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Infallibility in the Church: blessing or shackle?

BILL TONER SJ :: I have to confess at the outset that I have always had difficulties in relation to the doctrine of the infallibility of the pope. I was eleven years of age when the dogma of the Assumption of our Lady was promulgated in 1950. I think that triggered the beginning of my childhood doubts, though I cannot now put my finger exactly on the precise object of my earliest misgivings.

Even at that age I had a serious interest in religion and had some excellent teachers of the subject in the Christian Brothers school at which I received most of my early education. In about 1951 I joined a junior praesidium of the Legion of Mary where I was also strongly exposed to the belief held by many Catholics in the teaching of Mary as Mediatrix of All Graces. This view, that all the graces we received from God were mediated by Mary, became popular at the start of the 20th century and it was proposed by many bishops and others that it should also be proclaimed as a dogma of the Church. In the Legion of Mary there was great devotion to Mary as Mediatrix of All Graces and there was probably support for its definition as a dogma. Again, I felt uncomfortable about this prospect, as I was not convinced by the evidence for it…

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