Thursday, September 13, 2012

Understanding the Concept of Infallibility within the Church

by M. J. Joachim

The concept of infallibility has always been a bit puzzling for me. I mean, if there’s only one true God, then how can anyone (leader and head or the Church or otherwise), be considered infallible?

As I was immersing myself in writings pertaining to this last night, it occurred to me that I needed time to digest what I was reading, because Church history itself has worked tirelessly to clarify this precept.

From what I can gather, the concept of infallibility was a direct response to quash heresies taking place early on in the Church. It was the Church’s way of establishing authority in matters of faith, to prevent critical errors from manifesting themselves among the faithful, thereby providing a concrete source of sound doctrine for Catholics.

Much like parents are the authorities in a family, bishops (including the pope), rightly stepped up to administer their roles as authorities in the Catholic Church. This is not to imply any of them quit being human. Nor does it state the pope can never err. History has repeatedly proven popes are as capable of sinning as the rest of us, some of them to the great detriment of the Church.

The concept of infallibility, therefore, is one of authoritative direction, created by human bishops, intended to lead us more toward Christ and His teachings, and utilized to promote consistent truth as it pertains to what the faithful believe and hold to be sacred. It is a unifying concept that works to bring Catholics closer together as one family, minimize unnecessary disputes among us and help us draw nearer to Christ and His teachings.

As a mom, this makes a lot of sense to me now. You see, kids grow through stages, the earliest of which is when they think their parents are infallible. Without warning, the day comes when they realize mom and dad aren’t perfect, but there’s no way they can love their parents any less for it. In no time at all, they’re thinking and acting for themselves – I call these the gray hair days. Still, they rely on those same parents for direction, recognizing their wisdom and trusting in their guidance…an infallible guidance, if you will, based on years of experience, lessons learned and hope and trust in Christ the Lord.

This concept of infallibility, therefore, is a concept based on respecting and trusting authority and its rightful place in our lives. Reason dictates that trust can and will be tested – sometimes to the point of breaking. However, love and respect overcome and heal the wounds of broken trust, placing value once again, in that which should be considered sacred bonds – i.e. the bonds between parents and children and the bond between Church leaders and their followers.

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