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Friday, September 15, 2023

Infallibility 101: The Pope Can't Tell You What to Eat for Breakfast!

Oatmeal is good for you!
Just eat it already!
Supposing the pope decided that every Catholic should eat oatmeal for breakfast. It's good for you and gluten free. Suppose he wrote an Apostolic Exhortation about it and the Bishops of the United States asked if they should interpret it to mean that every Catholic should order oatmeal when they breakfast at a restaurant, that ordering bacon and eggs is a gross violation of the pope's will and an act of disobedience. Suppose the pope responded that their interpretation was the only possible interpretation.

Ridiculous right?

But there are some Catholics who believe that every word and every opinion of the pope is infallible. That is a mistaken notion and the first Vatican Council, which declared infallibility, expressed exactly how limited that gift of the holy Spirit is:

"For the Holy Ghost was not promised to the successors of Peter that by His revelation they might disclose new doctrine, but that by His help they might guard sacredly the revelation transmitted through the apostles and the deposit of the Faith, and might faithfully set it forth." 

Vatican I Session 4, Chapter 4: On the infallible teaching authority of the Roman pontiff , #4

You can read the decrees of Vatican I which are short. They make it crystal clear that the pope has limited authority and his voice is only infallible when he "guards" and "faithfully set(s) forth" the "revelation" and "deposit of the Faith" that was "transmitted through the apostles." 

The pope may not change any of the doctrines of the Church laid down by the apostles. He does not have the authority. The true head of the Church is Christ. The pope is His vicar. He may not alter or add to revelation which ended with the apostolic age. "Development of doctrine" cannot change the essence of a doctrine to conflict with the previous understanding. When Pope Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception of Mary in 1854, it was a belief held by the Church for centuries. [See Ineffabilis Deus] He was not making up a new doctrine!

Catholics have no obligation to follow the pope when he tells them to get the COVID shot, or believe in climate change, or to give Communion (against Church teaching) to Protestants and couples living in adultery.  Telling Catholics to get the jab is his opinion. Telling clerics to give Communion to those in adultery violates the unchanging and unchangeable doctrine of the Church

One does not have an obligation to obey every dictat that springs from the mouth of the pope or one's bishop or one's pastor. It's important to know the difference between blind obedience and true obedience. One may never obey an order to commit sin no matter how high the superior who demands it. Doctors and nurses ordered to participate in abortions must refuse at the peril of their souls to obey such a heinous command. A president who demands it is still president, but he has no authority to violate the laws of God. 

Every authority on earth, religious or secular, derives his authority from God. That is why an unjust law that violates God's commands is no law at all. 

We are called to be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves. I think that is particularly important when we are dealing with acts of justified disobedience. We don't have to attack the superior when we remind him he lacks authority to issue a command that violates God's laws. It may not even be necessary to speak. 

Actions do, in fact, speak louder than words. 

For more see: 

Can the pope overturn the laws or teachings of the Church?


  1. Faith and Morals - derived from the Sacred Deposit of Faith, for which the Pope, Servant of the Servants of God, is responsible for protecting and faithfully passing on to the next generation within the communion of saints.

    That’s it. The Pope’s role as Vicar of Christ. Simple. But it’s the most important job on earth.

    Our obedience, rightly-ordered, is connected specifically and solely to that: Faith and Morals properly derived from, and sourced within, the Sacred Deposit of Faith - the long straight line that leads to Christ on Calvary, Christ on His Throne in Heaven.

    So … telling me which car to buy; whether to vaccinate and which shot us best; which city to live in; best materials for the clothes I buy; which investments to make; what I do in my leisure time (etc etc) … none of these are the business of the Pope, or the Bishops and Priests in union with him.

    1: God is first.
    2: The Sacred Deposit of Faith is second.
    3: The Pope is third, but only in proper reference - subordinate to and in service of God and the Faith (1 and 2).

    Leave the sacred line of authority - there is no authority.

    Stay on the sacred line of authority - that authority is unlimited.

  2. Great point Mary Ann. I wish this could be plastered everywhere so Catholics would really incorporate this reality. He has far exceeded his authority. We do not have a proper gauge for how limited his authority is anymore. Many Catholics must think it is unlimited. This helps him. I believe this is related to why we have so many limp Catholics, they have used the concepts of obedience and meekness to make us completely resigned to whatever blasphemy or error they promote. It is a distortion that has taken root. Yet priests are talking to their people every week in homilies, where such teaching would be truly helpful. Fathers might want to include such teaching and keep it as a theme to revisit.

  3. You said “… an unjust law that violates God's commands is no law at all … and … “We don't have to attack the superior when we remind him he lacks authority to issue a command that violates God's laws. It may not even be necessary to speak.”

    This is one of your better and most important posts. Simple. And in its conclusions, profound - given what is being asked of us and the confusion that is causing so many.

    The Apostles’ authority is limited, yet profound.

    Our duty to obey is unlimited, yet specific to constraints.

    Our response to violations can never be declarations of Sedevacantist nullity; rather simple confidence in, and defense of, the line that transcends the moment, the actors.

  4. Eat your wheaties. -- Pope Leo V

  5. Problem with your post is that you posit, correctly, that we don't have to obey any Pope, or Bishop on every utterance on matters not pertaining to faith and morals, yet ignore the fact we MUST obey him on matters of faith and morals. Yet the SSPX, [Post Abp Lefebvre] chooses to ignore his many heretical demands on faith and morals. If he is the Pope we must obey him and not encourage others to become Catholic. We must not judge his immoral love is love nonsense. We may attend and participate in un Catholic services. We must approve of placing idols [pachamama] on the altar. If he's the Pope obey him on these matters. If he's not the Pope, treat him and his "church" like the heretic he/it is/has become. Modernism is the synthesis of all heresies. Pope St Pius X. By their fruits you shall know them. Christ. What are the fruits of the Post Vatican II Church?

  6. "we MUST obey [the pope] on matters of faith and morals."

    Incorrect. That applies only to ex cathedra statements on faith and morals. Not every statement the pope makes on faith and morals or anything else is infallible. If it conflicts with doctrines the Church has taught over the millennia, it is a novelty and not to be obeyed. The pope may not change doctrines about faith and morals. His role is to protect the deposit of the faith. He may not CHANGE any of the teachings handed on by the apostles.

    The Church is indefectible. She cannot preach error. The pope is NOT indefectible and can both sin and make mistakes, and, as Pope Francis illustrates time and again, preach errors.

    I pray for the pope daily, but will not follow him into error which is the position of the SSPX.