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Faith/Spirituality Forum: Papal infallibility?

by Catherine Frakas 07 Oct 2001

Papal infallibility? QUESTION from Preston Alexander Brigham on May 1, 2002 If the doctrine of Papal Infallibility was established in 1870, than what about all the Popes for the 18oo years previous, were they infallible as well? Did they know they were. And where in the Bible does it give this authority to a Pope? Thank you.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on May 20, 2002 Dear Mr. Brigham:
The Doctrine of Infallibility was NOT established in 1870; it was established by Jesus in 33AD.
The form defining of a doctrine, such as that which occurred in 1870, DOES NOT create a new doctrine -- it merely make a formal definition of a doctrine that already exists.
There is no need to make formal definitions to that which is commonly accepted and continually taught from the beginning. The only time formal definitions are needed is when theologians or others begin to argue about the doctrine and there is a need for a once-and-for-all Supreme Court like decision to settle the dispute and make a formal definition that will settle all disputes.
For example, prostitution is an evil and a sin, yet there is no formal declaration to say so. Why? because there is no need to make a formal declaration. Everyone with half a brain accepts and affirms that Prostitution is evil and sinful.
Should a time come when Christians and theologians argue and doubt whether prostitution is evil and sinful, the church may make a formal declaration on the subject. Until then, such a form statement is not needed.
As for where is it in the Bible? we must first say that it does not need to be in the Bible. The doctrine of sola scriptura (Bible alone) is an unbiblical and man-made doctrine. The Bible itself says that not everything is recorded in the Bible (John 21:25; Acts 20:35). And the Bible itself affirms that we are to accept as authority BOTH the written Tradition (the Bible) AND the oral Tradition (the Sacred Tradition from the Church) (i.e. 2 Thess 2:15; 1 Cor 11:2, et al). And in fact, we are to shun those people who do not act in accord with TRADITION (2 Thess 3:14).
Tradition here (with a capital T) DOES NOT mean custom or man-made doctrines. Tradition means the Divine Revelation of God.
The Biblical writers used the word tradition in TWO WAYS. One is such as Colosians 2:8 which speaks of HUMAN tradition. Two is such as 2 Thess 2:!5 which speaks of DIVINE tradition.
The word tradition itself mere means passing down teaching from generation to generation. The Bible is Tradition.
Yet, some fundamentalist seem to think the word tradition is a devil-word or something. This is seriously flawed thinking. The word tradition does not have any intrinsic evil attached. It merely means to pass on teaching from generation to generation.
The issue is the NATURE of the Tradition. Is the tradition human or divine.
The Catholic Church recognizes the FULLNESS of Divine Tradition which includes the written form (the Bible) and the Oral form.
In fact, the the manuscripts that were included in the New Testament was tested against ORAL TRADITION. If a manuscript did not jive with Oral Tradition, then it was not included in the New Testament Canon.
The CHURCH, not the Bible, is the pillar and foundation of Truth (1 Tim 3:15).
Now with that said, the infallibility of the Pope is derived from the Bible.
We find a hint of this infallibility in Matt 23:2 when Jesus said to OBEY the Pharasees when the sit in the Chair of Moses, but do not do what they do personally. Here we see that the corrupt Pharasees were not personally impecable, yet still had to be obeyed when OFFICIALLY teaching and ruling from the Chair of Moses.
Each Covenant of God with His people (and there have been five such covenants) has had a chair of authority -- a father-leader. Jesus mentions this chair in terms of the Mosaic Covenant. In Matt. 16 (quoting from Isa 22:21ff) Jesus establishes a new chair for the New Covenent -- the chair of Peter.
Quoting from Isaiah Jesus gives the keys of the kingdom to Peter and his successors. Jesus also guarantees that the gates of hell shall never prevail against the Church.
And finally, what kind of Father would God be, if he left us at the mercy of personal opinion without a Supreme Court to settle disputes? God is not a God of chaos (or denominations). There is ONE TRUE CHURCH and that Church has a father-leader who has the charism of infallibility in order to ensure the integrity of the faith so that we shall not go astray at the whim of personal opinion and theological speculation.
God has ALWAYS dealt with His people in this magisterial way, from Adam to Pope John Paul II and He will ALWAYS deal with His people in this way until the Second Coming.
Praise God for His wisdom and goodness.
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