Friday, 20 March 2009

Papal Infallibility?

If the Pope is infallible, how can he make mistakes?
This is the question I found myself asking last week when Pope Benedict XVI admitted to making "mistakes" and "mishaps" over the re-admittance of Bishop Richard Williamson to the Catholic Church, despite his refusal to acknowledge the scale of the Holocaust. Surely this denies the dogma of Papal Infallibility, which according to the Catholic Encyclopedia is not only exemption from error, but also the exemption from the liability to err.

And so if the Pope can make mistakes, how infallible is the statement that he made on Tuesday that condoms are not a solution to the AIDS epidemic in Africa? He is also quoted as saying that condoms "even aggravates the problem" Does that sound infallible? Or is it a 'mishap'?

2 comments:

Ryan said...

The pope is only infallible when he speaks Ex Cathedra
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papal_Infallibility

According to the teaching of the First Vatican Council and Catholic tradition, the conditions required for ex cathedra teaching are as follows:

1. "the Roman Pontiff"
2. "speaks ex cathedra" ("that is, when in the discharge of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, and by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority….")
3. "he defines"
4. "that a doctrine concerning faith or morals"
5. "must be held by the whole Church" (Pastor Aeternus, chap. 4)

Now while it's not something I'm down with, it's good to know these things.

Me I'm fallible. All the time.

bertmart said...

Appreciate that Ryan, and I admit that I didn't look into the theology of it particularly well. However, his words still carry a significant weighting and have a huge impact on many Catholics, so I would suggest that unfortunately his advice on AIDS may have a fatally harmful effect on the 150-200m Catholics in Africa, should they not be able to maintain their sexual purity.

Interesting opinion piece in The Times today
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/william_rees_mogg/article5955647.ece