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Cardinal Nichols: infallibility doesn’t prevent ‘every error of judgment’

Cardinal Vincent Nichols (CNS)

Cardinal Vincent Nichols has said that the Church’s infallibility does not protect it from “errors of judgment”.

In an interview yesterday on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Cardinal Nichols was asked by the presenter, Sarah Montague, about conflict within the Church over issues such as Communion for the remarried.

The cardinal, who chairs the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, replied: “There is no doubt there is tension within the Catholic Church, but one of its great strengths is that we have a Pope – and we have a Pope who can say yes or no and then give you a hug.”

Montague then suggested: “And is infallible.”

Cardinal Nichols replied: “The gift of infallibility is something that Christ gives to the Church which is expressed through the Pope. Now, that means that we will never, as it were, drift so far from the core revelation of God in Jesus as to get in a total mess. It does not protect us from every error of judgment, particularly in a conflictual situation.”

In 1997, the Vatican’s then doctrinal chief Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said that it was not quite true that “the Holy Spirit picks out the Pope”; rather, “Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined.”

Asked about the anniversary of the Reformation, the cardinal said that there was “a sense of repentance and also a sense of regret that maybe things could have been done differently. But I’m quite sure that as in most episodes of history, the truth is complex.”

He also compared the impact of the printing press with that of the internet, commenting: “People are increasingly saying indiscreet things at two o’clock in the morning on Twitter and then having to live with the consequences.”