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The Pope is Infallible

[ This text is also available in Swedish ]

In his most trivial words and actions, the Pope must be looked upon as the Viceregent of Christ upon Earth, and no circumstances can be imagined under which this character will desert him. In its retrospective character, the aspect of the dogma becomes if possible more formidable [...]

New York Times, July 17, 1870

This text, published the day after the first Vatical Council adopted the doctrine of papal infallibility, shows how it has been misunderstood from the very beginning.

The papal infallibility, as it's supposed to work, does not work 24/7, on issues big and small. It takes action when the pope makes an official statement concerning matters of faith and moral for the entire church. In other words:

... when the Roman Pontiff speaks ex cathedra, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals.

First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ, chapter 4, 9

So the pope has never been supposed to have a divine advantage at the horse races. The undiluted truth speaks forth in matters which are far more obscure and, conveniently, impossible to test. One example: In 1950, pope Pius XII told the world that Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

Another example might or might not be illuminating. But there isn't.

Considering how much fuss people have made over the supposed papal infallibility, the most surprising fact is perhaps that it's only been used once since 1870.

Sources:
New York Times, July 17, 1870
Wikipedia: Papal infallibility
Catholic Encyclopedia: Infallibility
First Vatican Council (1869-1870)
John Paul II, The successor of Peter teaches infallibly, March 17, 1993

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