Infallibility, Integrity and Obedience: The Papacy and the Roman Catholic Church, 1848-2023

By John M. Rist

An excoriating study of the history of papal authority in the Roman Catholic Church since the late nineteenth century, and how it has led to the present doctrinal crisis.

ISBN: 9780227179390


The doctrinal and structural revolution currently underway in the Roman Catholic Church is alarming for several reasons, not least because of the arbitrary nature of its imposition and the absence of resistance it has encountered. The reluctance of many to challenge the authority of the pope, tied to the increasing personal veneration by the faithful of each successive incumbent of the Holy See, is arguably a symptom of unresolved unclarity surrounding the nature of authority in the Church dating back to the First Vatican Council.

In Infallibility, Integrity and Obedience, John Rist unflinchingly exposes the developments that have bred this crisis of understanding – and the resulting rejection of tradition in the papal agenda – over the past hundred and fifty years. Reserving particular attention for the Roman Catholic dilemmas, political and theological, of the 1930s, the mid-twentieth-century debates on reproductive technology, and the advent of ‘celebrity autocracy’, he shows how a misapprehension of the nature and definition of papal infallibility is at the root of the major issues facing the Church today. Most importantly, he proposes how the conciliar and individual decisions that have led to the current situation might be reversed, and how the proper role of the Pope can be reclaimed for the good of the Church.

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About the Author

John Rist is Professor of Classics and Philosophy Emeritus at the University of Toronto, former Father Kurt Pritzl Chair in Philosophy at the Catholic University of America and has taught (as Regius Professor of Classics) at the University of Aberdeen, at the Patristic Institute in Rome and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His more recent publications include: What is Truth? From the Academy to the Vatican; Augustine Deformed: Love, Sin and Freedom in the Western Moral Tradition; Plato and the Discovery of Moral Realism and What is a Person? His latest book, written in collaboration with his wife Anna, is Confusion in the West: Retrieving Tradition in the Modern and Post-Modern World. He was received into the Roman Catholic Church in 1980.