Galileo before the Holy Office, a 19th century...
Galileo before the Holy Office, a 19th century painting by Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury via Wikipedia

Infallibility is a Catholic doctrine that was formulated in 1870 by the First Vatican Council, which some believers say has always been present in the Catholic Church.

Strictly speaking, infallibility refers to the Pope‘s inability to err when speaking “ex cathedra” (from the chair), and only when solemnly defining issues concerning faith and morals.

One often hears that, since 1870, only the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary are considered “ex cathedra.” However, some Catholics maintain that infallibility extends to all Catholic teachings concerning faith and morals.

In fact, there seems to be some debate as to just how this term is to be understood. But one thing is clear: Infallibility does not refer to cosmological issues nor does it relate to grave blunders in ethical judgment and related behavior.

For instance, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was formally tried and found guilty by the Church for claiming that the sun – not the earth – was at the center of the solar system. The Catholic Encyclopedia explains this as follows:

As to the Galileo affair, it is quite enough to point out the fact that the condemnation of the heliocentric theory was the work of a fallible tribunal. The pope cannot delegate the exercise of his infallible authority to the Roman Congregations, and whatever issues formally in the name of any of these, even when approved and confirmed in the ordinary official way by the pope, does not pretend to be ex cathedra and infallible. The pope, of course, can convert doctrinal decisions of the Holy Office, which are not in themselves infallible, into ex cathedra papal pronouncements, but in doing so he must comply with the conditions already explained — which neither Paul V nor Urban VIII did in the Galileo case (Source »

TOTNYC Presents — Papal Infallibility: What It Means, & Wha


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