Infallible Popes? Guaranteed.

Catholics believe that Jesus called St. Peter to lead His Church and gave him Christ’s own authority in matters of faith (Matthew 16:13-23).  As the first among the Apostles, St. Peter was instructed by Christ to teach and discipline His Church (John 21: 15-17).  Jesus told Peter that his faith would not fail in this mission (Luke 22:31-32).  Christ promised that His Church would be protected from preaching error by the power of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13).  Jesus said that the Church would preach everything that He taught (Matthew 28:19-20) and that anyone who listened to the Church, would hear Him (Luke 10: 16). 
 
These passages from the Gospels are the Scriptural basis for the Doctrine of Papal Infallibility.  It’s important to understand the meaning of infallibility.  It doesn’t mean that the Pope is sinless, all-knowing, or in some other way super-human.  The doctrine of infallibility applies in certain specific instances when the Pope and the Bishops of the Church teach us in areas of faith and morals.  Actually, it might be more easily understsood as the action of the Holy Spirit in preventing the Church from falling into spiritual error.  When the Pope is speaking politically or privately, or as a pastor or theologian or philosopher, this Godly protection isn’t guaranteed.  Over the history of the Church, Popes have invoked this doctrine in relatively few instances.
 
Each Pope is the successor to St. Peter in their role as the head of Christ’s Church on earth.  It is this authority by which the Pope is known as the “vicar of Christ” or the first among the teachers of the faith.  As the successor to St. Peter, the Pope retains in his office all the power, authority, and responsibility which Christ gave to Peter.  When the Pope speaks “ex cathedra” or “from the chair” of St. Peter, he expresses the authority and power of Peter as head of Christ’s church.  Since we know from Holy Scripture that the Church will never pass away, this charism of authoritative teaching will never cease.  If the Church were to teach error, it would cease to be Christ’s Church.
 
Papal infallibility doesn’t mean that the Church is made up of sinless individuals.  We’ve heard it said that the Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.  Throughout history, individual Catholics have commited grievous sins.  But just as the early Christians didn’t abandon Peter because of the sinfulness of Judas, faithful Catholics don’t leave the Church based on the faults of any individual member.  The Church is the Bride of Christ.  As His Bride, She is spotless and perfected in truth (Ephesians 5:25-27).  Christ protects His Bride from error through the work of the Holy Spirit.  As His Bride, She always recognizes and cleaves to the voice of Her Bridegroom, Whose love allows nothing to come between Them.  Christ gave Himself up on the Cross to make Her holy and blameless.  At the end of time, His Bride will join Him for the wedding feast of the Lamb described by St. John in Revelation 19:7-9.  Through the church and the infallible faithful teachings of St. Peter and his successors, we will be made ready for that heavenly celebration. 
 
The Church…the pillar and foundation of truth (I Timothy 3:15).
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