Wikipedia Errors on Papal Infallibility
A series of articles on Wikipedia errors on Catholicism
by Ronald L. Conte Jr.

[Wikipedia Errors:   Papal Infallibility | Immaculate Conception | Original Sin | Venial Sin | Mortal Sin | Sanctifying Grace | Roman Catholic Dogma]

Papal Infallibility
(June 25, 2009)

Wikipedia: "Papal infallibility is the dogma in Catholic theology that, by action of the Holy Spirit, the Pope is preserved from even the possibility of error[1] when he solemnly declares or promulgates to the universal Church a dogmatic teaching on faith or morals as being contained in divine revelation, or at least being intimately connected to divine revelation."

Dogmas are not of theology, but of the Magisterium. The teaching is preserved from error; it is inaccurate to say that the Pope is preserved from error. The phrase 'when he solemnly declares or promulgates' confuses defining a dogma with promulgating that definition; these are separate acts. The Pope infallibly defines the dogma; usually other persons, especially the Cardinals and Bishops, promulgate the teaching throughout the Church. Infallibility pertains to the definition of the teaching, not to the promulgation.

Wikipedia: "It is also taught that the Holy Spirit works in the body of the Church, as sensus fidelium, to ensure that dogmatic teachings proclaimed to be infallible will be received by all Catholics."

The sensus fidelium is the sense (or mind) of the faithful; it is not defined in terms of the reception of infallible teachings. The Catechism of the Catholic Church uses the term only once, in referring to the judgment of the faithful concerning private revelations, especially when the temporal authority of the Church has not ruled on the private revelation (CCC, n. 67). Dogmatic teachings are infallible because they are solemnly defined, not because they are proclaimed. This article repeatedly uses the term sensus fidelium both incorrectly, and as if it has a substantive role pertaining to the definition of dogma.

There is no guarantee that all Catholics will accept an infallible teaching. Dogmas remain infallible regardless of whether or not they are accepted: "such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the church, irreformable." (Vatican I, definition of Papal Infallibility). Vatican II also presents the same teaching: "And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment." (Lumen Gentium, n. 25).

Wikipedia: "In Catholic theology, papal infallibility is one of the channels of the infallibility of the Church. The infallible teachings of the Pope must be based on, or at least not contradict, Sacred Tradition or Sacred Scripture."

The term "channels of infallibility" is not found in any magisterial documents, nor is it a common theological term. Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are infallible. The Magisterium, not the Church as a whole, may teach infallibly. Also, the Vatican II elucidation on Papal Infallibility states that " this infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of Revelation extends…." (Lumen Gentium, n. 25). So it is not true that the infallible solemn Papal definition must merely not contradict the deposit of Revelation (Tradition and Scripture).

Wikipedia: "In practice, popes seldom use their power of infallibility, but rely on the notion that the Church allows the office of the pope to be the ruling agent in deciding what will be accepted as formal beliefs in the Church."

The terms 'notion' and 'ruling agent' are highly inaccurate. Every exercise of the non-infallible teaching authority of the Church (a concept lacking from this Wikipedia article) requires the religious submission of will and intellect of the faithful. The Pope teaches; he does not merely rule as to what will be accepted.

Wikipedia: "Since the solemn declaration of Papal Infallibility by Vatican I on July 18, 1870, this power has been used only once"

There is a difference of opinion among theologians as to how many times Papal Infallibility has been used since Vatican I. Some theologians suggest Ordinatio Sacerdotalis contains an infallible papal definition; some suggest that Evangelium Vitae contains three such definition (on murder, euthanasia, abortion).

Wikipedia: "Prior to the solemn definition of 1870, Pope Pius IX, with the support of the overwhelming majority of Roman Catholic bishops, had proclaimed Immaculate Conception an ex cathedra dogma in December 1854."

The phrase "proclaimed … an ex cathedra dogma" is not correct terminology. The percentage of Bishops who agree is irrelevant.

Wikipedia: "An infallible teaching by a pope or ecumenical council can contradict previous Church teachings, as long as they were not themselves taught infallibly. In this case, the previous fallible teachings are immediately made void."

The teachings of the Magisterium are either infallible or non-infallible (limited possibility of error); no teachings of the Magisterium are fallible. There are no examples (of which I am aware) of an infallible papal definition contradicting a prior non-infallible teaching.

Wikipedia: "Also, due to the sensus fidelium, an infallible teaching cannot be subsequently contradicted by the Catholic Church, even if that subsequent teaching is in itself fallible."

Again, the term sensus fidelium is misused and misunderstood. Again, magisterial teachings are never fallible. Also, the article in several places fails to distinguish between the Church as a whole and the magisterial authority exercised by the Pope and the Bishops.

The paragraph on canonizations and infallibility is poorly written.

Wikipedia: "In Catholic theology, the Latin phrase ex cathedra, literally meaning "from the chair", refers to a teaching by the pope that is considered to be made with the intention of invoking infallibility."

The intention to teach infallibly is not required.

Wikipedia: "The pope is said to occupy the "chair of Peter", as Catholics hold that among the apostles Peter had a special role as the preserver of unity, so the pope as successor of Peter holds the role of spokesman for the whole church among the bishops, the successors as a group of the apostles."

Peter's role, and the Pope's role, is not accurately summed up a 'the preserver of unity.' The Pope is not the 'spokesman' for the Church. Calling the Pope a spokesman is offensive.

The section called "Scripture against the Infallibility of the Pope" is not even well written from a Protestant point of view.

Two of the cited examples of Papal Infallibility are actually teachings of Ecumenical Councils.

Wikipedia: "For modern-day Church documents, there is no need for speculation as to which are officially ex cathedra, because the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith can be consulted directly on this question."

Infallible papal teachings are infallible in and of themselves, and not because of a subsequent declaration by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Documents are not infallible, only particular teachings may be infallible. Also, the above quote is contradicted by the subsequent statement:

Wikipedia: "The Vatican itself has given no complete list of papal statements considered to be infallible."

And again, such a list would not be relevant, since infallible teachings are so per se, and not because of subsequent assertions by the Holy See.

In addition, this same article has numerous inaccurate poorly-worded sentences.

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