doctrine on the teaching authority of the pope is pretty clear, but lots of people
badly misunderstand it. A non-Catholic
friend of mine recently asked me whether the pope could in theory reverse the
Church’s teaching about homosexuality.
Said my friend: “He could just make an ex cathedra declaration to that effect, couldn’t he?” Well, no, he couldn’t. That is simply not at all how it works. Some people think that Catholic teaching is
that a pope is infallible not only when making ex cathedra declarations, but in everything he does and says. That is also simply not the case. Catholic doctrine allows that popes can make
grave mistakes, even mistakes that touch on doctrinal matters in certain