When most folks (Catholic and non-Catholic alike) hear “papal infallibility”, they often think “Catholics have to believe everything the pope says. They have to believe he’s never wrong.” Except that sometimes he is wrong, and that idea is too. In light of all the commentary we are going to hear in the coming weeks as the Church prepares to elect a new pope, it’s a good time to take a look at this particular Church teaching.
First, Catholics believe that Christ himself established the papacy by declaring Peter “rock” (Mt. 16:18) Thus, the “Chair of Peter” is the one the pope occupies as Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff of the Church. All popes are heir to the legacy of Peter. As John Zmirak explains, “What the bishop is for his diocese, the pope is for the whole church.” (more…)