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Infallibility on Trial: Church, Conciliarity and Communion.

Bermejo, professor of theology at de Nobili College in Pune, India, has written on a number of ecumenical issues. This time he sets his sights on what he considers the principal deadlock to ecumenical progress, the two papal dogmas of Vatican I, papal primacy and infallibility. He finds wanting the usual ways of dealing with Vatican I today, setting the teaching of Pastor aeternus in the new context provided by Vatican II or distinguishing the genuine understanding of the Council from its later exaggerations, the kind of "moderate infallibilism" practiced by Avery Dulles. Neither approach will work, B. argues, because the universal jurisdiction proclaimed by Pastor aeternus continues to be rejected unanimously by non-Catholic Christians.

What B. suggests is a reevaluation of Vatican I on the basis of the concept of reception. He begins by examining four fundamental ecclesiological principles and drawing four conclusions: (1) that seeing the Church of Christ as present (subsistit) in the non-Catholic Churches in various degrees is not contrary to Vatican II, despite recent attempts of the CDF to interpret the subsistit clause restrictively; (2) that the "body of the faithful" which "as a whole cannot err" (Lumen gentium 12) should be understood as referring to the entire People of God, not just to Roman Catholics; (3) that the councils of the second millennium should be considered general rather than ecumenical since they do not meet the triple condition for ecumenicity; and (4) that conciliar unanimity is indispensable for decisions concerning the faith of the entire Church.

Then B. revisits Vatican I, finding serious doubts as regards both the moral freedom of the participating bishops and the required moral unanimity of their decision. He uses A. Hasler's 1977 work, arguing that the critical reviews it received did not adequately refute his two central charges concerning the council's lack of freedom and the doubtful sincerity of many of the minority bishops who accepted the dogmas after the Council. B. finds Hasler's views confirmed in certain respects by the recently published diary of Archbishop Tizzani, particularly in regards to the question of the Council's freedom, and he goes beyond Hasler in using a number of sources to calculate that, with absentees included, "the final strength of the minority votes on 18 July was at least 115, probably 130" (167).

The remainder of the book is devoted to the issue of reception. B. raises questions about how profoundly Vatican I is being received today, noting that it is rejected by 47 percent of all Christians and that a growing number of Roman Catholic theologians seem to challenge it indirectly by arguing the non-ecumenicity of all the second millennium councils. Using various statistics, he shows that papal infallibility is not being received by a considerable number of lay Catholics in different countries today, with figures running from 31 to 71 percent. Two chapters argue that papal or conciliar teachings can later be reversed, tracing as examples the history of a number of official teachings - among them, the temporal power of the papacy; the impossibility of salvation outside the Church; the superiority of council over pope in matters of faith, unity, and reform; the toleration of slavery, sanctioned by four councils; and the justification of the use of torture - all of which were ultimately rejected.

B. is no stranger to controversy, and this book will be controversial. Not all will agree with his argument for the initial papal reception of Constance. His lengthy discussion of the cases of John Hus and Joan of Arc, while interesting, is a digression. Though the book is extensively documented, he occasionally cites a foreign language report rather than the original text. But his study is a significant one, both for the questions he raises about Vatican I and for the ecclesiological principles he develops.
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Author:Rausch, Thomas P.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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