The Roman Catholic Church teaches that “the infallibility of the Magisterium of the Pastors extends to all the elements of doctrine, including moral doctrine, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, expounded, or observed” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, III.126.96.36.199). In short, Rome teaches the infallibility of the Magisterial Church.
Charles Hodge (d. 1878), in Systematic Theology, gives five arguments against the infallibility of the Church of Rome: 1) it is founded on a wrong theory of the church, 2) it is founded on the false assumption of the perpetuity of the Apostleship, 3) it is founded on a false interpretation of Christ’s promise, 4) it is contradicted by facts, and 5) it is contradicted by the present doctrinal errors in the Church of Rome. Though Hodge’s arguments are all solid, I appreciate his third one:
The third decisive argument against the infallibility of the Church is, that Christ never promised to preserve it from all error. What is here meant is that Christ never promised the true Church, that is, “the company of true believers,” that they should not err in doctrine. He did promise that they should not fatally apostatize from the truth. He did promise that He would grant his true disciples such a measure of divine guidance by his Spirit, that they should know enough to be saved. He, moreover, promised that He would call men into the ministry, and give them the qualifications of faithful teachers, such as were the presbyters whom the Apostles ordained in every city.
But there is no promise of infallibility either to the Church as a whole, or to any class of men in the Church. Christ promised to sanctify his people; but this was not a promise to make them perfectly holy in this life. He promised to give them joy and peace in believing; but this is not a promise to make them perfectly happy in this life —that they should have no trials or sorrows. Then, why should the promise to teach be a promise to render infallible. As the Church has gone through the world bathed in tears and blood, so has she gone soiled with sin and error. It is just as manifest (obvious) that she has never been infallible, as that she has never been perfectly holy. Christ no more promised the one than the other.
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