The year was 1870, and it was the first Vatican council of the Catholic church. The meeting was to determine, in part, the primacy and the infallibility of the bishop of Rome (i.e., the pope). The main declaration of the council regarding papal infallibility reads 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. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the church, irreformable.”
Effectively, this means if a pope declares something relating to “faith or morals”, it is an infallible declaration. Furthermore, ALL Catholics MUST believe what a pope infallibly states. The Canon Law of the Catholic church puts it this way:
“Can. 752 Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it.
Can. 753 Although the bishops who are in communion with the head and members of the college, whether individually or joined together in conferences of bishops or in particular councils, do not possess infallibility in teaching, they are authentic teachers and instructors of the faith for the Christian faithful entrusted to their care; the Christian faithful are bound to adhere with religious submission of mind to the authentic magisterium of their bishops.
Can. 754 All the Christian faithful are obliged to observe the constitutions and decrees which the legitimate authority of the Church issues in order to propose doctrine and to proscribe erroneous opinions, particularly those which the Roman Pontiff or the college of bishops puts forth.”
Fast forward 144 years to October, 2014. The pope is Francis, and, speaking to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, he made the following statement:
“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything — but that is not so. He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment. He gave autonomy to the beings of the universe at the same time at which he assured them of his continuous presence, giving being to every reality, and so creation continued for centuries and centuries, millennia and millennia, until it became which we know today, precisely because God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the creator who gives being to all things. The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it. Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”
It may not be immediately clear, but this is a statement regarding “faith and morals”, and, as such, it would mean it is an infallible statement.
Here is how it relates to faith and morals. The pope is effectively saying evolution is true, that it is consistent with creation. The problem is that evolution directly contradicts the creation account in Genesis.
Genesis 2:15 says, “Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”” This means that there was no death until Adam committed sin by disobeying the one command God gave him. This is also seen in Romans 6:23, which says, “For the wages of sin is death…”
Since evolution teaches that there was death prior to man ever having evolved, it contradicts Scripture. God only gave a command to Adam. So, if evolution was true, there could not have been sin, and therefore no death, prior to Adam.
Going back to pope Francis’ statement, then, it’s clear that his teaching that evolution is true is indeed a teaching on faith and morals. Since his teaching directly contradicts Scripture, pope Francis once again demonstrates papal fallibility.
Furthermore, the pope’s statement about God not being able to do everything that is stated in the Genesis account of creation also demonstrates that the pope does not believe what Scripture says. God is indeed able to do everything Scripture states in Genesis.
This is, of course, not the first time that supposedly infallible popes made fallible statements regarding faith and morals. For example:
- The Catholic church condemned pope Honorius I for teaching the monothelite heresy.
- Pope Liberius defended the heresy of Arianism.
- Pope Boniface taught that the ark of Noah was a picture of the church, while in fact it is a picture of Christ (1 Peter 3).
- Pope Sixtus re-wrote the Bible, which was filled with errors; a later pope tried to buy back those Bibles that were in circulation and re-issued another Bible to correct the errors.
- Pope Boniface VIII infallibly declared “Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” Yet the second Vatican council (also “infallible”) said, “The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter. For there are many who honor Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour. They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ.” (my emphasis added)
There are other fallible statements made by supposedly infallible popes, but you get the picture. Catholics typically try to defend these errors by saying that the pope is infallible only when he speaks “ex cathedra” (i.e., from the seat, from the teaching seat as the pope). Yet, ex cathedra is conveniently not defined. Not surprisingly, Catholics disagree about exactly what it means. As far as I’m concerned, since the pope did not infallibly define ex cathedra, then when a pope speaks about anything related to “faith and morals”, it’s fair to say it must be infallible.
The Catholic church is a false church because it has a false gospel. It’s no surprise, then, to see yet another pope demonstrate the errors and contradictions of this false church. I grew up in the Catholic church, and by God’s grace, He brought me out of darkness and into His marvelous light. Let’s use the pope’s recent statements as an opportunity to engage Catholics, and share the true gospel of Christ with them so they, too, might experience the grace of God that He has given to us who believe.