Papal Infallibility: God’s, not Man’s

Historical Christian: Papal Infallibility: God’s, not Man’s

As a Catholic, I now understand that the Protestant world has a fundamental misunderstanding of how the Holy Spirit works, and how God orders the Church. He does not work to interpret scripture or doctrine through just anyone, and certainly not through everyone. He works in many ways with many people, but when it comes to interpretation, either of scripture or of doctrine, He works only through the designated authorities of the Church, whom scripture tells us to obey. Who are the designated authorities? Peter and the Apostles, and their successors the Pope and the Bishops, in the valid Apostolic Succession through the laying on of the hands.

There is only one passage in the New Testament where Jesus clearly gives authority to another: Matt 16:13-19. In this passage, Jesus asks who the disciples think he is, and they all give different answers. He then asks Peter, who says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus replies,

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

God revealed to Peter alone a truth of the faith, the true identity of Christ, when the others were confused and divided. That is the seed of Papal infallibility in scripture.

The passage is strikingly similar to Is 22:20-24:

In that day I will call my servant Eli’akim the son of Hilki’ah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him like a peg in a sure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house. And they will hang on him the whole weight of his father’s house, the offspring and issue, every small vessel, from the cups to all the flagons.

And to Rev. 3:7:

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens.

Keys in scripture are symbolic of authority; the key of David symbolizes the authority of God. The passage in Isaiah is in the context of usurping a former authority that wasn’t true to God, and establishing a new authority while the old is cut down (Isaiah was prophesying to Judah and Jerusalem, just prior to the Babylonian exile). The passage in Revelation is clearly a reference to Christ, who is God Incarnate.

So, in Matt 16:13-19, Jesus Himself, recognizing that God the Father has chosen Peter, gives him the keys to His own authority, the authority of God, and the power of binding and loosing that goes with it, in a clear allusion to Is 22. The Isaiah background is the judgment of the Jews and the destruction of the Temple, which Jesus also prophesied. Jesus was founding a new church in place of the Judaic Temple, and proclaiming a new leader, revealed by God the Father, in Peter.

Peter alone, and no other, was given a direct revelation by our Father in heaven of Christ’s identity, and so given the biblical keys of authority, the authority of God to bind and loose, make final decisions. And it is not an arbitrary authority, but the authority of God to steer the Church to the truth in moments of man’s confusion, given to Peter alone. That is why the Church defines the Magisterium as “The Pope and the Bishops in union with the Pope.”

I close this reflection with this quote from an article on Papal Infallibility:

Often those who object to the doctrine of infallibility confuse it with impeccability or personal inerrancy. It is neither. Impeccability means that a person is incapable of sinning. Popes, like other Christians, are sinners. Personal inerrancy means that Popes cannot make mistakes. Infallibility, on the other hand, refers to that guidance of the Holy Spirit that guards Popes from officially teaching error in matters of faith and morals. [italics mine]

It is a gift that I, for one, am extremely grateful.

Read the whole thing.


“In selecting men for office, let principle be your guide. Regard not the particular sect or denomination of the candidate – look to his character.” – Noah Webster

“Nothing brings out the lower traits of human nature like office seeking.” – Rutherford B. Hayes

“I should like to adopt political doctrines that would live longer than my dog.” – James Garfield

“A man to be a sound politician and in any degree useful to the country must be governed by higher and steadier considerations than those of personal sympathy and private regard.” – Martin Van Buren

“Campaign doublespeak can sometimes be so perfectly inverse to the truth that it should not pass without marvel from at least somebody… [John Edwards], the onetime Democratic senator from North Carolina with the $400 haircut announced to fanfare that he is ‘suspending his campaign’ to conduct a poverty tour of rural America, with a stated aim of examining and calling attention to poverty in the Mississippi Delta, Appalachia and the Rust Belt. Mr. Edwards is not actually ‘suspending’ anything. It turns out that the ‘suspension’ is to last a mere three days, in which period Mr. Edwards will cover eight states and 12 cities in this purported ‘Road to One America.’… That sounds to us just like the torrid pace of a presidential campaign. Mr. Edwards won’t have much time to listen to the voices of poverty, that much is for sure. Also sure are the echoes of Robert F. Kennedy’s celebrated tour of earlier poverty. But no, there’s nothing here about a ‘campaign.’ The only thing suspended is Mr. Edwards’ willingness to answer questions about his personal wealth, given his fiery affection for populism. Surely it’s only coincidental that the tour sounds and smells like the leg of a campaign, that ‘tours’ work wonders for some campaigns and that Mr. Edwards now seeks something to cure a sincerity deficit. Mr. Edwards will be lucky if this tour doesn’t make that deficit worse.” – The Washington Times

“The Islamists believe we can’t win; so does The New York Times. But it falls to the American people to decide the issue.” – Victor Davis Hanson

“We are seeking to create order in Iraq, while al-Qa’ida seeks to create disorder. It is orders of magnitude easier to create chaos than it is to create order. That doesn’t mean it is impossible. But it will require patience and above all, will.” – Mona Charen

“How the threat of a resurgent al-Qa’ida is ameliorated by a hasty U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, no Democrat, liberal Republican or member of the media has yet explained.” – Oliver North

“No one knows in his gut that the guy he supports will do any good. But at least you can oppose with enthusiasm and passion the guy you feel in your gut will cause more trouble than is needed! This is what happens when the pickings are slim: The greatest passion gets funneled into opposition.” – Peggy Noonan

“[Michael Moore] is practically the Leni Riefenstahl of socialism. Anyone in a country with government-provided health insurance is portrayed as tripping through daisies to the hospital, where everything is free and the care is perfect. America, in contrast, is a vista of unrelieved gloom. Moore is adept at the propagandist’s art- keep it simple and keep it dishonest.” – Rich Lowry

“Before we panic about ‘global warming,’ we should take a look at six-day weather forecasts and see how much they change during those six days- quite aside from how much they differ from what the weather actually turns out to be.” – Thomas Sowell

“Our political leaders failed to grasp that we consider citizenship a privilege, not a political chip to curry favor with Hispanic voters.” – Dick Yarbrough

“When a conservative appears on talk radio, liberals cry for the Fairness Doctrine. Seventy-five free hours for Archbishop Gore’s Church of Climate Change? Not a peep.” – Investor’s Business Daily

“For the brave few who stuck with all 174 hours of Live Al, there was something oddly touching about seeing rock gazillionaires who’d flown in by private jet tell Joe Schmoe all the stuff he doesn’t need. Your own car? A washer and dryer? Ha! Why can’t you take the bus and beat your underwear on the rocks down by the river with the native women all morning long?” – Mark Steyn

Jay Leno: Another scorching day. They say this heat is either due to global warming or because it’s July. They are not quite sure. … Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff said that he had a gut feeling that there would be another terrorist attack this summer. Now is that reliable? How do we know it’s not just bad clams? It’s like, “False alarm. It was Long John Silver, we’re gonna be fine.” … Former President Bill Clinton said he is backing his wife because she is the most qualified and not be cause of any spousal obligation. And believe me, if there’s one guy who’s not swayed by spousal obligation, it’s Bill Clinton. … Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama have all agreed to appear at the first-ever gay debate. The whole debate will only deal with gay issues. Like gay marriage and things like that… Each candidate has an appeal for gay voters. I mean, Barack Obama knows what it’s like to face intolerance; John Edwards gets $400 haircuts; and Hillary is really in need of a makeover. … John Edwards said today that he has always supported gay rights. Edwards said the only problem he’s ever had with gays is that they charge too much for a haircut. … Senator Ted Kennedy reported for jury duty this week, but was dismissed because of a conflict of interest. Turns out all 15 trials that day involved other Kennedys.