The Pope Guides the Ark of Salvation with never-failing Faith

God decided on a plan for the Church — the body of Christ, with Christ himself as Her head, and with the Holy Spirit as Her soul. God’s plan is not capable of failure. And it is dogma that the Church is indefectible, and that the Pope has immunity from error and a never-failing faith. Therefore, the Ark of Salvation, guided as it is by the Pope, can never run aground or fail to reach Her destination. For the Ark is guiding us all through the great Flood of sin in this world, to safety in Heaven.

The Pope is the Rock on which the Church is founded. Therefore, he can never fail in faith. Jesus prayed for Peter and his successors, so that their faith would never fail. And then the Pope, with his immunity from error and a never-failing faith turns and confirms the Bishops, so that they too can never fail in faith, as a body (not as individuals).

But some Catholics reject this doctrine, instead claiming that, when the Pope is not teaching infallibly, he can go astray to any degree or type of error, even to teach or commit heresy. Let’s consider what that would mean.

1. If so, it would mean that Peter and his successors are only the Rock on which the Church is founded when teaching infallibly, and otherwise they would be sand. What a foolish plan that would be, if God indeed had designed the Church that way. Instead, each Pope is the Rock at all times, in his person and office. And this is clear from his gift of a never-failing faith, as faith is a gift to a person, infused into their very soul. Faith is not infused into an office, nor does the Pope only have faith when speaking infallibly. So Peter is the Rock at all times, and therefore at all times he has immunity from grave error in doctrine and discipline. Even his opinions cannot err to the extent of heresy.

{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.

{22:32} But I have prayed for you, so that your faith may not fail, and so that you, once converted, may confirm your brothers.”

2. If so, it would mean that the Pope, as the pilot and helmsman of the Ark of Salvation, only has his eyes open while speaking infallibly, and otherwise, he is has his eyes closed! That would not be a workable plan for the indefectible Ark of Salvation, so it is obviously not God’s plan. Popes cannot err gravely and run the Ark of Salvation aground, except when teaching infallibly. No one who guides a ship opens his eye only some of the time. His eyes are always open and enlightened by God, so that the Ark of Salvation is secure at all times.

“For certainly, in the time of the Flood, the ark of Noah was one, prefiguring the one Church. And She, having been completed by [the measure of] one cubit, [Genesis 6:16] had one pilot and helmsman, that is, Noah.” [Unam Sanctam, 1.]

3. Saint Robert Bellarmine condemns the idea that Popes can teach or commit heresy, except when acting infallibly; he called that idea proximate to heresy. He states his opinion that the Pope “cannot in any way be heretical, or publicly teach heresy”, regardless of whether he is teaching alone or with an Ecumenical Council. [Article]

So it is absolutely absurd and even heretical for anyone to claim that a Pope is only trustworthy in his decisions of doctrine and discipline, which guides the Ark of Salvation, when acting infallibly. The teachings of the Magisterium have made this clear, over the years. And no one has the role to judge or condemn the Pope, as so many are now doing.

The Roman Pontiff: Immunity from Error and Never-failing Faith

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

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