To enjoy the charism of infallibility, the pope (or bishops in union with him) must intend to teach the faith authentically. Infallibility isn’t a magic power they can call upon when they want to teach; rather, it comes with the teaching. For example, if the pope intends to teach, by virtue of his office and to all the faithful, a doctrine of faith or morals to be definitively held, then he is protected from error by the Holy Spirit. So what’s the problem?Kyle presents two possible solutions to this (the second of which is partially derived from my push-back to his earlier speculations on the matter) but I think his problems come in earlier in that he doesn't actually understand the doctrine of infallibility in the first place. Key to Kyle's argument is that the exercise of infallibility relies upon the pope's intention (or that of the bishops or a council in union with him) to teach the faith authentically. Essentially, he's seeing the doctrine as promising that the Church will not accidentally err when attempting to teach truly -- a sort of big fact checker in the sky. But what happens if the Church is acting in bad faith and doesn't even consult the fact checker?
As presently formulated, the idea of infallibility assumes that the appearance of the intent to teach authentically means the intent is really there, but the formulation doesn’t entirely rule out the possibility of deception on the part of church leaders. The intent to teach, which is an interior disposition, can be made known by outward signs, but it could conceivably be faked by those outward signs. The means of expression a pope would use to indicate authentic teaching could be put to ill use: he could abuse his power, pretending to teach the truth when in fact he is not.
The thing is, this is not how the doctrine is actually formulated. The doctrine of infallibility is not formulated in terms of intention. Here's the text from the original formulated in Vatican I:
[W]e teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA,The catechism fleshes this out a bit more, but the teaching itself is identical:
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.
890 The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium's task to preserve God's people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church's shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms:
891 "The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful - who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium," above all in an Ecumenical Council.418 When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine "for belief as being divinely revealed,"419 and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions "must be adhered to with the obedience of faith."420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.421
892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a "definitive manner," they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful "are to adhere to it with religious assent"422 which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.
What's absent here is any mention of intention. The doctrine is somewhat more audacious than that. Rather than promising a sort of divine fact checker which will prevent the pope from erring when he intends to teach truth, the doctrine more simply says that when the pope speaks solemnly on a matter of faith and morals, he will be protected from teaching error. It doesn't matter whether his intention is to teach truth or not.
There is precedent for this in several of the sacraments. Perhaps part of the background for Kyle's thinking in regards to intention relates to the sacrament of marriage, in which it is held that if the couple do not intend to enter into marriage as teh Church defines it, then they do not actual confer a valid marriage on themselves. In other words, if a couple has no intention of remaining faithful until death and being open to children, no marriage takes place, even if they stand in church before a priest and say all the right words.
However, while in marriage the couple's intention is part of the matter and form which must be present for the sacrament, there are other sacraments that do not rely on intention. For example, the consecration of the Eucharist does not rely on the priest's intention. If a priest says the words of consecration over bread and wine, but that priest has actually lost his faith in God and does not believe that anything will happen as a result of his action, even if he's just going through the motions out of a cynical desire to keep his job, the Eucharist is still confected and becomes the body and blood of Christ. Similarly, in baptism, as long as water is poured on the person being baptized and the proper words are spoke, the graces of baptism are received. If Richard Dawkins would be prevailed upon to pour water and speak the words of baptism over a dying person who wanted baptism, the sacrament would still be conferred. Other sacraments do, however, require proper intent. In addition to marriage, one must actually repent of one's sins and have an intention of resisting sin in the future in order to receive absolution in confession. If you go to confession and provide a good appearance of repentance, but in fact explicitly intend to go right out and commit the same grave sin again, you aren't actually absolved. The priest will have no way of knowing that the graces were not given, but you as the recipient are a part of the sacramental act and if you don't intend to repent you aren't absolved of guilt.
If someone asked me why some sacraments do not require proper intent, I would say that it is essential to God's purpose in creating the Church that the faithful be able to know that certain sacraments (baptism, Eucharist, confirmation, holy orders, last rites) "work" if they appear to work, regardless of the intent of the person carrying out the action. In other cases (confession, marriage) it's essential for the graces to work that the person receiving/performing the sacrament have proper intent.
Papal infallibility is not, obviously, a sacrament. However, it is one of the means by which God fulfills his promise to his people that his saving word and sacraments will be available to us. So in addition to the fact that the actual doctrinal definitions of infallibility simply talk about the pope teaching ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals -- not whether he intends to teach truthfully -- I think it makes a lot of sense for papal infallibility to work this way. While Kyle's formulation might be of some comfort to the pope himself (If I mean to teach truthfully, God will inspire me not to err) it wouldn't actually be much help to the faithful, in that those who don't like a Church teaching could simply assume there was bad faith involved on the part of the hierarchy, and thus absolve themselves of any duty to listen to and obey the Church. There are people who's purposes that would satisfy, but I don't think that God is one of them.