The foundational issue in the debates between Roman Catholics and Protestants is authority. God has placed numerous authorities over us as Christians. Husbands have a level of authority over their wives. Parents have authority over children. Masters/employers have authority over slaves/employees. Elders have authority over the congregation. The issue is not authority itself. The question is the nature of that authority. No authority on earth is absolute or infallible. Rome believes her authority to be infallible on the main issues of doctrine and practice. This does not mean that her priests and bishops cannot sin, but rather that when the Roman Catholic Church speaks with authority she cannot err. This presents numerous problems, which we will get to in a minute. Here are some relevant quotes from the RCC (Roman Catholic Catechism).
“The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s Successor, ‘is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.’ ‘ For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.” (p.234) Note here that the Pope is to be unhindered in his work. On a practical level that means what Nathan did to David cannot be done to the Pope. The Pope is above being called to repentance. The irony is that the “First Pope,” Peter was called to repentance at least three times. (Matthew 16:22-23, Matthew 26:68-75 with John 21, and Galatians 2:11-14)
“The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ…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.” (p. 235)
“The 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…he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith and morals. The infallibilty 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. (p. 235)
Finally, after a lengthy discussion of the Magisterium and its purpose, the RCC says this, “The supreme degree of participation in the authority of Christ is ensured by the charism of infallibility. This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of Divine Revelation; it also extends to all those elements of doctrine, including morals, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, explained, and observed.” (p. 492)
The errors associated with this doctrine of infallibility are many.
First, Paul specifically says in Romans 11:16-21 that the church at Rome must be careful. If God could cut off the natural branches (Jews) then he most certainly can cut off those who were grafted in (Gentiles). The great irony here is that this is exactly what the Roman Catholic Church says cannot happen. She cannot be cut off.
Second, there is no indication in the Scriptures that infallibility was given to anyone. Now Paul wrote infallibly when inspired by the Spirit, but even he made it clear that he could fail. (I Cor. 9:27) He never said that he was infallible and thus above reproof. Also Peter is plainly rebuked three times in Scripture, with one of those coming after Pentecost. I have never read a Roman Catholic apologist on this, but I would be interested in knowing what they do with this.
Third, what does this doctrine do to the idea of sin in the Bible? It is clear that all men are sinners. (Psalm 51, Romans 1-3, I John 1:8, etc.) But now we have a man who cannot sin in certain situations and a group of men who cannot sin in certain situations. The RCC is not simply saying the past councils were right or the Pope said some things that were correct, but rather it is impossible for these men to sin when they are in certain settings. Scripture is against this idea. All men are sinners and in any given situation a man or group of men can sin. History as well as Scripture bears this out.
Finally, the greatest problem is that they have institutionalized this view of infallibility. There is no doubt in my mind that there are Baptist, Presbyterian, and Episcopal pastors/ministers who deep down believe they can do no wrong. Of course, they would not say that, but they still believe it. They pontificate from the pulpit with bluster and with very little accountability. The difference between these pastors and the RC position is that the RC position is official and in writing. We all know how hard it is to change “tradition” whatever it may be. It is especially difficult when that tradition is one of the defining marks of your organization. For the RCs to change their view on infallibility would require not just a shifting of doctrine here or there, but a wholesale turning from centuries of teaching. I do not see that happening. It would require too much repenting, which I am not sure the Catholic leaders are ready to do.
Greetings! Saw your recent post on Mary in Google Blogsearch and came to read. Thought I'd take time to addres some of your concerns.>>>”<>Rome believes her authority to be infallible on the main issues of doctrine and practice.<>“>>I don't think this is a true statement, as authority likely can't be infallible. Can authority ever have the quality of infallibility?>>Infallibility has to do with truth. Truth is always infallible, without error. Thus, when one tells the truth, one is infallible, by the nature of truth alone. A two-year old is infallible when telling the truth. Infallibility is much more common than most people realize.>>>”<>,This does not mean that her priests and bishops cannot sin,<>“>>Correct. Impeccability is being without sin. A sinful person may speak infallibly, without error, but would not be impeccable.>>Glad you mentioned this as many people confuse infallibility and impeccability.>>>”<>On a practical level that means what Nathan did to David cannot be done to the Pope. The Pope is above being called to repentance.<>“>>No, this is false (erroneous, thus the person teaching this not infallible in this instance, but may be infallible at other times when telling the truth.).>>The Pope is regularly called to repentence. The most public instance of this is annual Ash Wednesday services when ashes are placed on the Pope's forhead and he is told to “repent and turn away from sin.”>>>”<>The errors associated with this doctrine of infallibility are many.<>“>>Are they, in fact, errors or are they difference in personal interpretation?>>>”<>First, Paul specifically says in Romans 11:16-21 … Roman Catholic Church says cannot happen. She cannot be cut off.<>“>>This passage has nothing to do with infallibility and thus dilutes your case that there are “errors associated with this doctrine of infallibility “.>>>”<>Second, there is no indication in the Scriptures that infallibility was given to anyone.<>“>>Au contraire. Did not Jesus himself state “…when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13)? That is indeed an indication infallibility, protection from error, was given to the apostles. A person guided into all truth is free from error and thus infallible, are they not?>>>”<>Now Paul wrote infallibly when inspired by the Spirit, but even he made it clear that he could fail.<>“>>By “fail”, do you mean “sin”? If so that's not infallibility, but impeccability.>>If by “fail”, do you mean “to write error” in his epistles, than does not that contradict doctrine that the scriptures are without error? Truth cannot contradict truth.>>>”<>Also Peter is plainly rebuked three times in Scripture, with one of those coming after Pentecost. I have never read a Roman Catholic apologist on this, but I would be interested in knowing what they do with this.<>“>>What's to “do” with this?>>God said that Peter would deny Him three times and Peter did. Its yet another case of the truth of Isaiah 55:11 — the voice of God does not go forth and return void. God says it and it happens. Period.>>Denying God is usually a sin, thus this might be a possible instance of Peter not being impeccable. (I say might, as who are we to judge Peter.)>>>”<>Third, what does this doctrine do to the idea of sin in the Bible? It is clear that all men are sinners. (Psalm 51, Romans 1-3, I John 1:8, etc.) But now we have a man who cannot sin in certain situations and a group of men who cannot sin in certain situations.<>“>>No. No. No.>>The doctrine of infallibility does nothing to the idea of sin.>>The train has clearly jumped tracks here. Impecability is to sin, as infallibility is to truth. Somehow, you have switched from truth to sin. Grave error.>>The Church is most assuredly NOT saying thet “it is impossible for these men to sin when they are in certain settings.”>>The Church IS saying that it is impossible for these men to teach error when they are in certain settings (in agreement with scripture, tradition, and mystical body of the Church).>>>”<>Finally, the greatest problem is that they have institutionalized this view of infallibility.<>“>>This neither proves nor disproves whether the Pope and/or church has the charisma of infallibility guaranteed by Jesus in John 16:13. What has instituionalizing a doctrine to do with whether a doctrine is correct or not?>>>”<>For the RCs to change their view on infallibility would require not just a shifting of doctrine here or there, but a wholesale turning from centuries of teaching. I do not see that happening.<>>>Doctrine by its nature is true, thus infallible. So it is correct to say that the Catholic doctrine cannot change or shift. Truth remains truth and is absolute and unchangable by its nature.>>Nothing in your post disproves the Church’s doctrines on infallibility. You may dilike them and disagree with hem, but that does not mean that the Church does not have the charisma of infallibility.>>God bless… +Timothy
Timothy is circular: truth is infallibility and infallibility is truth. The church infallibly states that eternity is a reality, in other words, that eternity is “true” or is “truth.” Yet, it is not possible to be infallible about eternity because it never ends, by definition, an infinite amount of time is just the beginning of eternity, so the word “eternity” is totally devoid of any “truth” or “meaning.”