The Charism of Infallibility: The Magisterium

Vatican Council II, The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Chapter 25

Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff
are to be respected by all
as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth.
In matters of faith and morals,
the bishops speak in the name of Christ, and
the faithful are
to accept their teaching and
adhere to it with a religious assent of souls.
This religious submission
of will and
of mind
must be shown in a special way
to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff,
even when he is not speaking ex cathedra ...
his supreme magisterium is acknowledged ...
the judgments made by him ... adhered to ...
known chiefly
from the character of the documents,
from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine,
from his manner of speaking.
... the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility,
they can ... proclaim Christ's doctrine of infallibility...
when they are dispersed around the world ...
maintaining the bond of unity
among themselves and
with Peter's successor,
while teaching authentically on a matter of
faith or
concur in a single viewpoint as the one which must be held ...
This authority is even more clearly verified when,
gathered together in an ecumenical council,
they are teachers and judges of
faith and
morals for the universal church.
Their definitions must be adhered to with the submission of faith.
This infallibility
with which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to be endowed
in defining a doctrine of
faith and
extends as far as the deposit of divine revelation which must be
religiously guarded and
faithfully expounded.
This is the infallibility
which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops
enjoys in virtue of his office, when
as the supreme
shepherd and
teacher of all the faithful,
confirms his brethren in their faith,
proclaims ... some doctrine of
faith or
Therefore his definitions,
of themselves, and
not from the consent of the Church,
are justly styled irreformable, for they are
pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit,
assistance promised to him
in blessed Peter ...
need no approval of others,
nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment.
... the Roman Pontiff is not pronouncing judgment
as a private person ...
but rather as the supreme teacher of the universal Church,
as one in whom
the charism of infallibility of the Church herself is individually present,
he is
expounding or
defending a doctrine of Catholic faith.
The infallibility
promised to the Church
resides also in the body of bishops
when that body exercises supreme teaching authority
with the successor of Peter ...
When either
the Roman Pontiff, or
the body of bishops together with him
defines a judgment
they pronounce it in accord with Revelation itself ...
Under the guiding light of the Holy Spirit, Revelation is thus
religiously preserved and
faithfully expounded in the Church.
The Roman Pontiff and
the bishops, strive painstakingly and by appropriate means
to inquire properly into that Revelation and
to give apt expression to its contents.
... they
do not allow that there could be any new public revelation
pertaining to the divine deposit of truth.

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By Paul Flanagan and Robert Schihl.
Catholic Biblical Apologetics, © Copyright 1985-1997, Paul Flanagan and Robert Schihl

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture texts are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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Last Updated: January 3, 1997