The infallibility of the ordinary universal magisterium: A critique of some recent observations

Heythrop Journal 39 (1):18–36 (1998)
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This teaching of Vatican II raises the problem of how to know when the ordinary universal magisterium has proposed some doctrine as definitive. Fr. Francis A. Sullivan has put forth some principles that he claims are important for establishing that a doctrine has been definitively taught. Key to Sullivan’s principles is the claim that the constant consensus of theologians is a sign and a necessary condition for establishing whether the ordinary universal magisterium has taught a particular doctrine as definitive. This essay argues against this claim. It maintains that while the consensus of theologians may be sign of definitive teachings, it is not a necessary condition for those teachings. Lastly, the essay suggests that the current discussion about the definitive, infallible teachings of the ordinary universal magisterium would be greatly aided if it took place in the context of the quest for catholicity in time and if it firmly kept in mind the nature of church as a communion



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