By Keith Thompson
Implications of Vatican I’s Definition on Papal infallibility
The First Vatican Council defined the dogma of papal infallibility in 1870. This teaching says that the pope is infallible when he decrees a teaching on faith or morals to be believed by the universal church or when he ratifies an ecumenical council.
In their work Encyclopedia of Catholicism Frank K. Flinn and J. Gordon Melton note that many Roman Catholics at the time of Vatican I who believed papal infallibility to be a false innovation contrary to church tradition protested the council’s decision to decree the doctrine and even left communion with Rome because of it:
In protest, 55 council members left Rome the day before the final vote. Amid widespread disagreement and protest over the council, those now known as OLD CATHOLICS separated from communion with Rome.1
Moreover, Johann Joseph Ignaz von Döllinger was one of the most renowned Roman Catholic historians during the time of Vatican I in the nineteenth-century. He taught church history for forty-seven years. Thus his comments on the Vatican I’s decision are noteworthy. He wrote the following in his work The Pope and the Council in opposition to and just prior to the passing of the papal infallibility decree showing his distaste for such an unfounded doctrine,
This one fact—that a Great Council, universally received afterwards without hesitation throughout the Church, and presided over by Papal legates, pronounced the dogmatic decision of a Pope heretical, and anathematized him by name as a heretic—is a proof, clear as the sun at noonday, that the notion of any peculiar enlightenment or inerrancy of the Popes was then utterly unknown to the whole Church . The only resource of the defenders of Papal Infallibility, since Torquemada and Bellarmine, has been to attack the Acts of the Council as spurious, and maintain that they are a wholesale forgery of the Greeks.2
Döllinger was compelled to write this to try to persuade Vatican I not to decree papal infallibility in light of the facts of history. The incident we quoted in Döllinger’s book which refutes the notion of papal infallibility concerns the seventh-century Pope Honorius. With this pope you have one of the clearest examples of papal error in all of history.
The background information pertaining to Pope Honorius’ fallibility involved a heresy in the early Church called Monotheletism which taught that Jesus Christ only had one will as opposed to the orthodox belief which says He has two wills which arise from his two natures. The Monothelite heresy was thus a natural extension of the Monophysite heresy which said Jesus only had one nature as opposed two.
The Council of Chalcedon also known as the Fourth Ecumenical Council in A.D. 451 repudiated the Monophysite heresy in its creed and affirmed that Jesus had two natures saying, “We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess . . . two natures. . .” Then later, the Sixth Ecumenical Council also known as the Third Council of Constantinople affirmed that Jesus had two wills arising from these two natures and condemned the Monothelite heresy which said Jesus only had one will. [
Now, Sergius I, Patriarch of Constantinople from A.D. 610 to 638, was a heretic Monothelite believing that Jesus indeed had two natures but only one will. In A.D. 634 he wrote to Pope Honorius who reigned as pope from A.D. 625 to 638 regarding this theological matter. Pope Honorius responded to Sergius I and also wrote to others promoting the Monothelite heresy in his official capacity as pope. Honorius stated, ‘We confess one will of our Lord Jesus Christ. . .”3 Notice, that the phrase, “we confess” is the very plural phrase popes use today in speaking for the church as a whole.
Honorius was then condemned by the Sixth Ecumenical Council of A.D. 680-681 as a heretic for this teaching he promulgated throughout the church as the bishop of Rome.4 Romanists believe the Sixth Ecumenical Council which condemned Honorius to be infallible since it was ratified by Pope Leo II (A.D. 611 – 683). In order to demonstrate Honorius was fallible since he was teaching ex cathedra, we must look to Rome’s definition of what an ex cathedra teaching is. Vatican I defined it the following way,
We teach and define that it is a dogma divinely revealed: that the Roman pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when in discharge of the office of pastor and Teacher of all Christian, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, by the divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that His Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals; and that, therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, irreformable.5
Based on the Sixth Ecumenical Council’s condemnation of Pope Honorius, William Webster notes that Honorius did meet the basic criteria of ex cathedra. This proves the pope taught error ex cathedra and was thus not infallible:
- The council condemned him specifically as a heretic and anathematized him in his official capacity as pope and not as a private theologian.
- He was condemned for following after and confirming the heresy of monotheletism.
- He was condemned for actively disseminating and propagating heretical teachings in his official capacity as pope which affected the whole church.6
Roman Catholics believe the Sixth Ecumenical Council which condemned Honorius was infallible. Yet, some Catholic apologists try to soften the position of Pope Leo II who ratified or confirmed this council. They will claim Pope Leo II only condemned Pope Honorius for negligence when he confirmed or ratified this council, or for failing to stamp out heresy, but not as actually being a heretic who taught heresy to the church.
In his book Pope Fiction the Roman apologist Patrick Madrid attempts to argue that although Pope Leo II confirmed or ratified the Sixth Ecumenical Council, he redefined it in a sense and did not condemn Honorius as a heretic Monothelite as the Council did, but only maintained that Honorius, with respect to Monothelitism, “failed in his duty to condemn it.”7 Madrid quotes Warren Carroll’s History of Christendom as proof which argues that in the supposed original Greek text of Leo II’s relevant letter to the Emperor, he says that Honorius merely permitted or allowed the faith to be subverted as opposed to the Latin version of the letter which says Honorius actually attempted to subvert the faith.8
The Greek version of Leo II’s letter says subverti permisit (i.e., “allowed to be overthrown”). The Latin version says subvertare conatus est (i.e., “attempted to overthrow”). Thus, one can see conflict and debate this creates. However, in his monumental work Oxford Dictionary of Popes noted Patristic expert and historian J.N.D. Kelly notes the truth of the matter saying that, “In the original Latin text he spoke of him as having ‘attempted to subvert the pure faith by his profane betrayal’; in the Greek version this was softened to ‘by his betrayal he allowed the pure teaching to be sullied.’”9
Pope Leo II’s position was not merely that Honorius was guilty of negligence in allowing the faith to be subverted, but that there was an actual attempt by Honorius to subvert the faith with false Monothelite heresy. Pope Leo II anathematized Honorius in this letter to the Emperor, in his letter to the Spanish bishops, and in his letter to the Spanish King Ervig. In none of those does Pope Leo II ever qualify his position by saying the Sixth Ecumenical Council erred since Honorius was not a heretic. Leo II said nothing of the sort. Both this council and Pope Leo II affirmed Honorius was a heretic who was anathema. And since Honorius taught heresy to the church in his capacity as bishop of Rome according to this council Catholics believe to be infallible, this refutes the unbiblical doctrine of papal Infallibility using Rome’s own standards.
Fallibility of Vatican II on Islam
Fallibility of Vatican II on Islam
Another example of papal fallibility has to do with Vatican II’s heretical teachings. The Second Vatican Council was opened by Pope John XXIII on October 11, 1962. It was concluded by Pope Paul VI on December 8, 1965. Contained in the documents of Vatican II are formal decrees10 on faith and morals that not only contradict clear Scripture, but previous Roman Catholic dogma as well.
These Vatican II decrees were "infallibly" ratified or confirmed by Pope Paul VI who signed his signature at the end of each one. The decrees on faith or morals of Vatican II are thus binding and infallible to Catholics since they were ratified by the pope.
As the Catholic Encyclopedia affirms in its article on general councils such as Vatican II,
. . . papal ratification formally promulgates the sentence of the council as an article of faith to be known and accepted by all the faithful. . . . A council's decrees approved by the pope are infallible by reason of that approbation, because the pope is infallible also extra concilium, without the support of a council.11
Similarly, Catholic scholar Ludwig Ott affirms,
. . .the resolutions of the General Councils are infallible. . . In order that a council be a general one it is necessary: a) that all the ruling Bishops in the world be invited; b) that in point of fact so many Bishops from the various countries, that they may be regarded as being representatives of the whole episcopate; c) that the Pope summon the Council, or at least invest the assembly with his authority and preside personally or by his Representative at the meeting, and ratify the resolutions. From the Papal ratifications, which can be explicit or implicit, the resolutions derive general legal binding power.12 
Moreover, Pope Paul VI solemnly closed every document of Vatican II with the following words proving Vatican II’s decrees are binding and infallible for Catholics,
Each and every one of the things set forth in this Decree has won the consent of the fathers. We, too, by the Apostolic Authority conferred on us by Christ, join with the venerable fathers in approving, decreeing, and establishing these things in the Holy Spirit, and we direct that what has thus been enacted in synod [council] be published to God’s glory . . . I, Paul, Bishop of the Catholic Church.13
The day before the end of the Vatican II, Pope Paul VI also said the following, “We decide moreover that all that has been established synodally is to be religiously observed by all the faithful.”14 Many prominent Roman Catholic writers have affirmed that Vatican II is an infallible council according to Catholic teaching. In his book What Catholics Really Believe, Karl Keating identified Vatican II, the twenty-first ecumenical council, as infallible with regard to its decrees involving faith or morals,
There have been twenty-one ecumenical councils, and most of them have issued doctrinal or moral decrees. Those decrees are infallible.15
With that said, if there is heresy regarding faith and morals in the allegedly infallible Vatican II decrees, this proves that Pope Paul VI was fallible and in error for ratifying and confirming the heresies in them. This would once again prove the doctrine of papal infallibility is refuted by history.
A major example of a heresy in Vatican II is that it said Muslims worship the same God as Christians. In the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate we read,
Upon the Moslems, too, the Church looks with esteem. They adore one God, living and enduring, merciful and all-powerful, Maker of heaven and earth and Speaker to men. They strive to submit wholeheartedly even to His inscrutable decrees, just as did Abraham, with whom the Islamic faith is pleased to associate itself.16
Notice Vatican II says Muslims, like Abraham, strive to submit to God’s decrees. Since Abraham strove to submit to the true God, Vatican II is saying Muslims do too. In Lumen Gentium Vatican II also said: “the Moslems, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind.”17 In support of the fact that these allegedly infallible Vatican II decrees teach the heresy that the Muslims and Christians have the same God, the teachings of the popes following Vatican II are important to consider. First, the citation from Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium regarding Muslims and Christians supposedly adoring the one true God is directly quoted as Catholic teaching in the more recent 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church (par. 841) promulgated by and approved by Pope John Paul II. With respect to these and the rest of the teachings contained in that Catechism, John Paul II stated the following in its Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum 3,
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved June 25th last and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church’s faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium. I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith. . .18 
This further affirms that the modern Roman Church’s official position is that the Muslims and Christians both adore the one true God. Commenting further on the Roman position regarding this issue, Pope Paul VI stated the following in 1972, “We would also like you to know that the Church recognizes the riches of the Islamic faith – a faith that binds us to the one God.”19 Pope John Paul II likewise stated, “We believe in the same God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection.”20 Pope Benedict XVI likewise stated, “Muslims worship God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, who has spoken to humanity.”21
The problem with Catholicism teaching Muslims worship the same God Christians do is the Islamic religion teaches Jesus Christ is not God. Surah 5:17 of the Quran teaches, “In blasphemy indeed are those that say that God is Christ the son of Mary. . .” It also denies the Trinity when in Surah 4:171 of the Quran we read, “say not ‘Three.’” Therefore, it is impossible and heretical to say that the Muslims submit to the true and living God since Muslims deny that God is a Triune God who includes Christ in the God-head.
Moreover, in Surah 19:35 of the Quran it denies the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. Thus, 1 John 2:23 of the Bible proves Muslims do not have the true God since it says: “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23). When 1 John 2:23 says “no one who denies the Son has the Father,” the Greek word for “has” is echei which here means to “have” God, “possess” God or have fellowship with God in the sense of a relationship.22 Thus, it is clear Catholicism is wrong for claiming the Muslims submit to and worship the true God since by denying Jesus’ sonship they prove they do not have God the Father at all. 
Scripture teaches that the gods of the heathen nations (e.g. the Arabian, Islamic “Allah”) are mere idols, not the true God (Psalms 96:5). The Bible further states that these false gods of the pagan false religions and other nations are actually demons in 1 Corinthians 10:20, “No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons” (1 Corinthians 10:20). Therefore, the Muslim god which originated in a different nation than that of Israel is a demon and not the true God.
Moreover, the Islamic demon Allah ordered the Muslims to kill and subjugate the Christians and the Jews in the Quran. The God of Abraham and the Christians, however, told believers to neither kill nor subjugate fellow Christians or Jews, but to love everyone and evangelize to unbelievers with the good news of Christ. Surah 9:29 of the Quran states:
Make war upon such of those to whom the Scriptures have been given [Jews and Christians] as believe not in God, or in the last day, and who forbid not that which God and His Apostle have forbidden, and who profess not the profession of the truth, until they pay tribute out of hand, and they be humbled.
Yet, in the Bible Jesus tells Christian to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44), to “treat people the same way you want them to treat you (Matthew 7:12),” and James tells Christians to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (James 2:8). Clearly we are not dealing with the same God.
By ratifying Vatican II, Pope Paul VI affirmed it was infallible that the Muslims adore the true God. Yet, this is error as we have shown since Muslims do not adore the true God, but a demon. Thus, Pope Paul VI was fallible and therefore papal infallibility is disproved.
Another error of Vatican II is its teaching that Muslims can be saved if they remain in Islam, as long as they do good works and are ignorant of the gospel and church. In Lumen Gentium we read, “Those also can attain to everlasting salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of their conscience.”23
Not only is this teaching contrary to Scripture since trust in Christ and the gospel are essential for salvation (John 3:18, 36; 14:6; Acts 4:12; 16:31; Romans 3:25; 10:9), but it even contradicts previously defined Catholic dogma. For example, Pope Eugene IV gave the following ex cathedra statement at the Council of Florence in 1439, “Whoever wills to be saved, before all things it is necessary that he holds the catholic faith . . . Likewise the Father is God, the Son is God and the holy Spirit is God. Yet they are not three gods, but one God.”24 Similarly, in 1302 Pope Boniface VIII declared the following in the bull Unam Sanctam: 
“We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”25
On the one hand we have Pope Paul VI who ratified Vatican II which said Muslims can be saved without being in the Catholic Church and holding to her teaching. But on the other hand Pope’s Eugene IV and Boniface VIII said one has to be in the Catholic Church and affirm her teachings to be saved. This is clear papal fallibility and God’s way of showing the world that the Catholic Church is not the true Church of Christ.
1) Frank K. Flinn, J. Gordon Melton, Encyclopedia of Catholicism, [Infobase Publishing, 2007], p. 621.
2) Johann Joseph Ignaz von Döllinger, The Pope and the Council, Second Edition, [Rivingtons, 1869], p. 74.
3) Quoted in Charles Joseph Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church, vol. 5 [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1896; AMS Reprint, 1972], p. 29.
3) Quoted in Charles Joseph Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church, vol. 5 [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1896; AMS Reprint, 1972], p. 29.
4) In the sixteenth session the council proclaimed: “Anathema to the heretic Sergius, to the heretic Cyrus, to the heretic Honorius. . .” In the eighteenth session’s decree of faith it was said: “the originator of all evil . . . found a fit tool for his will in . . . Honorius, Pope of Old Rome.” The council also said Satan had “actively employed them in raising up for the whole Church the stumbling-blocks of one will and one operation in the two natures of Christ our true God, one of the Holy Trinity; thus disseminating, in novel terms, amongst the orthodox people, an heresy.”
5) Vatican I, , First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ, Concerning the Infallible Teaching of the Roman Pontiff, ed. Vincent McNabb, O.P. [Burns and Oates, 1907], p. 47 italics mine.
6) William Webster, Holy Scripture The Ground and Pillar of our Faith, Volume II, [Christian Resources, 2001], p. 257.
7) Patrick Madrid, Pope Fiction, [Basilica Press, 1999], p. 160.
8) Warren Carroll, The History of Christendom, [Christendom College Press, 1987], p. 254.
9) J. N.D. Kelly, Oxford Dictionary of Popes, Second Edition, [Oxford University Press, 2010], p. 77.
10) e.g. Lumen Gentium, Dei Verbum, Nostra Aetate, etc.
11) Charles George Herbermann, Catholic Encyclopedia: An International Work of Reference on the Constitution, Doctrine, Discipline, and History of the Catholic Church, Vol. IV, [The Catholic Encyclopedia Inc., 1913], pp. 431, 433.
12) Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, [Tan Books and Publishers, Inc, 1960], p. 300.
13) Paul VI, Rome, at St. Peter’s, December 7, 1965, Walter M. Abbott, ed., "Papal Brief Declaring the Council Completed”, trans. Joseph Gallagher, in The Documents of Vatican II: With Notes and Comments by Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Authorities, [Piscataway, NJ: Association Press, 1967], p. 696.
14) Walter M. Abbott, ed., "Papal Brief Declaring the Council Completed”, trans. Joseph Gallagher, in The Documents of Vatican II: With Notes and Comments by Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Authorities, [Association Press, 1967], p. 738.
15) Karl Keating, What Catholics Really Believe-Setting the Record Straight: 52 Answers to Common Misconceptions About the Catholic Faith, [Ignatius Press, 1995], p. 15.
16) Walter M. Abbott, The Documents of Vatican II: With Notes and Comments by Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Authorities, Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, Nostra Aetate 3, trans. Joseph Gallagher, [Association Press, 1967], p. 663.
17) Walter M. Abbott, Lumen Gentium 16, The Documents of Vatican II: With Notes and Comments by Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Authorities, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, trans. Joseph Gallagher, [Association Press, 1967], p. 35.
18) John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum 3, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, [DoubleDay, 1994], p. 5.
19) Pope Paul VI, Speech, Sept. 9, 1972, L’Osservatore Romano, Sept. 21, 1972, p. 2.
20) Pope John Paul II, Addressing Young Muslims in Morocco, August 19, 1985, www.vatican.va
21) Pope Benedict XVI Amman, Jordan, May 9, 2009, time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1897119,00.html
22) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromily, Vol. 2, [Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1964-1976], pp. 822-824.23) Walter M. Abbott, Lumen Gentium 16, The Documents of Vatican II: With Notes and Comments by Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Authorities, trans. Joseph Gallagher, [Association Press, 1967], p. 663.
24) Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Session 8, November 22, 1439.
25) Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam, November 18, 1302.