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Capital University Law Review





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One of the most widely misunderstood teachings of the Catholic Church involves the doctrine of papal infallibility. As a theological matter, papal infallibility is quite narrow. However, the widespread misconception that all Catholics must believe their Pope cannot make mistakes helped create resentment against Catholics for centuries, which has taken the form of physical attacks, political exclusion, and virulent anti-Catholic propaganda.

While the Catholic Church is no longer under direct physical attack, contemporaneous efforts seek to hold the Pope and the Church civilly and criminally liable in various contexts. In some instances, the Pope, acting as the head of the Catholic religion in implementing theological practices, is afforded civil protection. In other cases, the Pope is afforded protection by another legal doctrine involving the “head of state” and related immunity against private civil claims recognized under international law. In these as well as other situations, the Pope requires legal representation. Following examination of the doctrine of papal infallibility, its political equivalent in the “head of state” immunity, and the unique status of the Holy See, an attempt can be made to understand how and why counsel is selected to represent the Holy See.

Recommended Citation

Bill Piatt, If the Pope Is Infallible, Why Does He Need Lawyers?, 43 Cap. U. L. Rev. 555 (2015).

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