Infallibility is a deeply misunderstood idea, within as well as outside the Catholic Church. It remains a subject of great theological debate, especially regarding papal infallibility and the ordinary magisterium of the Church.
In The Gift of Infallibility, theologian James T. O’Connor clarifies the idea of infallibility. He provides a helpful translation of the “relatio” or official explanation by Bishop Gasser given at Vatican I, the Church council that defined the dogma of papal infallibility. Also included in this important volume is the first draft of chapter 4 of the Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, as well as the final, official chapter of the constitution.
Despite its importance in all theological discussions on the doctrine of infallibility, Bishop Gasser’s relatio had never until recently been translated from the Latin original into English. The relatio reveals a mind which is logical in process and fully acquainted with the historical and theological aspects of the question.
This volume concludes with a recently updated theological summary on the topic of infallibility by Father O’Connor. The Gift of Infallibility is immensely important for theologians and others who wish to understand the way by which the Holy Spirit safeguards the Church. It will be of great value to the general student as well as to the specialist.
Hard-hearted people derided the prophet Jeremiah by cynically referring to his prophecies as “the burden of the Lord.” In our own day some see the doctrine of infallibility a burden to ecumenism, to conscience, and to theological inquiry. In The Gift of Infallibility Father O’Connor has done us a great service by providing an accurate translation of a text of fundamental importance for understanding how the Church itself understands the infallible teaching authority that Christ conferred upon His Church. In addition he has given us a reliable summary of the doctrine of infallibility in order to show that, in the eyes of faith, this infallible teaching authority is not a burden but a gift of God’s love and wisdom.
- Douglas Bushman
We are in debt to Father O’Connor for this excellent English translation that makes available a major theological source on the doctrine of the infallibility of the Church’s teaching office. Bishop Gasser’s relatio at the First Vatican Council is utterly indispensible for understanding the gift of infallibility that Christ bestowed on his Church. Recent controversies as well as statements from the magisterium show the enduring importance of Gasser’s relation. The Gift of Infallibility belongs on the bookshelf of every serious student of ecclesiology.
- Dr. Lawrence J. Welch