INFALLIBILITY

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INFALLIBILITY ; exemption from the possibility of error. God, of course, is infallible, because the idea of .divinity excludes that of error; Christ was in fallible, and, according to the belief of the Greek and Catholic church, and of most Protestant sects, the apostles were also infallible, after the descent of the Holy Ghost. Here, however, the Protestants and Catholics divide. The latter, founding. their creed on tradition (q. v.) as well as on the Bible, maintain that the tradition, that is, the general doctrine and belief, handed down from age to age, and taught by the great body of the pastors, is above the possibility of error ; consequently, also, the councils are infallible, because the councils, according to a Catholic. writer, " do not make truths or dogmas, as some Protestants maintain, but merely express the belief of the church on certain points in question :" the truth pronounced, therefore, always existed, but had not been previously declared by the church. From several passages in the Bible, the Catholic infers that the abovementioned tradition and the councils are under the continual guidance and influence of the Holy Ghost: hence the formula so often repeated by the council of Trent, the last general council of the Catholic church"the holy council lawfully assembled under the guidance of the Holy Ghost." It is clear, that, if the councils are infallible, it is of the utmost importance for the Catholic to know what are lawful councils. This is a point which, as may be easily conceived, has created great discussions in the Catholic church, because the popes claimed the sole right to convoke councils. (See Council) So far all Roman Catholics agree respecting infallibility, namely, that Christ, the apostles, the body of the pastors, the traditions of the church, and the councils, are infallible ; but they disagree respecting the infallibility of the pope. The ultramontane theologians maintain that the pope is infallible, whenever he pronounces dogmatically on a point of doctrine, to settle the faith of the whole Catholic church. These theologians are therefore called infallibleists. The theologians of the Gallican church do not admit this infallibility. The assembly of the French clergy, in 1682, laid down the maxim, " that in questions of faith, the sovereign pontiff has the chief part, and. that his decrees concern the whole church ; but that his judgment is not irreformable, until it be confirmed by the acquiescence of the church." Bossuet, in his Defensio Declared. Cleri Gallic, 2d part, 1. 12 seq. has treated this point at length. He maintains, that the pope is by no means infallible, and that a papal decision is not to be considered infallible until the church acquiesces in it, which, he admits, may be done, in general, silently.In politics, the word infallible is used in a different sense. The position that any political person, or body, is infallible, only means, that there is no appeal from such person or body. When the English public law declares that the king can do no wrong, eveiy one knows that this is merely a political fiction. But the genuine supporters of di vine right believe in a somewhat more real political infallibility of kings.