Papal Infallibility

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss why, in 1870, the Vatican Council issued the decree ‘pastor aeternus’ which, among other areas, affirmed papal infallibility. It meant effectively that the Pope could not err in his teachings, an assertion with its roots in the early Church when the bishop of Rome advanced to being the first among equals, then overall head of the Christian Church in the West. The idea that the Pope could not err had been a double-edged sword from the Middle Ages, though; while it apparently conveyed great power, it also meant a Pope was constrained by whatever a predecessor had said. If a later Pope were to contradict an earlier Pope, then one of them must be wrong, and how could that be…if both were infallible?

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  • Tom O'Loughlin No other episodes
    Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Nottingham
  • Rebecca Rist No other episodes
    Professor in Medieval History at the University of Reading
  • Miles Pattenden No other episodes
    Departmental Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Oxford

Reading list

  • Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes
    Eamon Duffy (Yale University Press, 2006) Google Books →
  • Ten Popes Who Shook the World
    Eamon Duffy (Yale University Press, 2011) Google Books →
  • The True and False Infallibility of the Popes
    Joseph Fessler (First published 1871; CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2011) Google Books →
  • The Pope and the Professsor: Pius IX, Ignaz von Dollinger, and the Quandary of the Modern Age
    Thomas Albert Howard (Oxford University Press, 2017) Google Books →
  • Infallible?: An Unresolved Enquiry
    Hans Kung (Continuum, 1994)
  • The Papal Monarchy: The Western Church from 1050 to 1250
    Colin Morris (Clarendon Press, 1989) Google Books →
  • The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine
    Jaroslav Pelikan (University of Chicago Press, 1971-89) Google Books →
  • Popes and Bishops: The Papal Monarchy in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries
    Kenneth Pennington (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984) Google Books →
  • Limits of Thought and Power in Medieval Europe
    Edward Peters (Routledge, 2001) Google Books →
  • Certain Sainthood: Canonization and the Origins of Papal Infallibility in the Medieval Church
    Donald S. Prudlo (Cornell University Press, 2016) Google Books →
  • The Papacy 1073-1198: Continuity and Innovation
    I.S. Robinson (Cambridge University Press, 1990) Google Books →
  • The Papacy and the Orthodox: Sources and History of a Debate
    Edward Siecienski (Oxford University Press, 2017) Google Books →
  • Origins of Papal Infallibility 1150-1350: A Study on the Concepts of Infallibility, Sovereignty and Tradition in the Middle Ages
    Brian Tierney (Brill, 1972) Google Books →
  • Church Law and Constitutional Thought in the Middle Ages
    Brian Tierney (Variorum, 1979) Google Books →
  • Rights, Law and Infallibility in Medieval Thought
    Brian Tierney (Routledge, 1997) Google Books →
  • Empire of Souls: Robert Bellarmine and the Christian Commonwealth
    Stefania Tutino (Oxford University Press, 2010) Google Books →
  • The Growth of Papal Government in the Middle Ages: A Study in the Ideological Relation of Clerical to Lay Power
    Walter Ullmann (Methuen, 1970) Google Books →
  • Law and Politics in the Middle Ages: An Introduction to the Sources of Medieval Political Ideas
    Walter Ullmann (Cornell University Press, 1973) Google Books →
  • Papacy and Political Ideas in the Middle Ages
    Walter Ullmann (Variorum, 1975) Google Books →
  • A Short History of the Papacy in the Middle Ages
    Walter Ullmann (Routledge, 2002) Google Books →

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Auto-category: 262 (Papacy and Roman Catholic Church)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. In 1870, the Vatican Council issued the dogmatic words Pasto Aeternus, which among other areas affirmed papal infallibility.