Expert Answer Forum
Papal Decrees QUESTION from Tim Hagedorn February 20, 2000 Working with the Catholic youth group and other people (non Catholic's) the infallibility of the Pope often comes up. I have heard the pope has only used his infallible authority two or maybe three times in history. I think one was with the 'Redemptoris Mater' encyclical. Please tell me where and when the Pope has used his infallible authority, and where I could find more information on what the subject matter was. From what I understand the papal encyclicals are documents from the pope. But there is a difference between a encyclical, and a infallible decree. The difference is that a encyclical is not a decree unless expressly stated. Is that correct? I thought finding all the infallible teaching (decrees) from the Pope would be a easy mater, but have come up with more questions then answers. Your help in this matter would be greatly appreciated. Please let me know it this question does not qualify for an answer so I can peruse other avenues.
ANSWER by Mrs. Suzanne Fortin, B.A. on February 28, 2000 Dear Mr. Hagedorn
I thought that since was essentially a doctrinal question, it should be referred to the forum on Faith & Spirituality hosted by John-Paul Ignatius.
There have only been two ex cathedra statements in Church History: one in 1854 defining the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, and one in 1950, defining the dogma of the Assumption of Mary. This does not mean that the pope does not have any other means of teaching a definitive (i.e. infallible) doctrine. Br. John-Paul, I am sure, will elaborate on the details.
Back to Index Page