Infallibility: What it is and ain’t

Over at the Deacon’s Bench last week, a reader wrote concerning Cardinal Egan’s grotesque remarks

Comments like this leave the Church with basically no credibility when they argue the Holy Spirit is working through our leaders. He, a leader of the Church, is obviously wrong on this. So what else is the Church wrong on? I’m profoundly sad to read this.

For what it’s worth, it’s precisely because we have men like this as leaders that the Holy Spirit is necessary. Infallibility is not inspiration. It’s a negative protection that *presumes* our leaders are liable to be sinful disgusting human failures and idiots, not living saints. it’s more accurate to say that the Holy Spirit is keeping our sinful and stupid leaders (and, by the way, us) from making something a fixture of Catholic teaching than to say that he is “working through our leaders” (except, of course, in the sense that he works through them when they repeat teaching or do liturgical actions which they did not invent and which they are merely passing on). In such instances, their personal morality does not (thank God) enter into it any more than your math teacher’s personality or personal morality matters when he tells you 2+2=4.

Not to take away a bit from the sheer disgustingness of Egan’s remarks (unless this is dementia talking).

For further discussion of what infallibility means, go here and here.

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