Catholicism - Now I Get It!


Study Guide to CHAPTER 3: "Now I Get . . . Infallibility"




Where in the  Bible does Jesus promise the Holy Spirit will guide the Church into all truth?

When is the pope granted this special protection by the Holy Spirit? When is he not?

The gift of infallible teaching is not granted to all one billion members of the Church. Through what vehicle does infallibility come to us?

What is the relationship of Sacred Scripture to Sacred Tradition?

The relationship of the Church's Magisterium to the Bible has often been compared to the relationship of the Supreme Court to the Constitution. What are the similarities in these relationships? What are the differences?

Why is it important to look at the tradition or history of Scriptural interpretation to understand Christ's true teaching?

If the Church had not been promised guidance into "all the truth," could we be sure about any doctrine at all?

Open your Bibles to Mt. 16: 18-19 and then to Mt 18:18. To whom does Jesus first grant his power to bind and loose? To whom does he later extend this power to? What is the relationship of Peter to the current pope? What is the relationship of the Twelve Apostles to our current bishops around the world?

What is the difference between Divine Law and the disciplines established by our Church to help us live out our Christian calling? Which can change and which cannot? Are we obliged to respect the authority of the Church on both Divine Law and disciplinary practices, such as Lenten fasting? (hint: yes!)



Suggestions for further reading:

Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words: Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus of Lyons by Rod Bennett

  Apologia Pro Vita Sua by John Henry Newman

Upon this Rock: St Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church by Stephen K. Ray

The Faith of Our Fathers by James Cardinal Gibbons

Treasure in Clay: The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen


Helpful entries from the online Catholic Encyclopedia.


The Pope 

Apostolic Succession 


HELPFUL WEB SITES (Wikipedia) (Papal Infallibility) (Apostolicity of the Church) (Articles defending the Church from Protestant claims) (Development of Doctrine) (Papal Infallibility) (Church and Papacy)




Where does the Bible say the Church teaching will be guided into ALL TRUTH by the Holy Spirit?

John 16:13: When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (Words of Jesus)

John 14:26: But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

1 Tim 3:15:  if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.

Mt 28:19-20:  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20: teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."

Acts 15:28:  For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: (Note Apostles speaking with the voice of the Holy-Spirit in its decisions in the Early Church)

1 John 2:27:  his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in him. (Having been anointed by Holy Spirit, they will be taught everything)




St. Irenaeus: "For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God, there the Church and every grace. The Spirit, however, is Truth." [Against Heresies 3, 24, 1] c. 200 A.D.

St. Irenaeus: " . . . the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although she is disseminated throughout the whole world, yet guarded it, as if she occupied but one house. She likewise believes these things just as if she had but one soul and one and the same heart; and harmoniously she proclaims them and teaches them and hands them down, as if she possessed but one mouth. For, while the languages of the world are diverse, nevertheless, the authority of the tradition is one and the same" (Against Heresies 1:10:2 [189 A.D.]).

Eusebius of Caesaria (leading Church historian of the Early Church): One new heresy arose after another, and the former ones always passed away, and now at one time, now at another, now in one way, now in other ways, were lost in ideas of various kinds and various forms. But the splendor of the catholic and only true Church, which is always the same, grew in magnitude and power, and reflected its piety and simplicity and freedom, and the modesty and purity of its inspired life and philosophy to every nation both of Greeks and of Barbarians. (Ecclesiastical History Book 4, Chapter 7) c. 4th century

St. Augustine of Hippo: "The Catholic Church is the work of divine providence, achieved through the prophecies of the prophets, through the Incarnation and the teaching of Christ, through the journeys of the Apostles, through the suffering, the crosses, the blood and death of the martyrs, through the admirable lives of the saints . . . When, then, we see so much help on God's part, so much progress and so much fruit, shall we hesitate to bury ourselves in the bosom of that Church? For starting from the apostolic chair down through succession of bishops, even unto the open confession of all mankind, it has possessed the crown of teaching authority." (The Advantage of Believing, 35)



2051  The infallibility of the Magisterium of the Pastors extends to all the elements of doctrine, including moral doctrine, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, expounded, or observed.

889  In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles, Christ who is the Truth willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility. By a "supernatural sense of faith" the People of God, under the guidance of the Church's living Magisterium, "unfailingly adheres to this faith."417

890 The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium's task to preserve God's people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church's shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms:

891  "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. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium," above all in an Ecumenical Council.418 When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine "for belief as being divinely revealed,"419 and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions "must be adhered to with the obedience of faith."420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.421

892   Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a "definitive manner," they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful "are to adhere to it with religious assent"422 which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.

80 "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal." Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own "always, to the close of the age".


Further Helps

How can we testify to the truth in our own communities?

If we ask the Holy Spirit, He will give us the courage to stand up for the truth on moral issues and issues of faith, and will help us do so in a charitable and compassionate manner.

When we receive the Sacraments, God's grace, poured on us, allows us to see the truth more clearly. Make a resolution to go to Confession and to receive Communion more frequently.

Pray for Pope Benedict XVI, who is invested with the promises made to Peter. Pray for all the bishops of the world, and for priests, that they may teach and live in truth.





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