Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Infallibility of the Pope

It has been said, that the number of people who hate the Catholic Church for what it is can be counted on one hand while thousands hate it for what they THINK it is. (the quote may not be exact but close enough)
I have never hated the Catholic Church but have always seen it as a faithful, orthodox voice, which I have turned to many times over the years to "test the spirits" if you will of the many competing voices in the world. Being Protestant, I have had some trouble with many things Catholics believed but I knew, all in all we were always on the same page. Ironically, at most every major step in my discipleship, almost every point of growth, the Catholic Church has been responsible in some small or greater way. So why am I not a Catholic, you ask? Well, I do consider myself a "closet Catholic" but as I mentioned, there were things that I could not hold to, could not accept.
But I like to learn about things and recently I have been listening to a radio program called Relevant Radio. A  national Catholic program with a local affiliate. It has been a real blessing to me and I would recommend it to anyone regardless of their faith (or lack of it) I have learned a great deal about the Catholic faith and have learned that much of what I thought I knew was just not true. One of these, is the teaching of the infallibility of the Pope. Over at Catholic Culture, they talk about this issue, in regards to the book, Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and The Signs Of The Times
...As any educated Catholic should know, the doctrine of papal infallibility does not mean that the reigning Pope will be right when he predicts tomorrow’s weather, or when he voices his opinion on a current political controversy. The charism of papal infallibility is not a sort of magic that protects the Pope from error whenever he opens his mouth. Pope Benedict makes a special point of saying that his own personal opinions, as he puts them forward in Light of the World, should not be regarded as official Church teaching.
The Pope does not speak with infallible authority when he speaks in his own voice. He only enjoys that authority when he speaks for the Church. Pope Benedict explains this authority—which is enjoyed to some degree by any priest—early in the book:
The important thing is that I do not present my ideas, but rather try to think and to live the Church’s faith, to act in obedience to His mandate. 
There will be times when Christ’s mandate is not altogether clear, even to those who honestly wish to know it. Then, when there is confusion or uncertainty among the faithful, the Pope must respond to Christ’s exhortation to St. Peter, and “confirm the brethren.” When he responds to that imperative, the Pope is not voicing his own opinions; he is not creating his own doctrinal rules. Rather, he is prayerfully discerning what the Church teaches, what the Church has always taught, what has been believed semper et ubique by the faithful....
Constancy and authority are good things. One I think missing in most Protestant denominations, including my own.


Magister Christianus said...

Oh, my brother, we really must talk. What you have read is exactly right regarding papal infallibility. I have been reading, studying, writing, and praying much since the fall of 2008. I always had Catholic leanings, but things have really taken off for me in that area since the fall of '08. I can recommend quite a list of books for you, if you are interested. In compiling my own notes, which include my assumptions, understandings, objections along with Catholic responses to all of those, I have cobbled together about 50 pages of text.

Have to admit...after just finishing grading a set of finals and nearing the end of an utterly exhausting year, I am bleary eyed and fuzzy headed at the moment, but I do want to catch up with you by phone. Perhaps next week sometime, or even this weekend.

Love ya', brother.

eutychus said...

Always interested in what you have read and written. I'll try to call this week-end. Get some well deserved rest.

Delirious said...

I so identify with that first statement that you quoted. That could be said of my church as well. In fact, it is exactly this mindset that prompted me to start my religion blog. Many people think they know what LDS believe, but most have inaccurate ideas.

I was interested to read what you said about infallible authority. We in our religion are in a similar position, being that we have a Prophet in our church. What we believe is that he is inspired for how to lead the church. He is still, however, a fallible human being with his own weaknesses. But we believe that God will never allow the prophet to lead the church astray. But in conjunction with this, we believe that each member of the church has the right to pray for confirmation to know if what the Prophet has asked us to do is in accordance with God's will.