t this the same church that declared that eating meat on Fridays was a mortal sin?

Even if he did, it wouldn’t be ex cathedra, it’s not about faith and morals. Catholics believe that the Holy Spirit stops the Pope from saying that.

Yes, but it wasn’t an ex cathedra, infallible pronouncement.

My point was that the church has proclaimed and taught silly things in the past. I find it hard to believe that in the light of its history, some future pope might not do something silly in the context of an ex cathedra pronouncement. I’m not saying that it *will * happen, but I don’t think it can be ruled out as emphatically as you tried to do.

Not when it comes to ex cathedra.

I can see where you might think that, but you’re wrong. It can emphatically be ruled out. No question. Can’t happen.

Like I said before, when the Pope has ruled ex cathedra on the TWO previous occasions when it happened, he proclaimed something that the body of the Church already believed, like the Assumption of Mary. So the Pope can’t just pop out on the balcony and proclaim any old thing to be ex cathedra. He’d be laughed out of office, for one thing. The College of Cardinals would probably have him declared insane.

It’s like saying “the US can bring back slavery, they had it once”.
You could say that a constitutional ammendment, the several states, and so on; but it won’t happen.
It’s even less possible for a Pope to use the full formula from Pastor Aeternus
"*we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that
:black_medium_small_square:when the Roman pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA,
:black_medium_small_square:that is, when, the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, virtue of his supreme apostolic authority,
3.he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church,
:black_medium_small_square:he possesses,
by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter,
that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals.
:black_medium_small_square:Therefore, such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the church, irreformable. *

The Pope could declare that using androids phones is a sin, but it wouldn’t be infallible and could be reformed.

The Pope cannot be “laughed out of office” nor can he be deposed. The College of Cardinals has no power at all over the Pope.

No. Not in the way I think you mean that. The Church said that Roman Catholics should abstain from meat on Fridays, mainly as a matter of self-discipline. That having happened, then eating meat on Fridays (without a good reason) would be, in effect, giving the finger to the Church, and that is a mortal sin. But it’s not the same thing.

Sure he can. If the Pope were to do something as absurd as to declare ex cathedra that faith and morals demanded the wearing of red pants, then the majority of Catholics would leave the church, and many of them would probably establish a new church, that was almost exactly like the old church, except for maintaining that the old Pope was never actually the legitimate Pope and that this new guy is the actual heir of Peter and the vicar of Christ. Ultimately, all human institutions are democratic.

Would this be the same Catholic Church that declared that, at least on Fridays, a beaver was a fish?

When the hell was that?

In the 17th Century, along with the capybara and the muskrat.

How is this even connected to questions of infallibility?
The declarations were made in the context of dietary law, not biology. It is no different than the Supreme Court declaring that a tomato is a vegetable, (and for quite similar reasons).

The Council of Constance was called to settle a dispute between three claimants to the Throne of St. Peter and resolved the dispute by forcing two of them to resign, excommunicating the other, and selecting a new pope.

Of course, this was an extreme action to handle a schism, and it has not been repeated since. Yes, official Catholic Church doctrines state that a pope cannot be removed from office. But, as we saw with Pope Benedict XVI, political pressure can be placed on the pope to resign even though there’s no official way to remove him from office.

There is a major difference between the Church declaring that a beaver is a type of fish, and what actually happened.

The Bishop of Quebec in the 17th century proclaimed that beaver, being an aquatic species, would be acceptable to eat on Fridays instead of fish. It didn’t make a beaver a type of fish, but as a permissible meat to eat when eating meat is normally forbidden.

Similar proclamations were also made on capybara and muskrats. The question is whether the prohibition on eating meat is on mammals vs. fish, or land animals vs. water creatures.

It didn’t force anyone to resign. You own quote says (my bolding) “*the Council of Constance **recommended *that all three papal claimants abdicate, and that another be chosen” and later “By the time the anti-popes were all deposed and the new Pope, Martin V, was elected, two years had passed since Gregory XII’s abdication, and Gregory was already dead. The council took great care to protect the legitimacy of the succession, ratified all his acts and a new pontiff was chosen. The new pope, Martin V, elected November 1417, soon asserted the absolute authority of the papal office.

So, the Council used political expediency and pressure to make the real Pope, Gregory, resign, not any power it had.
Popes cannot be deposed by any earthly power.

So what’s so awful about red pants?

Just watch me wearing a pair, once.
You’ll be clamoring for burning at the stake.