Appeared in  1997-1998, Vol. XXIII, Nos. 3 & 4

An essential feature of the Catholic Faith is that the authority of Christ is mediated through the apostolic succession interpreting Scripture and Tradition throughout time. Such an understanding is rooted in a sacramental view of reality that sees the human realm as capable of mediatorship, of bearing truth and grace. The apostolic succession consists of human beings specially guided by the Holy Spirit, and when we turn to the Magisterium, we are turning to the apostolic succession living in our own time.1 However, not everything said by Popes and bishops throughout the centuries is an infallible interpretation of scripture and tradition. How can we tell what does and does not belong in the category of infallible teaching? In this regard, three issues are of particular interest today. First, are some matters relating to moral theology, especially some absolute moral norms, infallible? Second, is the recent teaching on the ordination of women infallible? Third, how ought we assess the recent appeal to Pope John Paul II to define as Dogma the teaching of Mary as Coredemptrix? My purpose here is to provide a basic introduction to the question of infallibility and to address these three disputed questions.

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