How Can a Sinner be Infallible?

Q. How can the words or decrees of any man (or woman) be judged to be infallible?

A. Who wrote the Scriptures? Men. How can they, sinners, be judged to be infallible? Only by the inspiration and power of the Holy Spirit. Only God can make a fallen man infallible in his words or decrees. Our Pope is not infallible in every utterance or writing. Only when teaching on faith or morals to the whole church. This is how God protects His Church from error.
Infallible does not mean he is sinless. No, he goes to confession every week. See my post Infallible?

Q. God’s Word alone is Infallible.

A. Is this a Protestant oral tradition? Where does it say, Gods’ Word alone is infallible,  in Scripture?

Q. I have a question: Why (since this goes against scripture) is the pope referred to as “The Holy Father?”

Words of Jesus: “And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.”

A. Your interpretation of this verse contradicts Christian practice and the New Testament. To find out why see my post Scripture vs The Catholic Church.

Q. As for the term “Holy Father” – to the best of my knowledge this is only used once in the Bible, in John 17v11 and refers to God Himself. To address any man on this earth as “Holy Father” is nothing short of blasphemy. The term refers to God – and God alone.

A. Again we come to the cultural difference between Protestantism (either/or) and Catholicism (both/and). The title of Holy Father is a title of honor. Of course it can be used to address God. But we use it to address our Pope, to honor him as the Prime Minister of Christ on Earth. We honor those who are honored by Christ to shepherd His Church. It is not blasphemy. Where in scripture does it say:
“The term (Holy Father) refers to God – and God alone.”

Protestants believe many things not found in Scripture but rather in their tradition of scripture interpretation, and/or their oral tradition. But, being comfortable with these traditions they never recognize that they cannot actually be supported in the scriptures alone any more than some of the Catholic beliefs for which they are always demanding, “WHERE IS THAT IS SCRIPTURE?” This is the pot calling the kettle black.

Evil Popes

Q. The theory that the popes of the Catholic Church are infallible is ridiculous because history records that several popes have been evil. How can you Catholics go on believing popes are infallible in the face of the historical evidence to the contrary?

A. First let me agree with you that there have been some evil popes in the history of the Church. And if they did not repent before their death there may even be some popes in Hell. But it is common to misunderstand. The Church does not mean, when she claims that the pope is infallible, that we believe the pope is sinless or impeccable. Absolutely not. Jesus and Mary were sinless but the Church has never claimed or even pretended that our popes are sinless. They go to confession at least once a week if not more often.

What the Church means by infallible is a very narrow and closely defined dogma.

The pope is infallible, only when he is:

1. Teaching about faith and morals to the whole Church.

2. We believe that God protects His Church from error and heresy by graciously preventing the pope from ever teaching error regarding faith and morals.

3. This does not mean he is infallible in private teaching, conversations or balancing his checkbook.

Some people might think that the Dogma of the Infallibility of the Pope means that the pope is always hearing messages from God that he then passes on to the whole church. While this might, at times, occur with a very holy pope that is not what we mean. Infallibility works to prevent false teaching. The pope must study and learn in the ordinary way and the Holy Spirit guides him into teaching nothing but the truth.

So, when by the wiles of Satan a godless or worldly pope is installed, the Holy Spirit would prevent that pope from teaching error to the whole church through letters, encyclicals etc. That sort of pope would effectively be silenced by the Holy Spirit in order to protect the truth of the Catholic Faith.

CCC 889 In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles, Christ who is the Truth willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibilityy. By a “supernatural sense of faith” the People of God, under the guidance of the Church’s living Magisterium, “unfailingly adheres to this faith.”417

890 The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium’s task to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms:

891The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council.418 When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,”419 and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.”420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.421

Popes and Bishops in the Early Church

Q. If popes and bishops are necessary then why were there none in the early church?

A. In the early Church there were all three ordained offices of the Catholic Church that we have today (Deacons, Priests, Bishops). They were called by different names but the offices were in existence and are designated in Acts 6:5 and Acts 15 at the first Church Council and elsewhere in the New Testament.

Q. Then why have I never seen that in Acts 15 before? I have read it many times.

A. You surely saw it but just missed the significance of the information you were reading.

First, we have Peter at the council who stood up and settled the dispute, made the POPE or Vicar of Christ in Matthew 16:17-19.

Then, also present at the first Church Council were the apostles who became the first BISHOPS ( Gr. Episkopos) in the Church. There are many other New Testament passages that mention the office of bishop or overseer.

Next we see PRIESTS, called elders in the New Testament because this is the strict English translation of the Greek presbuteros. However, our English word Priest is etymologically derived from the Greek word presbuteros.

And finally we have DEACONS. Stephen and others in Acts 6 and qualifications of deacons in I Timothy 3:8-12. There are many other NT passages also that talk about deacons.


Q. How can anyone actually believe that a mere man could be infallible?

A. Of course, an atheist would never accept this, but anyone who believes in a Creator God could easily accept that God can do anything He chooses to do. Wouldn’t you agree? So, anyone who believes in an all powerful God could accept that it would be theoretically possible for God to cause a man to be infallible.

But, that does not mean that He would choose to make a man infallible. So, then we could ask,

“Has He ever made any mere man infallible in the past?” And the answer to that question is


But here we are only left with Jews and Christians, perhaps Muslims, but I don’t know for sure, who believe that God has made many different men infallible down through the ages. Anyone and everyone who believes Sacred Scripture is the infallible word of God can agree that God did inspire all of the authors to write these books and teach the truth infallibly.

Of course, this does not prove that the pope is infallible but we can also see that God has no problem with leading His people infallibly through a mere and sinful man.

Kneeling Before the Pope

Q. In Acts 10:25-26, Peter refused to let a man kneel before him. Why doesn’t the Pope also forbid people from kneeling before him just like St. Peter?

A. In this passage from Acts Cornelius “fell at his feet and worshipped” Peter. Seeing this Peter said, “Arise. I myself am also a man.”
If the Pope detected that someone who came to honor him was in fact worshipping him he too would give the same warning. And forbid it. But kneeling is a sign of respect and reverence, especially in former times. When Sir Francis Drake knelt before Queen Elizabeth, he was not worshipping her. So kneeling can be a sign of respect or of worship. It all depends upon the intentions of the one who kneels.

The intention of the one who is kneeling can not be detected, for sure, unless he is asked about his intentions. For instance, many non Catholics, seeing a person kneeling in front of a picture or statue of Mary or another saint jump to the uncharitable conclusion that he has seen idolatry with his own eyes!

Comment: Actually a difference can be detected by an outward sign. Gregor:The difference is marked by the rule (today not always observed) that we genuflect on our right knee before God, whereas we genuflect on our left before the Pope (and – traditionally – Cardinals and our own Bishop).

Paul Rebuked Peter

Q. In Galatians 2:11-14 Paul rebuked Peter for hypocrisy so it seems pretty clear that Peter was NOT infallible after all.

A. If the definition of the Dogma of Infallibility of the Pope included all the actions of the pope then the Galatians passage would indeed be evidence that Peter was not infallible. However, the Dogma of Infallibility DOES NOT include the actions of the pope. The Pope is only infallible when and ONLY when, he both 1) teaches on faith and morals and 2) when he teaches to the whole church.

In the Galatians passage Peter did not fulfill either one of the requirements for infallible teaching let alone both requirements. He simply did not promulgate any teaching for the whole church. He caved into peer pressure. He was weak at this moment.

Some might insist that he certainly was teaching by his actions. But again this is not the type of teaching referred to in the Dogma of Infallibility. But even if we concede that Peter did teach, still he was NOT teaching error to the whole Church. Therefore, it still would not meet the requirements necessary to be considered a failure of infallibility.

This Dogma does not imply that every word from the lips of the pope is infallible.

He could make errors in his speech as he walks with a Cardinal friend down the hall at the Vatican. (Not taught to the whole Church/not on faith and morals)

He could make arithmetic errors in his checkbook. (Neither about faith and morals nor for the whole Church)

In a meeting and discussion of theology with other bishops he could even make mistakes. (Not taught to the whole Church)

But none of these would disqualify him from being infallible because the Holy Spirit ONLY protects his teaching when it is about both faith and morals and it is being taught to the whole church

Petros/Petra vs. Rocky/Rockelle

Q. Isn’t the problem, with the Catholic argument that Peter is the Rock of Matthew 16, that the Greek word used by Jesus for the Rock foundation of His Church is petra but the name He uses for Peter is Petros?
Doesn’t Petra, meaning a BIG rock refer to Peter’s confession whereas, petros, Jesus’ name for Simon, means small stone.

A. This is a valiant attempt by non-Catholics to explain away Biblical evidence that Jesus founded His Church on Peter. However, it simply is not convincing when one looks at the facts. First, most scholars believe that Jesus spoke Aramaic. In Aramaic there is only ONE word for rock. Kepha. So what Jesus actually said would have been:

You are Kepha, and on this kepha I will build my Church.

Jesus was not making any distinctions, after all, between Peter and the petra that Christ would build His Church upon. But obviously Peter comes from the Greek word petros. So, of course, one would tend to wonder about the strength of this argument since we now call Simon–Peter and not Kepha. The explanation is simple. There actually are several places in the New Testament where the Aramaic IS used for Simon.

John 1:42 And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas, which, when translated, is Peter.” 1 Corinthians 1:12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas “; still another, “I follow Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours,

  • 1 Corinthians 9:5 Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?
  • Simon’s new name has come down to us as Peter because the Greek translation of the New Testament is the stronger traditional translation used by the Church when translating into Latin and English, and other vernacular languages. Second-When the translation of the original Aramaic was made into Greek the word petra which denoted Peter was simply changed by the translator to petros because petra has a feminine ending and petros has the masculine ending. It would not be fitting to call the Prince of the Apostles by a girl’s name like Rockelle. In English we use the name Peter which is a Greek name but if we were to make a strict translation into English it would be Rock or Rocky. A man’s name. Technorati Tags: , , ,

    40 Professors Decry Attacks on the Pope

    Statement: Sex Abuse, the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict XVI: An Appeal for Perspective and Fairness

    In light of recent events and media coverage concerning the sexual abuse of minors by members of the Catholic clergy, we, the undersigned, would like to express the following sentiments:

    1) We condemn in the strongest possible terms any sexual abuse of minors by any members of the Catholic Church, especially the clergy.

    2) We share in a collective sense of sorrow and shame for the harm done to victims of sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy.

    3) We resolve to pray and fast for all victims of clergy sexual abuse and those who have committed these crimes.

    4) We recognize that mistakes have been made in the past by Church authorities in dealing with the sexual abuse of minors, and we applaud measures to correct these mistakes by conferences of bishops throughout the world. We likewise support more rigorous screening of candidates for the priesthood, especially in the areas of chastity and adherence to Catholic moral teachings.

    5) We express our gratitude to Pope Benedict XVI for his leadership and courage in dealing with the problem of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, and we condemn the unjust attacks made against him by certain elements of the secular media.

    6) We condemn as unfair and inaccurate all efforts to link the sexual abuse of minors to the Latin rite Catholic discipline of priestly celibacy. We likewise affirm consecrated celibacy as a gift to the Catholic Church which, “in many ways, is in harmony with the priesthood” (Vatican II, Presbyterorum ordinis, 16).

    7) We recognize the sexual abuse of minors as a grave problem that affects many segments of society. We reject, as inaccurate and unjust, all attempts to portray the sexual abuse of minors as a problem particular to the Catholic Church. We support all efforts of the criminal justice system to deal swiftly and effectively with those who sexually abuse minors in public or private settings.


    Robert L. Fastiggi, Ph.D. Professor of Systematic Theology, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, MI USA

    Jane Adolphe, LL.B/B.C.L, J.C.D. Associate Professor of Law, Ave Maria School of Law, Naples, Fl USA

    Eduardo Echeverria, S.T.L., Ph.D. Professor of Philosophy, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, MI USA

    Board of Directors and Membership of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, Steubenville, Ohio USA,

    Fr. Joseph Koterski, S.J., Ph.D. Associate Professor of Philosophy, Fordham University, Bronx, N.Y. USA, Editor, International Philosophical Quarterly, President, Fellowship of Catholic Scholars

    Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., Th.D. Founder and Editor, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA USA

    Fr. J. Michael McDermott, S.J. S.T.D. Professor of Theology, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, MI USA, Consultant, U.S. Bishops Committee on Doctrine

    Fr. Earl Muller, S.J., Ph.D. Bishop Kevin M. Britt Chair in Theology/Christology, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, MI USA

    Fr. David Meconi, S.J., Ph.D. Professor of Theology, St. Louis University, St. Louis, MO USA, and Editor of Homiletic and Pastoral Review

    Fr. Dennis J. Billy, C.S.s.R., Ph.D., S.T.D. John Cardinal Krol Chair of Moral Theology, St. Charles Borremeo Seminary, Philadelphia, PA USA

    Fr. Brian Harrison, O.S. S.T.D. Associate Professor of Theology (emeritus), Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico, Ponce, P.R., St. Louis, MO USA

    Scott Hahn, Ph.D. Professor of Biblical Theology, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Steubenville, OH USA

    Fr. Richard J. Cassidy, Ph.D. Professor of Sacred Scripture, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, MI USA

    Fr. Daniel Trapp, S.T.D. Professor of Theology and Graduate Spiritual Director, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, MI USA

    Fr. Daniel Jones, S.T.D., Assistant Professor of Theology, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, MI USA

    Fr. Michael J. Byrnes, S.T.D., Vice Rector/Dean of Formation, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, MI USA

    Fr. Michael Orsi, Ph.D., Chaplain and Research Fellow in Law and Religion, Ave Maria School of Law, Naples, FL USA

    Stephen L. Mikochik, J.D. Ll.M. M.A. (Philosophy), M.A. (Religious Studies), Professor of Law, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA USA and Visiting Professor of Law, Ave Maria School of Law, Naples, FL, USA

    Ligia De Jesus, Ll.M. Assistant Professor of Law, Ave Maria School of Law, Naples, FL, USA

    J. Brian Scarnecchia, J.D., M.Div. M.A. Associate Professor of Law, Ave Maria School of Law, Naples, FL, USA

    Peter Williamson, S.T.D. Adam Cardinal Maida Chair of Sacred Scripture, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, MI USA

    Astrid Caicedo, B.A. Assistant Dean of Studies, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, MI USA

    Philip Blosser, Ph.D. Professor of Philosophy, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, MI USA

    Mark S. Latkovic, S.T.D. Professor of Moral Theology, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, MI USA

    Daniel Keating, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Theology, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, MI USA

    Mary Healy, S.T.D. Associate Professor of Sacred Scripture, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, MI USA

    John P. Hittinger, Professor of Philosophy, Thomistic Institute, University of St. Thomas, Houston, TX USA

    Mark Lowery, Associate Professor of Theology, University of Dallas, Irving, TX USA

    Kenneth J. Howell, Ph.D. Senior Fellow and Director, St. John Institute of Catholic Thought and Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL USA

    David Moss, President, Association of Hebrew Catholics, St. Louis, MO USA

    Anne Englund Nash, Ph.D. Book Editor and Translator, Cambria, CA USA

    Carolyn R. Lemon, Production Editor, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA USA and Vice President, Guadalupe Associates, Inc.

    Peter Pagan, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Philosophy, Aquinas College, Nashville, TN USA

    Margaret Schatkin, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Theology, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA USA

    Judith Marie Gentle, Ph.D. Adjunct Professor of Theology, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Steubenville, OH USA

    Dennis Bonnette, Ph.D. Professor of Philosophy (retired), Niagara University, Lewiston, N.Y. USA

    José V. Pereira, Ph.D. Professor of Theology (emeritus), Fordham University, Bronx, N.Y. USA

    James Likoudis, M.A. Catholic Author, Montour Falls, N.Y. USA

    Damian Fedoryka, Ph.D. Center for Personalist Anthropology and Ethics, Ypsilanti, MI USA

    Eugene R. Milhizer, Ll.M., J.D., President and Dean, Ave Maria School of Law, Naples, FL USA

    Bernard Dobranski, J.D., Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law, Ave Maria School of Law, Naples, FL, USA

    Teresa Tomeo, Author and Radio Personality, St. Clair Shores, MI USA

    WWII Chief Rabbi of Rome Honors Pope Pius XII

    Eugenio Pacelli was the Vatican ambassador to Germany. He HATED NAZISM. He had to do all that he could do without fanfare or publicity because when the Church made a stand against the Nazi’s the Jews and Catholic priests suffered imprisonment and execution as retribution. Edith Stein, a Jewish convert and Carmelite Nun was killed in Auschwitz in 1942, as revenge against the Church for speaking against the Nazis.

    The Jews themselves begged the Church not to oppose the Nazis publicly. So, not being stupid, Pius XII did all he could do for the Jews and other Nazi enemies secretly. You can read about this Here–>Edith Stein

    But the most incontrovertible evidence that Pius XII helped the Jews is the story of the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Israel Zolli, and his conversion to the Catholic church less than a year after Rome was liberated by the Americans. And not only that, he chose as his baptismal name, EUGENIO, the name given to the Pope by his parents.

    A few days later, the Chief Rabbi relinquished his duties, and went to find a priest in order to complete his instruction in the truths of the faith. On February 13, 1945, Archbishop Traglia conferred the sacrament of Baptism on Israel Zolli, who chose ‘Eugenio’ as his Christian name, in gratitude to Pope Pius XII for his decisive action on behalf of the Jews during the war. Zolli’s wife, Emma, received Baptism with her husband, and added the name ‘Maria’ to her first name. Their daughter Miriam would follow her parents after a year of personal reflection.

    You can read the rest of his amazing conversion story at Salvation is from the Jews

    There you will find many Jewish conversion stories. The webmaster’s own story is told in great detail in his book Salvation is From the Jews
    I would also recommend Honey From The Rock a book of Jewish conversion stories.

    Pope Pius XII Saved Jews

    Venerable Pius XII always believed that it was part of his duties as Pope to be accessible to virtually everyone who wished to see him. His audiences would normally be crowded as a result. In the autumn of 1941 he held an audience which was no different. Italians, pilgrims of all nations, German soldiers (German soldiers flocked to see the Pope until the Nazis forbade such visits, fearing the influence the words of the Pope, in direct contradiction to the doctrines of National Socialism, might have on the Landsers.), humanity from across the globe, all eager to see, and perhaps have a word with, the Vicar of Christ on Earth.

    Among the people waiting to see the Pope was a Jew. He was a German refugee. He wanted to tell the Pope about a group of Jews interned by the Fascist government of Italy on an island, in danger of starvation. Why go to the Pope? The whole world in 1941 knew that the Pope was a friend of the Jews and an enemy of the Nazis, so of course a Jew would seek his aid.

    The turn of the Jew arrived to speak to the Pope. At first he spoke in broken Italian, but the Pope invited him to speak in his native German which the Pope both understood and spoke. He did, explaining to the Pope that he was a German Jew. After he had told the Pope about the interned Jews, the Pope told him, in German, “You have done well to come to me and tell me this. I have heard about it before. Come back tomorrow with a written report and give it to the Secretary of State who is dealing with the question. But now for you, my son. You are a young Jew. I know what that means and I hope you will always be proud to be a Jew!”

    The Pope then raised his voice so that everyone in the hall, including the German soldiers, could hear him: “My son, whether you are worthier than others only the Lord knows, but believe me, you are at least as worthy as every other human being that lives on our earth! And now, my Jewish friend, go with the protection of the Lord, and never forget, you must always be proud to be a Jew!”

    The Pope’s interlocutor didn’t forget his warm reception and wrote about it in the Palestine Post anonymously on April 28, 1944. The story at the time caused no great stir, because, of course, the whole world knew that the Pope had always been a friend of the Jews.