What Roman Catholic doctrines are infallible
Which Roman Catholic Teachings are Infallible?
The notion that anything a Pope (or the Catholic Church) teaches is infallible is simply a flawed premise.
After searching the Vatican website, I found that the CCC is the dogma very clearly defined. This is the form of teaching that is infallible or in the words of the CCC is irrevocable (Focus on mine):
The dogmas of faith
88 The Magisterium of the Church exercises the authority it possesses from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, ie if it proposes truths contained in divine revelation in a form that obliges the Christian people to irrevocably observe the faith, or, if so, definitely proposes truths which have a necessary connection with them.
89 There is an organic connection between our spiritual life and dogmas. Dogmas are lights on the path of faith; they light it up and make it safe. Conversely, when our lives are upright, our intellects and hearts will be open to greet the light emitted by the dogmas of faith.
90 The interrelationships between dogmas and their coherence are found throughout the revelation of the mystery of Christ. " In Catholic doctrine there is an order or hierarchy of truths because they differ in their relationship to the foundation of the Christian faith. "
But the Catholic teaching on and use of dogmatic explanations from ex cathera is difficult to decipher. In the history of the Catholic Church I can only refer to three doctrines that undisputed have been declared as ex-cathedra dogma, find relevant information (Wikipedia is Not essential):
- The Immaculate Conception of Mary (Declared by Pope Pius IX in 1854, CCC 491 & 966)
- The Physical Assumption of Mary into Heaven (Explained by Pope Pius XII in 1950, CCC 966)
- The Holy Trinity (CCC 249-256)
It seems like it is. On the Vatican's website we can find further references to possibilities:
- Dogma of Papal Infallibility (referred to in many articles on the Vatican.va website)
- Dogma of Original Sin (but specifically mentioned as controversial)
- Dogma of consubstantiality (proposed by Pius XI, unsure whether ratified by the bishops)
While I cannot find any reference, I would expect that all councils of faith recognized as valid by the Catholic Church would be viewed as dogmatic.
To further cloud the water, many church teachings are generally viewed as dogmatic, although they have never been officially declared as such. These are popularly treated as dogmatic and have an extremely low chance of ever being repealed (and the creeds can fall into this category).
The main point is that there are really few dogmatic and irrevocable teachings of the ex-cathedra.
All other teaching positions can be changed and repealed, including the "ordinary" conclusions and declarations of the councils of churches. That doesn't mean they should be taken lightly; Papal and official Church declarations are binding on all Catholics as long as they are in force - but they are not automatically infallible.
For more information, see this CSE response and this article from uscatholic.org, as well as this Vatican Statement on Infallibility. The last of these specifically mentions the only two undisputed ex-cathedra statements:
As you know, there are occasions when the papal magisterium is solemnly exercised on certain doctrinal points pertaining to or closely related to the deposit of Revelation. Such is the case with ex-cathedra definitions such as the Immaculate Conception of Mary by Pius IX. In 1854 and her ascension of Pius XII. In 1950. As we know, these definitions gave assurance to all Catholics to affirm these truths and to eliminate any doubt on the matter.
Pay particular attention to the words: "... there is Cases, in which ...".
From what I've been able to determine, it seems like a very specific pronunciation introduces an ex-cathedra statement that goes like this:
... through the authority of Jesus Christ, our Lord, the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, and through our own: We explain, speak and define ...
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