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.
1. Toward the Syllabus of Errors
2. From The Syllabus of Errors to Pastor Aeternus (1870)
3. Leo XIII: Top- Down Pastor
4. Saint Pius X and the Modernist Dragon
5. The 1930s: Fascists, Nazis, ‘New Theologians’, Condoms
6. The End of an Era? Pius XII as Past and Future
7. Who Changed What at Vatican II?
8. The Pope, the ‘Pill’ and the ‘ Woman Problem’
9. Celebrity Autocracy: John Paul II
10. Joseph Ratzinger: Poacher Turned Gamekeeper?
11. Perón Meets Ignatius: The Choice Against Tradition
12. Modest Conclusions, Less Modest Suggestions
Very Select Bibliography
Endorsements and Reviews
In this invigorating study of the modern papacy, Professor John Rist identifies the conjoining of four elements, which have caused serious damage to the Church: the creeping authority of the Pope stemming from uncertainty surrounding Vatican I; the servility and silence of the bishops in response; a revolutionary aspect on the part of the Jesuit order; and the unthinking obedience of a poorly instructed laity. Rist argues persuasively that the authentic truth of Vatican I, that the gift of the Holy Spirit is given to the successors of St Peter to safeguard the Deposit of Faith, must be restored before things become beyond repair on the human level. Chief among his proposals is that the nineteenth century misuse of the term ‘infallibility’ should be strictly curtailed to its primary meaning, that the Church and the pope must always cling to basic Catholic dogma, and a hierarchy of truths must be recognized. John Beaumont, author of The House with a Hundred Gates.
One need not necessarily agree with all of Dr. Rist’s account of recent Church history or his proposed solutions to the current crisis in the Church, but one must recognize that he has clearly exposed the root of an important cause of this crisis. He unquestionably documents a dangerous growth of an exaggeration of papal authority and irrational obedience to the papal will. Although these exaggerations can appear welcome when exercised by faithful popes with good intentions, he shows how they can be repurposed to deconstruct the Church and her doctrine. This may be one of the most important books written to wake Catholics up to this danger.Brian M. McCall, Orpha and Maurice Merrill Chair in Law, University of Oklahoma