The Pope Is Not Infallible
IT WAS not until the Vatican Council of 1870 that the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Vatican City was declared to be infallible when he speaks officially as head of the church on faith and morals. But the facts prove that he is not infallible. Even many leaders of the Catholic church argued that point during the month-long debate on infallibility at the Vatican Council of 1870.
Newman of England, who later became a cardinal, as well as Archbishop Kenrick of St. Louis opposed papal infallibility. So also did Bishop Strossmayer from the leading Croatian university and Bishop Hefele of Germany, to mention a few. Bishop Hefele stated that he had sought proof of papal infallibility for thirty years and had been unable to find it.
The declaration of infallibility is based upon the assumption that the apostle Peter was chosen by Jesus Christ to be the foundation of the Christian church and that the popes are his lawful successors. The book The Holy See at Work by Peter Canisius Van Lierde, who was Papal Sacristan and Vicar General of the Pope for Vatican City, states on page 55: “Our Lord determined the object of faith and morals, the incomparable treasure which He transmitted to the Church for the elevation, the spiritual life and the happiness of men. This patrimony is of such importance to humanity that Christ wished to entrust its preservation through the centuries to the assistance of the Holy Spirit, who confers infallibility upon Peter and his successors.” This basic assumption is in error, and therefore the conclusion drawn from it, that the Pope is infallible, is in error. Consider the facts.
PETER NOT HEAD OF CHURCH
Rather than giving support to the contention that Peter was made head of the Christian church by Jesus Christ, the Holy Scriptures show that Jesus Christ kept that position for himself, giving it to no one else. Many years after Jesus’ resurrection the apostle Paul wrote, according to the Catholic Douay Version: “Christ is the head of the church.” (Eph. 5:23) There is no evidence in the Scriptures that Peter was the head of the church. That he was not is clear from the record of the first church council that was held in Jerusalem, about 49 C.E. Rather than presiding over the council, Peter addressed it as did Barnabas and Paul, but it was James who summed up the matter under discussion and made the recommendation that was followed by the council.—Acts 15:6-29.
It was not Peter who wrote most of the letters of instruction on faith and morals to the early church. Only two were written by him, but fourteen were written by the apostle Paul. That the apostle Paul did not regard Peter as the divinely appointed head of the church is evident from what he states at Galatians 2:9 (Dy): “James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship.” Thus Cephas or Peter was not acknowledged by Paul, who had received the holy spirit, as being the foundation and head of the church, but only as being one of those who “seemed to be pillars” in it. Later he rebuked Peter to his face for actions unbecoming of an apostle.—Gal. 2:11-14.
But you may say, what about the statement by Jesus at Matthew 16:18 (Dy), where he says: “I say to thee: That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church. And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”? The assumption that Peter is the rock foundation to which Jesus referred is in error. Peter himself testifies as to who that foundation is when he says, at 1 Peter 2:4-8 (Dy), that the congregation are “living stones built up, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood.” Then he refers to Jesus Christ as “the stone which the builders rejected,” “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of scandal, to them who stumble at the word.” Thus Peter plainly confesses that the Lord Jesus Christ is that rock or foundation cornerstone upon whom the church is built.
When Jesus acknowledged Peter’s faith, he said that he would build his church, not upon Peter, but upon himself whom Peter had just confessed as being the Son of the living God. This is in harmony with Ephesians 2:20 (Dy), which calls Christ “the chief corner stone.” Since Peter was not the foundation and head of the church he could have no successors. Therefore the Pope has no authoritative basis for his claim of primacy and infallibility.
POPES HAVE ERRED
By official proclamation Pope Pius XII declared as dogma that Mary, after completing her course, “was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” But this declaration is in direct contradiction to the inspired Scriptures and therefore is in error. The Scriptures plainly state that no fleshly body can enter heavenly glory, and this is in accord with sound reasoning, which tells us that fleshly human bodies were made for life on this earth under its atmospheric canopy, not for the realm of spirit creatures. With good reason, then, the Scriptures state at 1 Corinthians 15:44, 45, 50 (Dy) with regard to the resurrection of the members of Christ’s church: “It is sown a natural body: it shall rise a spiritual body. If there be a natural body, there is also a spiritual body, as it is written: The first man Adam was made into a living soul; the last Adam into a quickening spirit. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot possess the kingdom of God.”
Pope Pius IX officially declared that Mary “was preserved free from all stain of original sin.” This, too, is an error that conflicts with God’s Word of truth. An inspired statement written more than twenty years after Jesus had ascended to heaven states: “By one man sin entered into this world and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.” (Rom. 5:12, Dy) No exception is made for Mary. After the birth of Jesus she even presented a sin offering in connection with her purification. (Luke 2:22-24; Lev. 12:8) Like everyone else who descended from Adam, Mary was born in sin, and no Bible writer states otherwise. Speaking for Christ’s followers, of whom Mary was one, the apostle John states: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”—1 John 1:8, Dy.
When the facts are examined, it becomes clear that the claim of infallibility for the Pope is an outright falsehood designed to mislead trusting people. Regarding religious leaders who deceive, the Bible states: “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:13) As Jesus forewarned, there is grave danger to those who blindly follow the lead of such men.—Matt. 15:14.