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Vatican I declared Papal Infallibility, 1870.

The First Vatican Council adopted the dogmatic constitution Pastor Aeternus 150 years ago today. It is known for the definition of papal infallibility. The Church, the Bride of Christ, with all its members, the faithful, is infallible. Pastor Aeternus clarified some of the practical implications, as explained in the document on Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church of the International Theological Commission (a body of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith):

“The First Vatican Council’s dogmatic constitution, Pastor Aeternus, in which the infallible magisterium of the pope was defined, by no means ignored the sensus fidei fidelium; on the contrary, it presupposed it. The original draft constitution, Supremi Pastoris, from which it developed, had a chapter on the infallibility of the Church (chapter nine). When the order of business was changed in order to resolve the question of papal infallibility, however, discussion of that foundation was deferred and never taken up. In his relatio on the definition of papal infallibility, Bishop Vincent Gasser nevertheless explained that the special assistance given to the pope does not set him apart from the Church and does not exclude consultation and cooperation. The definition of the Immaculate Conception was an example, he said, of a case ‘so difficult that the Pope deems it necessary for his information to inquire from the bishops, as the ordinary means, what is the mind of the churches’. In a phrase intended to exclude Gallicanism, Pastor Aeternus asserted that ex cathedra doctrinal definitions of the pope concerning faith and morals are irreformable ‘of themselves and not from the consent of the Church [ex sese non autem ex consensu ecclesiae]’, but that does not make the consensus Ecclesiae superfluous. What it excludes is the theory that such a definition requires this consent, antecedent or consequent, as a condition for its authoritative status.”  (Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church, n. 40)

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