Our Lord made St. Peter the first pope, entrusted to him His entire flock, and gave
him supreme authority in the universal Church of Christ.
John 21:15‐17‐“Jesus saith to Simon Peter: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me?
He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed
my lambs. He saith to him again: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? He saith
to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my
lambs. He saith to him a third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter
was grieved, because he had said to him the third time: Lovest thou me? And he
aid to him: Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee. He
said to him: Feed my sheep.”
And with the supreme authority that Our Lord Jesus Christ conferred upon St. Peter
(and his successors, the popes) comes what is called Papal Infallibility. Papal Infallibility
is inseparable from Papal Supremacy – there was no point for Christ to make St. Peter
the head of His Church (as Christ clearly did) if St. Peter or his successors, the popes,
could err when exercising that supreme authority to teach on a point of Faith. The
supreme authority must be unfailing on binding matters of Faith and morals or else it is
no true authority from Christ at all.
Papal Infallibility does not mean that a pope cannot err at all and it does not mean
that a pope cannot lose his soul and be damned in Hell for grave sin. It means that the
successors of St. Peter (the popes of the Catholic Church) cannot err when
authoritatively teaching on a point of Faith or morals to be held by the entire Church of
Christ. We find the promise of the unfailing faith for St. Peter and his successors
referred to by Christ in Luke 22.
Luke 22:31‐32‐ “And the Lord said: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to
have all of you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that
thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren.”
Satan desired to sift all the Apostles (plural) like wheat, but Jesus prayed for Simon
Peter (singular), that his faith fail not. Jesus is saying that St. Peter and his successors
(the popes of the Catholic Church) have an unfailing faith when authoritatively teaching
a point of faith or morals to be held by the entire Church of Christ.
Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council I, 1870, ex cathedra:
“SO, THIS GIFT OF TRUTH AND A NEVER FAILING FAITH WAS
DIVINELY CONFERRED UPON PETER AND HIS SUCCESSORS IN THIS
Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council I, 1870, ex cathedra:
“... the See of St. Peter always remains unimpaired by any error, according to
the divine promise of our Lord the Savior made to the chief of His disciples: ‘I
have prayed for thee [Peter], that thy faith fail not ...’”11
And this truth has been held since the earliest times in the Catholic Church.
Pope St. Gelasius I, epistle 42, or Decretal de recipiendis et non recipiendis libris, 495:
“Accordingly, the see of Peter the Apostle of the Church of Rome is first, having
neither spot, nor wrinkle, nor anything of this kind (Eph. 5:27).”12
The word “infallible” actually means “cannot fail” or “unfailing.” Therefore, the very
term Papal Infallibility comes directly from Christ’s promise to St. Peter (and his
successors) in Luke 22, that Peter has an unfailing Faith. Though this truth was believed
since the beginning of the Church, it was specifically defined as a dogma at the First
Vatican Council in 1870.
Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council I, 1870, Session 4, Chap. 4:
“...the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra [from the Chair of Peter], that
is, when carrying out the duty of the pastor and teacher of all Christians in
accord with his supreme apostolic authority he explains a doctrine of faith or
morals to be held by the universal Church... operates with that infallibility with
which the divine Redeemer wished that His Church be instructed in defining
doctrine on faith and morals; and so such definitions of the Roman Pontiff
from himself, but not from the consensus of the Church, are unalterable.”13
But how does one know when a pope is exercising his unfailing Faith to infallibly
teach from the Chair of St. Peter? The answer is that we know from the language that
the pope uses or the manner in which the pope teaches. Vatican I defined two
requirements which must be fulfilled: 1) when the pope is carrying out his duty as
pastor and teacher of all Christians in accord with his supreme apostolic authority; 2)
when he explains a doctrine on faith or morals to be held by the entire Church of Christ.
A pope can fulfill both of these requirements in just one line, by anathematizing a false
opinion (such as many dogmatic councils) or by saying “By our apostolic authority we
declare...” or by saying “We believe, profess, and teach” or by using words of similar
importance and meaning, which indicate that the pope is teaching the whole Church on
Faith in a definitive and binding fashion.
So, when a pope teaches from the Chair of Peter in the manner stipulated above he
cannot be wrong. If he could be wrong, then the Church of Christ could be officially led
into error, and Christ’s promise to St. Peter and His Church would fail (which is
impossible). That which is taught from the Chair of Peter by the popes of the Catholic
Church is the teaching of Jesus Christ Himself. To reject that which is taught by the
popes from the Chair of Peter is simply to despise Jesus Christ Himself.
Luke 10:16‐ “He that heareth you, heareth me: and he that despiseth you
Matthew 18:17 ‐“And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the
heathen and publican.”
Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum, 1896:
“... Christ instituted a living, authoritative and permanent Magisterium... If it
could in any way be false, an evident contradiction follows; for then God
Himself would be the author of error in man.”14 http://www.mostholyfamilymonastery.com/2nd_edition_final.pdf