Question: I asked some Catholic friends about the infallibility of the Pope, citing examples of contradictions in their teachings. They responded that the Pope is only infallible when he officially speaks ex cathedra, and these occasions have been very rare. I asked them if they would be willing to disagree with the church on something they thought was wrong. They admitted they were willing, but said the likelihood that the Church being wrong is very small.
Answer: If, as they say, the Pope spoke infallibly on few occasions only, what remains of the prerogative of infallibility? Why is it so important to have an infallible Pope who rarely, if ever, speaks infallibly, and if no-one seems to know for sure which statements were made ex cathedra and which where not? Since it is admitted that the Pope and the Catholic bishops are fallible in their ordinary teaching office, why then do Catholics apologists makes such a fuss about us Protestants not having an infallible magisterium and that our pastors are fallible?
The Evangelicals have an infallible and absolute standard of truth, the Bible. We respect and listen to our pastors and teachers but we are also aware of their fallibility. They can make mistakes and thus we insist for the biblical reasons for whatever they teach. We reject a particular doctrine that is demonstrably contrary to Scripture. We do not blindly submit our minds to the teaching of a Christian minister unless we are convinced that his teaching is in harmony with the Bible.
Your Catholic friends manifest a Protestant-like attitude in this matter. They are willing to disagree with something the Catholic church teaches which they think is wrong. However, it is impossible for your friends to be faithful Catholics and maintain that attitude. Please read carefully the following articles from the Canon Law of the Church (1983).
The Catholic is bound to shun any contrary opinion to the teaching of the Church. He has no option in this matter. He cannot hold a different opinion without violating the Church law. The Catholic is bound to submit his intellect and will to the teaching of the church, even with regard to those doctrines that are not officially proclaimed as infallible. If the Catholic sincerely thinks otherwise on a particular matter (say, contraception, celibacy, holy days of obligation and so on) he is still bound to submit to the church’s teaching.
A Catholic is someone who submits unconditionally to the teaching of the Pope and the Catholic bishops. He must submit even his mind to them. The Catholic must say, “I believe whatever the church teaches, even those things about which I have a different opinion.” St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, puts it this way: "I will believe that the white that I see is black if the hierarchical Church so defines it" ("Rules For Thinking With The Church," Rule 13). Catholics are reduced to the same level of the cults who also require this slavish mental submission from their members to everything thought by the hierarchy.
An Evangelical is not the religious slave of any human teacher. He listens to godly Christian pastors as they explain God’s Word. Yet he never forfeits his biblical duty to test everything and hold to what is good. Ultimately, the Evangelical says, “I believe whatever the Bible teaches. I believe because I am convinced in my mind that these doctrines are biblical.”
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