In Catholicism the phrase refers to dogmatic teachings issued from the Chair of Peter, that is, from the authoritative teaching seat or position of the successor of Saint Peter, the pope. It does not refer to a physical relic, to an actual chair once used by Peter, and does not mean that the pope must be seated on a papal throne when he gives the teaching. These teachings ex cathedra must meet certain specific criteria. Teachings defined as ex cathedra are specifically limited solely to papal teachings promulgated by the Holy Father when as shepherd of the whole Catholic Church and successor of Peter he officially teaches in his capacity as universal shepherd of the whole orthodox catholic Christian Church and Vicar of Christ a doctrine on a matter of faith or morals and addresses it to the entire world. These are not claimed as new revelations, but according to the Catholic Church are definitive clarifications of the meaning and application of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world, and are regarded as part of the "faith which was once for all delivered to the saints". These universal teachings are defined by the Catholic Church as binding and infallible doctrines. According to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, those Catholics who do not subscribe to these dogmas are guilty of mortal sin.
The first time the Pope formally promulgated dogma ex-cathedra was to promulgate the doctrine of Papal Infallibility itself, based on Scripture, history, and reason. This was officially affirmed and confirmed by the First Vatican Council in 1870. Critics rejected it as an innovation, a new doctrine, which the pope has no authorization or power to establish. Supporters see in it a formal declaration of an implicit and already existing supreme pastoral teaching authority established and guaranteed by Jesus Christ himself for the benefit of the faithful and only made explicit by promulgation of the fact by defining that it is a dogma of divinely revealed truth.