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Fallible Authority

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image of Ecclesiology

Old Catholic theologians have often underlined the relationship between papal supremacy and infallibility and the priority of the former: the pope has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, therefore he must be obeyed; but at the same time, he may be obeyed, because he will not mislead the Church due to his infallibility. This article analyses this relationship, applying differentiations on two axes: on the one hand, Bocheński’s typology of epistemic and deontic authority; on the other hand, the notions of personal, formal and constitutional authority. The fact that the infallibility dogma of Vatican I considers papal authority at the same time as epistemic and constitutional authority, is identified as a major weakness of the dogma. The article will then approach the question how church leaders should practise their deontic authority in a context where their (and everybody else’s) epistemic authority is considered to be fallible.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Old Catholic Theology, University of Bern, Switzerland, adrian.suter@theol.unibe.ch

10.1163/17455316-01302003
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/content/journals/10.1163/17455316-01302003
2017-05-23
2017-12-13

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