What is a Catholic required to believe?


In the chaos that has followed the Second Vatican Council, it is necessary that the faithful have a correct understanding Papal Infallibility, as well as its limitations, lest the understandably confused or scandalized Catholic be led into error in one direction or the other.

The Charism:

Infallibility is a negative charism (gratia gratis data) that prevents the possibility of error.  It is not to be confused withinspiration, which is a positive divine influence that moves and controls a human agent in what he says or writes; nor is it to be confused with Revelation, which is the communication of some truth by God through means which are beyond the ordinary course of nature.  Infallibility pertains to the safeguarding and explanation of truths already revealed by God.  Since infallibility is only a negative charism, it does not inspire a pope to teach what is true or even defend revealed truths, nor does it “make the pope’s will the ultimate standard of truth and goodness” (2), but simply prevents him from teaching error under certain limited conditions.  During an address given at the First Vatican Council, Bishop Grasser, who was referred to as “the most prominent theologian at the Council”, said the following:

“In no sense is pontifical infallibility absolute, because absolute infallibility belongs to God alone, Who is the first and essential truth and Who is never able to deceive or be deceived. All other infallibility, as communicated for a specific purpose, has its limits and its conditions under which it is considered to be present. The same is valid in reference to the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff. For this infallibility is bound by certain limits and conditions…”

The conditions for Papal Infallibility were subsequently defined by the First Vatican Council as follows:

“We teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman pontiff speaks ex cathedra, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals”.

Here we see that the divine assistance is present only when a pope, (a) using his supreme apostolic authority (b) defines a doctrine, (c) concerning faith and morals, (d) to be held by the universal Church.  If any of these conditions are lacking, infallibility is not engaged and error is possible.

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Editor’s note: The first Vatican Council was never officially brought to a close, so technically, Vatican II was merely an extension of Vatican I. Yet those who ratified Vatican II never even mentioned the still open and unfinished Vatican I. If that sounds confusing to you, you have plenty of company.

We know that God is not the author of confusion. That leaves only two other choices: Man and/or the devil!


  1. Lots of good stuff here.
    Doug’s editor note is Ok but Scampy22 holds up hand at back of classroom.

    Not strictly true that God is not about confusion or rather does not allow confusion or non understanding. Otherwise we would all agree in the truth all the time. Our Cosmos let alone this world is full of bewilderment and contradiction and these exist by God allowing them. Probably not to confuse but Puzzle?

    History of the Church shows that often confusion (OK it may be technically Human Misunderstanding but God does not zap his creatures into understanding or wisdom but allows them to work through problems if we have the courage to call on his Spirit . .ala as V2 did) results. Ever since St’s Peter and Paul clash the church has had its fair share of internal debate.
    As a Franciscan friar once observed “Our God is the God of Questions not Answers”.

    • “Not strictly true that God is not about confusion or rather does not allow confusion or non understanding.” (scampy 22)

      Neither is that what Doug said.

      “We know that God is not the author of confusion.” (Doug, emphasis mine)

      • No I understand (I think? 😦 ) what Doug said hence my opening line.
        My comment above about Confusion is that God allows it for a reason? That is itself a confusing proposition, nevertheless, it is allowed and God “sometimes” promotes confusion, confounding or bewilderment for our greater good. Whist God is not Evil so he does not desire misunderstanding he will sometimes confuse and bewilder humanity for a greater good. So that from something bad good may come fourth.
        Again God in the Lives of many Saints often allows what is called “the darkness of the soul” wherein he goes silent apparently forcing a complete breakdown by the individual so they may depend upon him entirely and for everything. Basically God does what he does and by his own authority which remains inscrutable to us.
        I accept that God does not contradict himself (at least officially) but he really is capable of doing what he likes to whom he likes, when he likes.This is always for their good and even sanctity but it is very confusing and whilst endured dark and painful.

      • (replying to scampy, not to myself)

        We’re on the same page, here. God “promotes confusion”? Tower of Babel, anyone?

        “…(God) really is capable of doing what he likes to whom he likes, when he likes.”

        No truer words. I have often said that God is infinitely just and infinitely merciful. I have also said that God plays favorites because, well, He is God and He is allowed to. Nothing unjust or unmerciful about that, even though many of His favorites wound up in a world of hurt prior to their eternal reward. (Which has always made me loath to raise my hand and beg God to choose me for anything special.)

        Yes, God’s nature precludes His contradicting Himself. That said, the Gospels are chock-full of apparent Divine contradictions. Heck, all scripture is.

        But only apparent.

  2. 😉

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