From the 1st through the 14th centuries what Church Council/s or Document/s or authoritative source/s officially decreed that the Pope is not infallible?A statement was made on the Discussion page...

From the 1st through the 14th centuries what Church Council/s or Document/s or authoritative source/s officially decreed that the Pope is not infallible?

A statement was made on the Discussion page (Doctrinal changes in the Catholic Church) that one change in the Middle Ages made the Pope officially infallible.  No document or source was cited.  It would be interesting to know the source of this claim of a medieval change in official Catholic doctrine. 

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In a sense, this question is almost backwards. The doctrine of Papal Infallibility was a very late development in Roman Catholicism. That the Pope could speak infallibly in certain very limited circumstances on (and only on) specific matters of faith was made dogma in Vatican I, in 1868. The Papacy itself was not part of early Christianity; the Bishop of Rome only took on the title of Pope in the fifth century, and the Eastern Church never has accepted that this title was valid, nor that the Bishop of Rome had primacy over other bishops. Thus it might be better to state that the notion of Papacy was gradually developed in the western part of Christianity and never ratified by an ecumenical council, and that Papal infallibility was a 19th century concept, belonging to a movement known as ultramontanism.

michaelpaulheart | Student

Papal infallibility has had documentary support even among the Greeks since the 6th century at the latest, with earlier evidence cited from the 1st century onward.

  • 519 [ Patriarch John II] accepted the formula of [ Pope Hormisdas] at end of the [ Acacian schism]
  • 869 Fourth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople
  • 1272 Second Council of Lyon
  • 1439 Ecumenical Council of Florence, session 6
  • 1868 Vatican Council I (cited above).

The dogmatic definition of Papal infallibility of 1868 does not appear to be a change in Church doctrine.  The statement that the Greeks never accepted it does not appear to be historically valid.

michaelpaulheart | Student

As an amateur historical researcher of 40 years experience who came to the Catholic Church as an adult convert I am familiar with the controversies and debates you referred to above.

The defining of a dogma is always the end and climax of a matter of faith and morals that had either

  • been accepted throughout the history of the church and only later began to be challenged by some theologians
  • or had been discussed and debated and disputed over the centuries until a final definitive official statement was necessary to settle the matter.

The definition of 1868 referred to the constant tradition, going back to the 2nd century, of appeal to Rome (and by implication to the Bishop of Rome) for a finally definitive or authoritative pronouncement/judgment on a matter of faith or morals, and by its nature irreformable.  Individuals and groups have rejected this from time to time, and some have been excommunicated for doing so; but I know of no authoritative or official statement by any synod or council of bishops representing the body of Christianity before the 14th century that ever said that

  • belief in the infallible judgment of the Bishop of Rome is not part of Christian belief. 

The statement (above) that a Medieval change in doctrine made the Pope (henceforth) infallible implies such a prior declaration of belief which was then changed/reversed. This prompted my request for both the "original official position" on the matter and the source of this "reversal/change":  who made it? when? what official documentation do we have?  Dogmatic definition is not supposed to be a change but a definitive confirmation of a doctrine implicitly contained in the Christian revelation and only made explicit for the benefit of the faithful.