First, let me say that I *know* that the papacy is not the biggest issue between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. I feel like, in my thinking, I'm focusing on this one little detail, but, to be honest, it's an issue for me. I don't think that anyone would argue that St. Peter had a special place among the Apostles. The issue, of course, in that instance is what does 'special' get you? Does it make you first among equals, or does it put you in charge?
But that's a question for another time, I think. What about the claim of papal infallibility? First, 'infallibility' does not mean that the pope is right every time he says something. Infallibility only comes into play in matters of doctrine regarding faith and morals.
The conditions, according to the First Vatican Council (where papal infallibility was decreed a dogma by a council of bishops, thus making it an infallible decree of the Church and a requirement of the faith) are as follows:
1. 'the Roman Pontiff' - meaning the pope
2. 'speaks ex cathedra' ("that is, when in the discharge of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, and by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority…") - 'ex cathedra' by the way, means 'from the chair' - it refers back to the belief that the pope 'sits' in St. Peter's 'chair' as his successor.
3. he defines that a doctrine concerning faith or morals must be held by the whole Church.
Since papal infallibility was declared, it's been used rarely, according to most sources. They point to the declaration of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary as two of the infallible declarations since the 1870 declaration of infallibility itself. However, there's (I've learned) not an actual list or record of everything that a pope has declared infallibly. So it's sort of hard to tell how often this power has been exercised.
There are plenty of sites that you can look up and get explanations of where the Church gets their basis for declaring the pope infallible. I thought about going into it, but really, I'm just not going to.
The end point, the crux of this post is:
I just don't believe it.
I've read the arguments, I've looked at the texts (and certainly not all, by any means, don't get me wrong - there's *lots* of things that I don't know.), and I see what they're saying, but I honestly do not see a Biblical or historical basis for the successor to St. Peter (where ever he was posted) declaring matters of faith all on his own and having the whole Church follow him. I don't see it, and I can't believe it.
I can see and believe that the Church (through the Bishops, acting together in councils) can be infallible in matters of doctrine, morals and faith. But not one man, no matter whose successor he may be.
Which...means I can't be Catholic anymore.