The Pope Is Not Perfect: What Infallibility Actually Means
During the last few decades, Catholics have become subject to a form of Papolatry. They have fallen into a false notion that the Pope is faultless and without error. Since Pope Francis was elected to the Petrine Office, this belief amongst Catholics has become more evident by each passing day.
I have witnessed this sentiment with differing examples where Pope Francis makes a statement contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Immediately, Catholics run to his defense. In December of last year, Pope Francis denied the miracle of the multiplication of fish and loaves, and Jimmy Akin rushed to his defense. In February of this year, he stated that if you do not feel like you are a sinner, then you shouldn’t go to Mass. The latest fiasco is with Pope Francis’ 10 Things That Bring Joy, not one of them having to do with Christ and His Church.
This attitude was around during the pontificates of Popes Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II. In 2010, Pope Benedict mentioned that “condoms may be ‘first step’ in moralization of sexuality”. Pope John Paul II kissed a Koran. Jimmy Akin also wrote about that as well.
This conviction leads one to believe that the Pope is free from error at all times. It is a misunderstanding that assumes that the Pope is constantly guided and formed by the Holy Spirit. This is simply erroneous and conflicts with Catholic Church teachings.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states (my emphasis):
“The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful — who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. … The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,” and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.” CCC 891
This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.
How can a man be a sinner one minute and upon being announced the Pope, transform into a Saint the next? The answer is simple: he cannot.
God does not readily bestow such omnipotent qualities, even on the highest of men. He created only two perfect beings, His Son Jesus Christ, and His Mother Mary. These two are the only humans to have walked the Earth who were blameless in the eyes of the Lord. Only these two could be described as being in perfect unity with the Holy Spirit.
Pope Francis, when asked who he was in an interview by America Magazine, responded “a sinner”. A phrase that many Catholics and non-Catholics have remembered that the Pope has publicly categorizes himself as. A sinner who in a Papal audience admitted to going “to confession every two weeks”. A sinner with free-will. Free-will that allows him to choose to do the opposite of what the Holy Spirit may be calling him to do.
Think about it another way. If you were elected to the Papacy, would you not need the Sacraments? Would you do everything God wants you to do? Unless you are the Immaculate Conception, the answer would be “no”.
Pope Francis began his pontificate by asking for our prayers. If the Pope is free from error in all that he does, why would he need prayers? Because he is not flawless or free from error in his day to day operations.
If the Pope is impeccable due to his office, then every Pope in history should be canonized today. This would even include the Borgia Popes who were known for their debauchery, sexual immorality, thievery, and dishonesty to name a few. By today’s standards, they would not be considered saints because of the public scandal that they caused by their words and deeds.
Are they automatically saints because of their office? Knowing that a saint is someone who lived a holy life, both publicly and privately, I would gander that they are not.
Scrutinize the life of the Pope based upon his teachings and the life he lives. It should closely resemble that of Jesus, in many ways.