I was listening to the Hugh Hewitt show and he was interviewing Kenneth L. Woodward about an article on Romney that had a lot of Mormon bashing in it. Woodward has been responsible for Newsweek’s Religion section since 1964 and he identified himself as a Catholic. In part of the interview Hugh was asking him the difference between some aspects of Mormonism and Catholicism and Woodward went on to explain that infallibility was something that has only been invoked once in the last 150 years and this happened in the 1950s.
Now I am not surprise to hear that people responsible for religions sections of the MSM would know so little about their faith. For one he event gets the common misunderstanding wrong. Normally people will claim that there has only been two acts of infallibility since Vatican I defined it. This would of course be the Immaculate Conception in 1854 and the Assumption in 1950. So to say there is was only one case is to get even this wrong. The truth is that the Pope uses the charism of infallibility every time there is a canonization. The language used in a canonization is "we declare and define that Blessed N., is a saint" which triggers the Church’s gift of infallibility. It would be true to say that there have been only two dogmatic declarations since Vatican I, but not that these were the only case of papal infallibility.
Then of course there is the fact that infallibility was something that came into play many times in the history of the Church especially in regards to Church councils. The dogma of infallibility was only defined in 1870 and many think that it didn’t exist for then, but this would be like saying that Jesus wasn’t divine until the 1st Council of Nicea.
Mr. Woodward could not even come up with any differences between Mormon prophets and when the Church invokes its gift of infallibility. There is a large gap between development of doctrine and the defining of one and the abrupt changes that have occurred in Mormonism.
All I can say is that if Kenneth L. Woodward is as knowledgeable of other faiths as he is about his own then that explains the Newsweek coverage.
Hugh’s post on the subject
Jimmy Akin’s post on infallibility.
Update: I made a glaring error since the Immaculate Conception was defined before Vatican I and so there has only been one dogmatic declaration since Vatican I.