Economics of Governance

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 89–99

The infallibility of the pope

Original Paper


This paper tries to explain the Catholic dogma of papal infallibility as a rational choice that virtually forecloses future doctrinal change and thereby triggers the adoption of more loyal behavior by church members. The paper employs a model of a dynamic game with incomplete information, called the Reform game, and shows that under some conditions, closing the game and credibly pre-committing to a single strategy through the dogma may be a superior choice for the Church. Then it is shown that the model fits well the historical circumstances of the enactment of the dogma. Finally, an analogy of the dogma with the scriptural literalism of fundamentalist religious groups is suggested.


Catholic Church Infallibility dogma Scriptural literalism Economics of religion Incomplete information 

JEL Classification

D71 Z12 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public Policy and Public Choice (POLIS)University of Eastern PiedmontAlessandriaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Economics, Social Science CentreUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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