The Infallible Wisdom of the Holy Spirit- Reflection for Mass of April 19, 2010

19 Apr

Monday, April 19, 2010
Ferial- Monday of the Third Week of Easter
Readings: Acts 6:8-15; Psalm 119:23-24, 26-27, 29-30; Luke 6:22-29

Yesterday I read the article in the Toronto Star entitled “The Trials of Pope Benedict” whose writer opined that, especially amid the current sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, “rarely has an officially infallible papacy spent so much time at damage control.”[1]

This statement has a ring of truth; as has been noted by media and by clergy and laypeople alike, many Catholics have focused on defending the Church from further harm or on defending the Pope from unjust criticism. Defence of the Church or of the Pope has its place, but this cannot become more important than the protection of the most vulnerable persons from the indelible harm that this kind of abuse causes them, the expression of sorrow for the evil that has occurred, and the resolve not to allow it to happen again.[2]

We have seen a Church and individual Christians retreat into “damage control”[3] when we ought to proclaim the Good News of the Risen Christ. However, that does not detract from the Church’s infallibility as yesterday’s article indicates. A crisis like the one we are experiencing calls upon us to deepen our understanding of the nature of our Church. We are ever more dependent upon the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit who guides us.

Infallibility, as one of my instructors this past year at St. Michael’s College has emphasized, is not primarily an attribute of the Pope or of his office. Instead, infallibility is a gift of the Holy Spirit to the entire divinely-instituted Church. It applies, as per Vatican I, to papal pronouncements on behalf of the whole Church on matters of faith and morals[4]; infallibility does not mean that the Pope cannot err on matters not divinely revealed.

Infallibility, as today’s first reading from Acts points out, can extend beyond the Pope. We read the story of Stephen, who spoke what God had revealed him such that his adversaries “could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.”[5]

Stephen taught with the authority of the Spirit, and, as Acts goes on to recount, it cost him his life.[6] The martyria of Stephen is an example to us of infallible witness.[7] We must also give our lives for our Church, for the truth, and especially now for those who have been hurt by the human institution that is that Church. Few if any of us will die for our faith as Stephen did, but nevertheless we must speak without fear and without defensiveness that infallible wisdom of the Spirit and that joy of Christ Risen that is needed in this troubled time in our world and in our Church.


[1] Sandro Contenta, “The Trials of Pope Benedict,” Toronto Star, 18 April, 2010.

[2] Thomas Collins, “Message from His Grace, Archbishop Collins on Sexual Abuse and the Church.” Accessed 18 April, 2010.

[3] Contenta, “The Trials of Pope Benedict,” Toronto Star, 18 April, 2010.

[4] First Vatican Council, “First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ (Pastor Aeternus),” in Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, Vol. 2, ed. Norman P. Tanner (Washington: Georgetown University Press, 1990), 815-816.

[5] Acts 6:10.

[6] Acts 7:58-60. The story of Stephen’s defence before the Sanhedrin and death by stoning is told in Acts 7 in its entirety.

[7] Martyria is the Greek equivalent to the English word “witness.” See The Interlinear NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, tr. Alfred Marshall (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 463. See Marshall’s Greek translation of Acts 1:8.

2 Responses to “The Infallible Wisdom of the Holy Spirit- Reflection for Mass of April 19, 2010”

  1. Rev Robert Wright at 5:36 pm #


    My name is Rev Robert Wright, Editor for, a social network made specifically for Christians, by Christians. We embarked on this endeavor to offer the entire Christian community an outlet to join together and better spread the good word of Christianity. has many great features like Christian TV, prayer requests, finding a church, receiving church updates and advice. We have emailed you to collaborate with you and your blog to help spread the good word of Christianity. I look forward to your response regarding this matter. Thanks!

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