“I accept the doctrine of infallibility as the Church teaches it because there seems to me no other way to distinguish consistently between propositions calling for the assent of divine faith and propositions expressing plausible opinions or interpretations that might turn out to be wrong. Without the authority of a visible body identifiable as ‘the’ Church, all we have is an ongoing debate about what the data of Scripture and Tradition mean and whose opinions they best support. Of course, even within the Catholic Church there is much ongoing theological debate, and thus room for various opinions. But thank God that’s not all there is. That’s why I’m Catholic.”
And, of course, that’s what the argument for Catholicism eventually and inevitably boils down to. After all the spooftexting and selective appeals to church history, the last-ditch appeal is the a priori argument for the necessity of an infallible teacher.
But to take one example, there was a celebrated debate between Hillel and Shamai over the grounds for divorce. Question: what Jewish pope adjudicated that dispute? Answer: none.
Ultimately, Catholicism begins and ends with a preconceived ideal: one that doesn’t correspond to God’s actual administration of the world.