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Papal infallibility is one of the great differences between Catholicism and Protestantism. Very few seem to be aware of the awesome implications of this Catholic dogma. Hopefully, this brief summary will illuminate them. Regarding papal infallibility the present-day Roman Catholic Church says:
"The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful -- who confirms his brethren in the faith -- he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals" (Catechism of the Catholic Church (Liguori, MO: Liguori Publications), 1994, p.235).
Likewise, Vatican Council II declared the following about papal infallibility (all bold emphasis is our own):
"The infallibility, however, with which the divine redeemer wished to endow his Church in defining doctrine pertaining to faith and morals, is co-extensive with the deposit of revelation, which must be religiously guarded and loyally and courageously expounded. The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful -- who confirms his brethren in the faith (cf. Lk. 22:32) -- he proclaims in an absolute decision a doctrine pertaining to faith and morals" (Vol. 1, p.380).
"We believe in the infallibility enjoyed by the Successor of Peter when he speaks ex cathedra as shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, an infallibility which the whole Episcopate also enjoys when it exercises with him the supreme magisterium" (Vol. 2, p.392).
"This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and that one sincerely adhere to decisions made by him conformably with his manifest mind and intention ..." (Vol. 1, p.379).
To the Roman Catholic, "ex cathedra" (Latin for from the seat) statements are as infallible as the Bible. Though they are rare, the following are three "ex cathedra" statements or "infallible" declarations of Roman Catholicism, which they place alongside the authority of the Bible. (All emphasis is our own):
Infallibility Of The Pope
"There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which no one at all can be saved" (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215.)
"We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff" (Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302.)
"[The Holy Roman Church] firmly believes, professes and teaches that none of those who are not within the Catholic Church, not only Pagans, but Jews, heretics and schismatics, can ever be partakers of eternal life, but are to go into the eternal fire 'prepared for the devil, and his angels' (Mt. xxv. 41), unless before the close of their lives they shall have entered into that Church; also that the unity of the Ecclesiastical body is such that the Church's Sacraments avail only those abiding in that Church, and that fasts, almsdeeds, and other works of piety which play their part in the Christian combat are in her alone productive of eternal rewards; moreover, that no one, no matter what alms he may have given, not even if he were to shed his blood for Christ's sake, can be saved unless he abide in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church." (Mansi, Concilia, xxxi, 1739.) (Pope Eugene IV, The Bull Cantate Domino, 1441).
To believe in papal infallibility is to believe ONLY Roman Catholics can be saved, for they alone are in submission to the Pope. It is, therefore, impossible for an informed Catholic to get saved or to stay saved if he knows of these aforementioned Roman Catholic declarations and still continues to believe in papal infallibility! This is so because salvation centers around exclusive trust in the person and redemptive work of Jesus Christ and in Him alone. In other words, all 100% of our trust for our soul's salvation MUST be in Jesus Christ alone apart from trusting in a denomination or submission to any spiritual leader, including the Pope! Since this is the Biblical message and Catholic "ex cathedra" statements contradict this, then belief in papal infallibility must be rejected for the sake of salvation! In fact, the three ex cathedra declarations just cited are clearly "another gospel" (Gal. 1:8,9).
Throughout the Scriptures, we are often warned of false prophets and false spiritual leaders (Mt. 7:15; 24:11; Rom. 16:18; 2 Cor. 11:13; Eph. 4:14; 1 Tim. 4:2; 2 Tim. 3:13; 4:3; Tit. 1:10, 2 Jn. 7; 1 Jn. 4:1; etc.). What can one conclude except that what these past popes have said regarding salvation is on a par with what the founders of Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventism and what other proven false prophets have declared. All need to be flatly rejected, not only as error, but deadly error -- even "damnable heresy" (2 Pet. 2:1, KJV)!
Furthermore, in direct contrast to these "infallible" declarations, the Roman Catholic church is now saying the following regarding Muslims. Their contradiction is:
"The Church's relationship with the Muslims. 'The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day' " (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994, p.223).
QUESTION: If Muslims can be saved on the basis of professing to hold to the faith of Abraham, why can't the Jews? (See aforementioned ex cathedra statement from 1441.) Did God change His mind sometime after 1441?
The Creed of the Council of Trent (1564) summarizes the doctrines which Catholics are to believe. There are over 100 anathemas on non-Catholics. Regarding the Pope, it states (all emphasis is our own):
"... I unhesitatingly accept and profess all the doctrines (especially those concerning the primacy of the Roman Pontiff and his infallible teaching authority) handed down, defined, and explained by the sacred canons and ecumenical councils and especially those of this most holy Council of Trent (and by the ecumenical Vatican Council). And at the same time I condemn, reject, and anathematize everything that is contrary to those propositions, and all heresies without exception that have been condemned, rejected, and anathematized by the Church. I, N., promise, vow, and swear that, with God's help, I shall most constantly hold and profess this true Catholic faith, outside which no one can be saved and which I now freely profess and truly hold. With the help of God, I shall profess it whole and unblemished to my dying breath; and, to the best of my ability, I shall see to it that my subjects or those entrusted to me by virtue of my office hold it, teach it, and preach it. So help me God and his holy Gospel" (emphasis not in original). [The words in parentheses in this paragraph were inserted into the Tridentine profession of faith by order of Pope Pius IX in a decree issued by the Holy Office, January 20, 1877 (Acta Sanctae Sedis, X , pp. 71 ff.).]
If you call yourself a "Catholic" and reject papal infallibility, congratulations: You are proceeding along the right path! But according to the Creed of the Council of Trent, you are not a real Catholic as they define one! Furthermore, you are indirectly endorsing this dogma you don't believe by your presence and financial donations. This makes you partly responsible for the spiritual harm that is occurring through it!
In conclusion, four very important observations can be noted because of papal infallibility:
- There exists a dangerous, false plan of salvation or "another gospel" (Gal. 1:8,9) because of it.
- There presently reigns contradictions and confusion regarding salvation of non-Roman Catholics.
- The unique authority of the Bible has been diminished.
- It indirectly opens the door to other Catholic doctrine which conceals the true way of salvation.
A Catholic who gets saved needs to leave this type of religious system as much as a Mormon who gets saved needs to leave Mormonism. There really is no difference between the two. Furthermore, Catholics who truly get saved show they recognize the serious implications of papal infallibility by exiting from this type of religious system to a local Protestant congregation that declares the true gospel as found in the Bible. To ignore such an important move can only adversely affect one who gets saved even to the point of spiritual death. Though this is blunt, it is written out of love for souls; though this may be offensive to some, it is the truth! Eternity is a long time. Let's get serious with proclaiming and defending the one and only true plan of salvation which is: "Repentance towards God and FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST" (Acts 20:21).
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