|First Vatican Council|
Michael Shackleton writes in The Southern Cross that: “When the pope, in union with the episcopal college which he heads, clarifies and declares what we must believe, this is done only to bring greater unity to the People of God, because that is the function of the Church’s magisterium.”
While I am certain Michael Shackleton was not implying that the Pope only speaks infallibly when he does so in union with the College of Bishops, it is always useful to remind ourselves of the teaching of the second Vatican Council on the authority of the Pope and the College of Bishops.
The Council expressed with absolute clarity that: “the college or body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head.”
The Council went further and, to avoid any confusion regarding the teaching authority of the College of Bishops, stated that: “The order of bishops... is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head. This power can be exercised only with the consent of the Roman Pontiff.”
The Council also made it clear that the Pope’s: “power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church.” The Pope, teaches the Council, “is always free to exercise this power” and does not require the authority of the bishops to do so.
In closing, and as another reminder of Church teaching on the subject, here is an extract from the first Vatican Council on the infallibility of the Pope:
“Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our saviour, for the exaltation of the catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the sacred council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman pontiff speaks Ex Cathedra, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the church, irreformable.
So then, should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this definition of ours: let him be anathema.”