Thy Will Be Done, On Earth As It Is In Heaven: The Papal Infallibility

When Does Papal Infallibility End?
By N Mark Castro

Here are some interesting questions received:

  1. Now that that Pope has indicated his date of resignation, will his infallibility end?

  2. Once a new Pope has been elected and enter into a disagreement with the retired Pope, whose more infallible?

  3. Does the Pope’s infallibility end on his last day of office? If so, what if he still has residual leaves? Can he extend his infallibility then?

For answers —I008_Council.jpg - 57523 BytesThe First Vatican Council I in 1868 was convoked by Pope Pius IX, succeeding the ecumenical council held 3 centuries earlier known as the Council of Trent. The most significant decision declared during the First Vatican Council was the definition of papal infallibility, which absolves the Pope by virtue of the promise Jesus made to Peter.


Legend has it — or at least biblical references say, that Jesus the Christ supposedly said to Peter:

And I say also unto you, That you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it. ◄ Matthew 16:18 ►

With that stroke of pen by Matthew, there went the ballgame.

In one swoop a new religion was born, a little over 2,000 years ago, and provided a name for the guilt mankind has known.

According to the dialogue between Jesus and his disciples, Jesus asks: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

The disciples give various answers. When he asks, “Who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

In turn, Jesus declares Peter to be “blessed” for having recognized the true identity of Batman Jesus and attributes this recognition as part of the Divine Revelation. Then Jesus addresses Simon by what seems to have been the nickname of “Peter” and says: “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it.”

Of course, that’s the English translation and, insofar as I know, English was not the language used in those times, hence, one of the most contentious and poorest word choice by the translators of King James, whose biblical interpretation has been the most widely read and distributed Bible.

For one, “Hell” wasn’t the word used by the Greeks, it’s “Hades,” the unknown place of the dead. And the New Testament was originally written in Greek, from which the Latin, English, and other versions were translated.

If you study the Greek text you will find that the word Peter and the word Rock on which Christ was to build His church are two separate and distinct words, each having a different meaning.

The word Peter in Greek is petros, which means “a piece of rock; a stone; a single stone; movable, insecure, shifting, or roll­ing.” The word rock is petra, which means “a rock; a cliff; a projecting rock; mother rock; huge mass; solid formation; fixed; immovable; enduring.”

In other words, we could have begun an entire tradition based on a misunderstanding. Much like the word “celibacy” when admonishing the priests so. What if they got it all wrong and what it said was “celebrate”? Could that explain then all the sexual offenses made by the wayward priests of the Church?


PETER is famous for being considered as the first among the disciples, yet despite the prediction of Jesus that Peter would deny him not once but thrice, he still became the apostle that has symbolically led the Catholic Church as the Bishop of Rome, long after his upside-down crucifixion as he requested that he was not worthy enough to be crucified in the same position by which Jesus had been.

Yet for all his display of weaknesses and failures, despite his supposedly volatile personality, Jesus has imparted upon him that:

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

◄ Matthew 16:19 ►


And that’s where we are today, the infallibility of the Pope, which is the first requisite in the dispensation of his office (ex-cathedra). As explained in Vatican Council I:

“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 and, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in St. 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, unchangeable. 

“So then, should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this definition of ours: Let him be anathema.”

As such — regardless of his residual leaves — the Pope’s Infallibility ends upon his departure from his office, nor is it a whimsical premise but rather an indispensable decision pertaining to faith, morals and teachings, and can never be dispensed with ease but with the collective faith of the members of the Church.


About Asmartrock

N. Mark Castro is the Southeast Asia Director of JUMP DIGITAL Asia, which is an internationally-awarded and fully integrated digital marketing agency with 5 out of 10 offices in the ASEAN region. He is also the Secretary General of the Philippine Business Club Indonesia, managing and assisting the traffic of investments between the Philippines and Indonesia. He shuttles between Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, Cambodia, and Australia. The views posted here are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of the companies he represents.

Posted on February 17, 2013, in General, Politics, Religion and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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Charlotte Setijadi

Anthropologist & Contemporary Historian of Chinese Diaspora in Southeast Asia


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