The Indefectibility of the Church, the Pope, and the body of Bishops

It is a dogma of the ordinary and universal Magisterium that the Church is indefectible. She can never go astray from the path of salvation and She can never lead anyway astray from the path of salvation. This dogma is based on the teaching of Jesus in the Gospels:

[Matthew]
{16:17} And in response, Jesus said to him: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father, who is in heaven.
{16:18} And I say to you, that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.
{16:19} And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound, even in heaven. And whatever you shall release on earth shall be released, even in heaven.”

The Magisterium has always interpreted this passage to mean that the Church is indefectible. For anyone lead astray from the true faith or from the path of salvation is on the path to Hell.

This implies that no Pope can ever be a heretic. For if the head of the Church defects from the Faith, the Church cannot be said to be indefectible. For the Church is not a body without a head. And Christ himself said that the indefectibility of the Church is based on Peter (and his successors) as the Rock by which the Church is secured against the gates of Hell. Therefore, the Pope is also indefectible. He can sin even gravely. He can err in his personal theological opinions. His non-infallible teachings can err to a limited extent only. But he can never teach material heresy and he can never commit formal heresy.

The indefectibility of the Church and the Pope then implies that the body of Bishops — as a body, not each individual Bishop — is also indefectible. For Christ did not choose only one Apostle, Peter, but twelve Apostles, with Peter as their head. So while an individual Bishop can go astray, just as Judas did, the body of Bishops cannot go astray. For then it would be as if the cornerstone, Peter, remained secure, while the rest of the foundation of the Church crumbled. But that would be contrary to the indefectibility of the Church.

All things to the contrary are false, including:
* that the Antichrist will ever become the Pope, or that any Pope will become the Antichrist
* that the false prophet who assists the Antichrist will ever be Pope
* that any invalid Pope (i.e. antipope) will ever be accepted by the universal Church on earth
* that any valid Pope will ever become invalid by apostasy, heresy, or schism, or by any other sin
* that any Pope can teach heresy or commit apostasy, heresy, or schism
* that any apostate, heretic, or schismatic will ever be elected as a valid Pope
* that the body of Bishops will ever teach heresy, or commit apostasy, heresy, or schism
* that the body of Bishops will ever follow an invalid Pope or antipope or false prophet or the Antichrist
* that the true Church will ever be just a remnant of the faithful while the institutional Church goes astray

In my study of claimed private revelation, I have found many false private revelations which claim, in one way or another, some of the above falsehoods about the indefectibility of the Church, the Pope, and the body of Bishops.

In recent months, some conservative Catholics have begun to suggest or even state outright that Pope Francis has taught heresy or committed heresy or that he is leading the Church astray. Such claims are heretical and schismatic, and are clearly contrary to the teaching of our Lord on the indefectibility of the Church and the Pope. The First Vatican Council taught that each Pope has the gift of truth and a never-failing faith. And that is the teaching of Christ in the Gospels as well.

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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2 Responses to The Indefectibility of the Church, the Pope, and the body of Bishops

  1. Tom Mazanec says:

    As I mentioned before, I have seen Sedevacantist websites claiming all Popes since 1958 were antipopes. And not just “suggesting” either.

    • Ron Conte says:

      That type of claim is contrary to Catholic dogma and contrary to Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels. It’s also contrary to the teaching of the First Vatican Council, which most sedevacantists claim to accept.

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