According to Catholicism, did the Apostles enjoy the prerogative of infallibility?

The doctrine of papal infallibility was defined by Pope Pius IX in 1870! Does the Catholic Church recognize that the 12 Apostles of Our Lord enjoyed this privilege also?

Are there any other Divine Privileges that the Apostles may have enjoyed, whether defined in principle or simply believed by certain Catholic theologians, Doctors of the Church or Church Fathers?

  • They certainly did in their writings. My guess would be their teaching office functioned much like a papal one. Infallible with regards to binding the whole body of believers to a matter of faith or morals. Of course I'm just speculating.
    – Luke Hill
    Commented May 8, 2023 at 3:23
  • There is much said in the affirmative regarding the infallibility of the teaching of the Apostles in "Tradition and the Church," by Msgr. George Agius. Please see archive.org/details/traditionchurch00agiu Too much to elaborate on here.
    – DDS
    Commented May 8, 2023 at 13:42

3 Answers 3


According to Catholicism, did the Apostles enjoy the prerogative of infallibility?

The short answer seems to be yes.

The Catholic Encyclopedia tends to support the idea that the Apostles of Our Lord did in fact enjoy the prerogative of infallibility.

Authority and prerogatives of the apostles

The authority of the Apostles proceeds from the office imposed upon them by Our Lord and is based on the very explicit sayings of Christ Himself. He will be with them all days to the end of ages (Matthew 28:20), give a sanction to their preaching (Mark 16:16), send them the "promise of the Father", "virtue from above" (Luke 24:49). The Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of the New Testament show us the exercise of this authority. The Apostle makes laws (Acts 15:29; 1 Corinthians 7:12 sq.), teaches (Acts 2:37 and following), claims for his teaching that it should be received as the word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13), punishes (Acts 5:1-11; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5), administers the sacred rites (Acts 6:1 sq.; 16:33; 20:11), provides successors (2 Timothy 1:6; Acts 14:22). In the modern theological terms the Apostle, besides the power of order, has a general power of jurisdiction and magisterium (teaching). The former embraces the power of making laws judging on religious matters, and enforcing obligations by means of suitable penalties. The latter includes the power of setting forth with authority Christ's doctrine. It is necessary to add here that an Apostle could receive new revealed truths in order to propose them to the Church. This, however, is something wholly personal to the Apostles.

Catholic theologians rightly speak in their treatises of some personal prerogatives of the Apostles; a brief account of them may not be superfluous.

  • A first prerogative, not clearly inferred from the texts of the New Testament nor demonstrated by solid reasons, is their confirmation in grace. Most modern theologians admit that the Apostles received so abundant an infusion of grace that they could avoid every mortal fault and every fully deliberate venial sin.

  • Another personal prerogative is the universality of their jurisdiction. The words of the Gospel on Apostolic office are very general; for the most part, the Apostles preached and travelled as if they were not bound by territorial limits, as we read in the Acts and the Epistles. This did not hinder the Apostles from taking practical measures to properly organize the preaching of the Gospel in the various countries they visited.

  • Among these prerogatives is reckoned personal infallibility, of course in matters of faith and morals, and only when they taught and imposed some doctrine as obligatory. In other matters they could err, as Peter, in the question of practical intercourse with the converted heathens; they might also accept certain current opinions, as Paul seems to have done with regard to the time of the Parousia, or Second Coming of the Lord. It is not easy to find a stringent scripturistic demonstration for this prerogative, but reasonable arguments suggest it, e.g. the impossibility for all his hearers to verify and try the doctrine preached to them by an Apostle.

Fr. William Saunders Explains it this way:

Before delving into the question of infallibility, we must be certain as to how we understand truth. As Catholics, we believe in an absolute, immutable truth rooted in God. This truth has been perfectly revealed in Christ, for He is the Word who became flesh (Jn 1:14), and "the way, and the truth and the life" (Jn 14:6).

Jesus also promised the Apostles that He would send the Holy Spirit, whom He identified as the Spirit of Truth, who would instruct them in everything and remind them of all that He had revealed (cf. Jn 14:17, 26). Pope John Paul II beautifully underscored this notion of truth in the opening of his encyclical "Veritatis Splendor": "The Splendor of Truth shines forth in the works of the Creator and, in a special way, in man, created in the image and likeness of God. Truth enlightens man's intelligence and shapes his freedom, leading him to know and love the Lord."

Our Lord entrusted His teaching office to the Apostles—in particular to St. Peter, the first pope—and their successors. The Second Vatican Council, in the "Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation," asserted, "The task of authentically interpreting the Word of God, whether in its written form or in that of tradition, has been entrusted only to those charged with the Church's living magisterium, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ" (No. 10). The purpose of the magisterium—the teaching authority of the Church—is thereby to preserve the deposit of faith handed on to us from Christ Himself and to apply its principles of truth to our modern day situation so that each Catholic can live an authentically Christian life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church highlighted that "it is the magisterium's task to preserve God's people from deviations and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error" (No. 890). - Explaining the Idea of Infallibility

  • Ken on his way to answer his own question when no one else does ;)
    – Luke Hill
    Commented May 11, 2023 at 14:37

The prerogative of infallibility is in fact the not so much a kind of special right of the one expressing an infallible truth, but a special assurance to the faithful that such a truth is indeed truth.

When I preach or teach in catechesis about this fenomenen I explain it, as such: we, as the faithful, can trust the pope when it is clear he teaches ex cathedra, because we may believe that God himself will intervene before a pope tells a non-truth that way. So it isn’t like the pope can say whatever he wants and then it becomes truth. On the contrary, he simply cannot say something that way that isn’t truth.

Now do we need such assurance about the words of the apostles? No, we don’t. Because we have Holy Scripture, in which some of those words can be found, and Scripture is “truth” (with a lot of exegesis to be done to understand this truth fully), and we have the Traditio apostolica, or Traditio, being the sum of all teachings Jesus gave to the apostles and only for a part were written in the Bible, but which is kept by the Church and in the apostolic succession. And our third basis for knowing the truths of the faith is the living magisterium, in which the Church teaches and explains the truths of the faith in concrete situations. So, if the faithful need to know if what an apostle has said is truth, they have a combination of three fundamental sources: Scripture, Traditio and Magisterium. Any assurance provided by infallibility is unneeded.


There is no reason to believe that the Apostles, more specifically the Evangelists among them, enjoyed the prerogative of infallibility. For instance, there is a clear difference in the last saying of Jesus on the Cross as recorded in the Gospel according to John vis a vis that of Luke. We also see a strong difference opinion, not solved by veto power or mutual understanding, between Peter and Paul in Gal 2:11-14.

  • Lots of issues here. 1. You are a Roman Catholic and therefore hold to infallibility of the scriptures, but your answer seems to indicate otherwise. 2. You didn't actually cite a Catholic teaching, you just made 2 assertions. 3. There is not a difference in the last words. Only Luke records it as his last words, the other two are perfectly consistent with Luke's text. See this helpful article from Dave Armstrong: patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2021/04/… 4. Paul corrects Peter for his actions, not his teachings.
    – Luke Hill
    Commented May 11, 2023 at 14:34

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .