I've been told (admittedly from a denomination with a very anti-Catholic view (e.g. Catholics believe/pray to in saints => they are idol worshippers))the following:

  • Catholics believe that they have to say something like 5 to 10 of the lords prayer and possibly a few "Hail Mary"s added to the mix per sin depending on how "bad" it is.
  • The pope can say anything (well, almost) he likes, and that is then instantly a part of "proper" Christian dogma, and it doesn't matter if it directly contradicts some part of scripture.

My question is this: Are these things true, and if so why do they believe these things, and if not, why was I told them?

note: I may have exaggerated a bit.

  • Hi Mark! Welcome! ☺It looks like you actually have two unrelated questions here. They really should be asked in two posts, one per post. Have you searched around the site to look for answers? Nov 3, 2016 at 15:47
  • thank you for the welcome, and the answer to our question is only sort of. And yes the title is rather unrelated to the question, isn't it. :( Nov 3, 2016 at 15:50
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    I suggest you go and edit to ask only one of those two questions. Nov 3, 2016 at 16:12
  • I have edited the title to make the two questions one. How do you recommend that I improve the question? Nov 3, 2016 at 16:13
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    Make one question to ask about the Lord's Prayer/Hail Mary, and one to ask about the Pope saying anything he likes. Nov 3, 2016 at 16:45

2 Answers 2


No, that is not correct

Your friends/associates are speaking from ignorance (at best), and possibly out of spite.

Papal Infallibility

Per the Ecumenical Council now referred to as Vatican I (1870), papal infallibility relates to declarations made ex cathedra pertaining to faith and morals. (Catholic Encyclopedia, Infalliblity, Explanation of papal infallibility)

The Vatican Council has defined as "a divinely revealed dogma" that "the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra — that is, when in the exercise of his office as pastor and teacher of all Christians he defines, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by the whole Church — is, by reason of the Divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer wished His Church to be endowed in defining doctrines of faith and morals; and consequently that such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable of their own nature (ex sese) and not by reason of the Church's consent" (Denzinger no. 1839 — old no. 1680).

The most recent ex cathedra declaration regards the dogma of the Assumption of Mary (Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius XII Munificentissimus Deus(AAS 42 [1950], 760-762, 767-769). Ex cathedra declarations are rare.

About Penance

Catholics believe that they have to say something like 5 to 10 of the lords prayer and possibly a few "Hail Mary"s added to the mix per sin depending on how "bad" it is.

That is sheer ignorance. A wide variety of things can be assigned to the penitent during confession (the sacrament of penance and reconciliation, CCC 1422- 1489) by the confessor(priest) to include actions, apologies, repayment, restitution (and much more) depending upon the sin and circumstances. Prayer is also usually assigned. Why? To turn back toward God and away from sin. (See Repentance).

Prayer is as an opening of the heart to God.


For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy. ~ St. Therese of Lisieux, Manuscrits autobiographiques, C 25r.1

The point of prayer after confession is to head back into the direction of avoiding sin and near occasions of sin. This may include prayers (Hail Mary, Our Father, Glory Be, others) but just saying these prayers yourself is in no way, shape, or form the approved method of confessing and resolving mortal sin -- that requires seeking absolution through the sacrament of penance and reconciliation(confession). It may be that for a given confession penance only warrants prayer; in other cases, other penance may be assigned.

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    @MattGutting No, I don't want to, since I am not convinced that the Pope declared it as an Ex Cathedra utterance. PJ II knew how all that worked. I am pretty sure that his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, did not follow up and formally identify it as such. You may with to open a question on that precise topic. Might get some interesting answers. Nov 3, 2016 at 18:41
  • I agree with all but two words of this answer,"repayment, restitution." A person who has stolen something must make repayment or restitution as part of contrition for the sin. In confession, the priest might remind him of that fact (and might even refuse absolution if the person didn't make restitution yet and doesn't clearly intend to do so), but that's separate from the penance. One cannot simply say "I'm sorry I stole that money but I intend to keep it" and expect to be forgiven. The same goes for some other sins, e.g. calumny; to be forgiven, one must undo the damage as best one can. Nov 3, 2016 at 19:11
  • @AndreasBlass I don't understand how you disagree. I was listing a variety of things one will be assigned depending upon circumstances, and included both repayment, and restitution in the list. What am I missing here? to include actions, apologies, repayment, restitution (and much more) depending upon the sin and circumstances. Nov 3, 2016 at 20:58
  • What I disagreed with is including these things with the penances that "can be assigned". They're not part of the penance; they're part of the contrition that's needed for the sacrament. And they're required whether or not the priest says so. Nov 3, 2016 at 23:55
  • @AndreasBlass OK, I'll add that if you'll provide a reference; is that clearly stated in the CCC? Nov 4, 2016 at 0:08

As a Protestant, I tend to follow a general rule when it comes to facts about Catholics- if my "facts" come from Protestant sources, don't take them at face value. I'm sure people who "know why Catholics are theologically wrong" mean well in disseminating their facts, but it's usually nothing more than horribly biased, exaggerated accounts of Catholic beliefs, which most Catholics disagree with.

There's far too much of this misinformation about, and as such there's even a general sentiment among protestants, particularly evangelicals that Catholics are "not real Christians"- this is just an accepted fact for many people.

I for one thing it's great that you're actually asking the question though, in a place where Catholics can respond, and without barging in with condemnation- it might seem that way superficially, but you're actually asking for verification of facts, not merely stating them. As such it's a shame this has been downvoted.

  • Before I was Catholic, I had a number of impressions that changed once I was "inside the box" and began to understand the linkages between scripture and sacred tradition. Some day I may post the line by line scriptural references to the mass from top to bottom per the current Roman MIsal ... I got an extended treatment of this from a deacon a few years ago and was somewhat surprised at how much direct scriptural reference is there, and how it is interwoven into the Mass itself. Nov 3, 2016 at 21:01
  • This is a great response, but unfortunately it's not really answering the question. Nov 3, 2016 at 21:20

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