The ability to be right without being wrong is known as infallibility. The term can be applied to particular domains, or used in a general sense, and is of particular importance in theology and epistemology. The precise definition of the term is contested. This article examines the meaning of infallibility and explores several objections to it.
Infallible ecclesiastical teaching
Infallible ecclesial teaching refers to teachings that are definitively held by bishops and the faithful. The scope of infallible teaching includes doctrines of faith and morals, and facts that are intimately related to those doctrines. These teachings need not be revealed; they must be well guarded and understood.
Infallible teachings can be divided into two categories, depending on their level of precedence. First, there are teachings that were explicitly revealed in the deposit of faith, or de fide credenda. Second, there are teachings that were implicitly revealed, or not.
Third, there are times when a pope may utter heresy while not speaking ex cathedra. While the pope does not utter heresy when speaking in public, he is still human and subject to errors. Thus, denying that the pope is subject to error is tantamount to saying that he lacks free will.
Infallible doctrinal authority
There are several arguments against ecclesiastical infallibility. One objection is that the Catholic Church does not have a perfect record. It has allowed for numerous schisms and has not gotten to the bottom of the question of the Catholic faith. On the other hand, opponents should not complain about the moral or intellectual shortcomings of popes and councils.
A second argument for the infallibility of Catholic teachings is that Christ intended for His teaching to be authoritative. As the Son of God, Christ knew the course of history in advance and was thus in a unique position to influence it. Christ valued the teaching of the Church, and the evidence of His teaching demonstrates that He meant it to be authoritative.
The Catholic Church identifies infallibility within its organizational structure, while the Protestant Sola Scriptura holds that doctrinal authority is external to the organization. By locating infallible doctrinal authority within an organization, the Catholic Church removes itself from the possibility of being corrected when it errs. Moreover, the Catholic Church’s official teachings confirm that the church of Rome is not equal to the Catholic Church.
Immutability of ecclesiastical teaching
Immutability of ecclesastical teaching is a controversial topic in Christian theology. While there is a wide spectrum of opinions on the topic, one common objection is the idea that all Christian teaching must be immutable. In fact, this is not the case at all.
Hence, the question is, “What is immutability?” The answer depends on the theological perspective. One approach is to look at the nature of ecclesiastical tradition in terms of its origins and development. The doctrines underlying the Church’s tradition are immutable. Unlike dogmas, doctrines in the Church’s tradition cannot change into something else, and the Church cannot teach something that contradicts them.
Another approach is to consider the immutability of the person of God. The Christian faith teaches that God cannot change his character. Immutability is a fundamental attribute of God. It relates to his covenant promises, his will, and his character. Moreover, it explains the other attributes of God.
Objections to infallibility
Infallibility is an essential attribute of the teaching office of the Church. Its purpose is to explain and defend the deposit of faith. Its extension to related matters is necessary to achieve this purpose. Infallibility ensures the security of the deposit by effectively warding off and eliminating indirect errors.
Infallibility extends to the Church’s decisions on matters closely connected with revelation. Errors in these areas are considered perilous to the faith. Some of these are: decisions on canon and the true meaning of Sacred Scripture; decisions on divine tradition; decisions on dogmatic terminology; decisions on doctrines and decrees; decisions on heresies.
Objections to infallibility are often based on the nature of the Church. For example, the Catholic Church says that any bishop of Rome who has been elected legitimately is the head of the Church. This is a common objection that has to be refuted.