Skip to comments.THE CHURCH'S MAGISTERIUM
Posted on 03/23/2007 5:54:47 PM PDT by NYer
Some people assure us: 'there are very few infallible teachings. In fact, the bolder spirits claim there are only two! Or again: 'We may disagree with noninfallible teachings after prayerful reflection.' Or take a third statement like: 'God speaks to us in many ways: through conscience, Scripture, the Church, life experience, nature'-without any indication of where the Magisterium stands in the matter. People talk also of a parallel magisterium consisting of the theologians.
Because of the great confusion prevailing today concerning the doctrinal authority of the Church and how it is exercised, it is vital that Catholics clarify their thoughts on the subject. If we have a right understanding here, our total theological outlook is likely to be balanced; if we do not it will certainly be warped.
We find the basis in Scripture. At the Last Supper, Jesus told his Apostles: 'The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you (Jn. 14, 26). 'When the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth' (Jn. 16,13).
The twelve Apostles were chosen by Jesus to shepherd his Church, with St. Peter as the supreme leader. 'You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven' (Mt. 16, 1819).
St. Paul, knowing that the truth would remain in the Church, speaks of 'the Church of the living God, which upholds the truth and keeps it safe' (1 Tim. 3, 15). Although individuals go astray, therefore, the Church will not. This ecclesial aspect is important, as indicated by St. Peter in his warning: 'we must be most careful to remember that the interpretation of scriptural prophecy is never a matter for the individual' (2 Pet. 1. 20).
Christian writers of the fist and second centuries show a Church with a hierarchical structure, having power to teach and rule, a bishop being in charge of each community.
The fourth Pope, St. Clement, wrote a long letter to the Church in Corinth about A.D. 96, endeavoring to settle dissensions there. He states: 'Our Apostles knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be dissensions over the title of bishop. In their full knowledge of this, therefore. they proceeded to appoint the ministers I spoke of. and they went on to add an instruction that if these would die, other accredited persons should succeed them in their office (Corinthians, no. 44).
St. Ignatius of Antioch, writing to the Church in Smyrna about A.D. 107 exhorts them: 'Follow your bishop, every one of you, as obediently as Jesus Christ followed the Father' (Smyrneans, no. 8).
St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons and the great opponent of Gnosticism in the second century, insists on the need to follow the Church's bishops if we are to have the truth. 'It is necessary to obey the presbyters in the Church-those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the Apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father' (Adv. Haereses, IV, 26, 2).
Irenaeus names all the Bishops of Rome down to his own time, and says: 'In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the Apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us' (111, 3, 3).
The constant understanding through the ages that the Pope and bishops are the authentic teachers of the Faith was emphasized by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Declaration Mysterium Ecclesiae (rune, 1973). 'By divine institution it is the exclusive task of these pastors alone, the Successors of Peter and the other Apostles, to teach the faithful authentically, that is with the authority of Christ shared in different ways; so that the faithful, who may not simply listen to them as experts in Catholic doctrine, must accept their teaching given in Christ's name, with an assent that is proportionate to the authority that they possess and that they mean to exercise.'
Nothing here about a parallel magisterium composed of theologians! Mysterium Ecclesiae, in accordance with the whole of Tradition, sees bishops as those who teach authentically in Christ's name.
The first Vatican Council, in 1870, declared that all those things are to be believed with divine and Catholic faith which are contained in the Word of God, written or handed down, and which the Church, either by a solemn judgment, or by her ordinary and universal Magisterium, proposes for belief as having been divinely revealed' (Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, ch. 3).
One of the most important sections in the whole of the documents of Vatican II is no. 25 in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, where the teaching authority of the Church is outlined. Concerning the bishops, the document says: 'Although the bishops, taken individually, do not enjoy the privilege of infallibility, they do, however, proclaim infallibly the doctrine of Christ on the following conditions: namely, when, even though dispersed throughout the world but preserving for all that amongst themselves and with Peter's Successor the bond of communion, in their authoritative teachings concerning matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement that a particular teaching is to be held definitively and absolutely.'
Their infallible authority is exercised in the clearest way when they assemble in a General Council and, together with the Pope, define a matter of faith and morals. 'Assembled in an Ecumenical Council they are, for the Universal Church, judges in matters of faith and morals, whose decisions must be adhered to with the loyal and obedient assent of faith.'
Repeating Vatican I, the Pope is declared to be infallible when, as supreme teacher of the faithful, 'he proclaims in an absolute decision a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.'
Having said that the faithful must adhere to the bishops' teachings on faith and morals, the Council continues: 'This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra, in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and sincere assent be given to decisions made by him.'
The substance of the above doctrine from Vatican II is repeated in the Code of Canon Law, Canons 749752.
Now to clarify some terms. Extraordinary Magisterium refers to a special exercise of their teaching office by either the Pope and bishops together, or the Pope alone, in which a definitive judgment is given. When a General Council pronounces a solemn definition, this is an exercise of the extraordinary Magisterium. So is an ex cathedra definition by the Pope: a decision definitively settling the question.
By contrast ordinary Magisterium refers to the exercise of the teaching office without a solemn definition being given. This is the case with the day-today teaching of bishops in their dioceses, or the greater part-almost the entire part-of the Popes teaching. (Much in these categories, however, has already been defined infallibly.)
The term ordinary universal Magisterium means an exercise of the Church's teaching office where there is complete agreement, or fairly close to complete agreement, among the Catholic Bishops of the world that a particular doctrine is certainly true, but without a solemn definition.
The extraordinary Magisterium is infallible. A definition given by a General Council or an ex cathedra definition by a Pope cannot be erroneous. Likewise, the ordinary universal Magisterium is infallible. The fact that the bishops are dispersed throughout the world' (in the words of Vatican II quoted above) does not make any difference.
What of the ordinary (but not universal) Magisterium? Is it infallible? No, as Vatican II indicates in the quotation above concerning statements that are not ex cathedra.
We started by noting common attitudes to the Church's teaching. Let us now evaluate those views, beginning with the claim that there are few infallible teachings.
Actually there is a very large number, as we might expect when we recall that the Church has existed for nearly 2000 years and that numerous disputes about doctrine have raged during that long and turbulent period. Infallible definitions have been given about our knowledge of God. about his nature, about the Blessed Trinity, about creation, angels, man, grace. the fall, redemption, the divinity and humanity of Christ, the Church. the sacraments in general and each sacrament in particular, our Lady, heaven, hell, purgatory, the general resurrection, the final judgment. Quite a number of infallible pronouncements have been made in some of these areas; and this list is not complete.
I flipped through Ludwig Ott's standard text Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma to see how many points he classifies as infallible, and my rough count was about 250!
Why, then, the preposterous notion that de fide pronouncements may be as few as two (the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption)? I am sure the root cause of the error is the propaganda spread by dissident theologians against the Church's authority. One ploy is to concentrate on ex cathedra definitions of the Popes, and to stress that there are few of these; leaving people with the impression that there are no infallible pronouncements apart from these.
What about the claim, noted at the beginning, that we may disagree with noninfallible teachings after prayerful reflection'?
We have seen that Vatican II insists on the acceptance of teachings given by the ordinary Magisterium, even though they are not infallible. We have seen too that the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in Mysterium Ecclesiae, said the faithful must accept the teaching of the Pope and bishops 'with an assent that is proportionate to the authority that they possess and that they mean to exercise.'
Canon Law states the position in these plain words: 'While the assent of faith is not required, a religious submission of intellect and will is to be given to any doctrine which either the Supreme Pontiff or the The Church 's Magisterium
College of Bishops, exercising their authentic Magisterium, declare upon a matter of faith or morals, even though they do not intend to proclaim that doctrine by a definitive act (Canon 752).
'Isn't it a bit much,' some people will object, 'to be expected to believe what may not be true?' The Pope and the College of Bishops however, in making their decisions, are not left to their own resources, but are specially aided by the Holy Spirit The result is that when a firm decision is promulgated on a matter concerning faith or morals (even though the conditions for an infallible definition are lacking), there is such an overwhelming presumption in favor of its truth that confident assent to it is justified, although this falls short of the absolutely unconditional assent due to an infallible pronouncement.
Another statement calling for comment, and mentioned at the beginning of this article. is that God speaks to us in many ways including conscience, the Church, life experience, nature. This kind of remark seems to put the Church on the same level as other ways of arriving at the truth. In fact she is unique, for God preserves her from error.
This practice of downgrading the teaching Church leads on to the notion of a parallel magisterium comprised of theologians. But once we realize that the Pope and bishops comprise the Church's true Magisterium, for the Holy Spirit guides them in a way he does not guide anyone else, we see that theologians who classify themselves as part of a parallel magisterium are setting themselves up in opposition to the Holy Spirit.
The Magisterium is a wonderful gift from God. Faithfulness to it will preserve us from intellectual slavery to trendy theology, personal prejudices, secularism, and all the other forces that threaten to rob us of the truth.
Bears repeating! God bless Benedict XVI! Cent' Anni!
I can hear the Melkites laughing all the way up here, NYer! :)
This may be the spot where your church started pulling away from the church Jesus founded...There is no record of the apostles suggesting appointing 'accredited' persons to replace them outside of the supposed writings of 'your' church fathers...
Could you show us in the scripture ( that we all agree is the word of God) where Jesus or the apostles ever taught the church could or would teach infallibly?
Sure, these verses(among many) illustrate that Christ would provide His people with a source of the truth of Revelation and this conduit would be His Church. Christ, being true God and true man knows us better than we could ever know our selves: He knew that we would need a guide, like the eunuch that Philip instructed, in our race. When God promises, He delivers, we may not like the way He delivers it, but it doesn't change the fact that He has and always will make good on His promises.
Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Luke 10:16 He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.
John 13:16 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
John 14:16-17 16And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
There are many other verses, look HERE
2Co 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
We Christians have the very same Spirit in us that you claim your magisterium has...So you can't pull that one...
It certainly does...If it's not 'God-breathed', your stuff is no more legitimate than the writings of Joe Smith or the Jehovah Witnesses...
You guys make stuff up and claim God privately told you so...And what's really amazing is there are people that believe you...
your diagreement with verifiable history, i.e. the very thread you are reading as well as the church fathers, is nothing more than your being in denial since it conflicts with your man-made christian church based on luther and his deformation of the church, 1500 plus years after clement et al.....
Wrong again...Luther didn't invent Christianity...It was already there when he stumbled upon some of it...
There is also verifiable history that shows a lot of your history is bunk...How many of your church father's records are forgeries by your church???
Perhaps you missed this:
During those days Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers (there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons in the one place). He said, "My brothers, the scripture had to be fulfilled which the holy Spirit spoke beforehand through the mouth of David, concerning Judas, who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus. He was numbered among us and was allotted a share in this ministry. He bought a parcel of land with the wages of his iniquity, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle, and all his insides spilled out. This became known to everyone who lived in Jerusalem, so that the parcel of land was called in their language 'Akeldama,' that is, Field of Blood. For it is written in the Book of Psalms:'Let his encampment become desolate, and may no one dwell in it.'And:'May another take his office.'Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection."
So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place." Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles.
Which "Christians"? The ones that go to your church, how about the ones down the block that don't believe that baptism is necessary, or how about the ones that do believe that baptism is not only not symbolic, but absolutely required. How about the Christians that believe in double predestination, or the believers in free will, or those who believe that you can lose salvation as opposed to the church next door that believe once saved always saved...the list goes on and on.
Christ delivered one truth, one faith, that faith, that truth is not found in it's fullness outside His Church.
Like I said, we may not like how He delivers on His promise, but that doesn't mean He hasn't delivered on the promise; a Father doesn't abandon His children to the winds of error.
Well, no, you see, that's the big difference between us and those other groups you mention.
We believe public revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle. Since then, nobody is permitted to "make up" anything. God can't tell anybody anything that contradicts what he has already said. All we can do is hold fast to what the Apostles taught, and what the Church has always believed. Our understanding of that "deposit of faith" (a term that comes from St. Paul, BTW) can deepen, but it can't contradict what it previously knew.
Where you err is that you believe "what the Apostles taught and what the Church has always believed" is identical with your personal understanding of Scripture. That idea is something that was "made up" by Wycliffe and the Lollards in the 13th Century, not by the Apostles.
In your infallible judgement? Who appointed you to be Pope?
...There is no record of the apostles suggesting appointing 'accredited' persons to replace them outside of the supposed writings of 'your' church fathers
2 Tm 2:2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
Scripture will prove you wrong every time.
**Luther didn't invent Christianity...It was already there when he stumbled upon some of it...**
Good grief, Luther was a Catholic priest before he dissented.
Incidentally,you have never responded to my question to you with regards what in the world you think Christ was talking about in Rev.2 and 3,when He speaks about the works that many of the Churches did or failed to do. When you are unable to answer because you recognize that the scripture does not support your position,you just sail on to the next presumption.
We will never be one with God,as He desires, if we all don't earnestly and honestly pray that God guide us in our discernment.
Where can I get my magic sternum? :-)
Amen. I've bookmarked this thread, NYer. Thanks!
Context, Context, Context...Your man Clement was suggesting that he received personal information from the apostles that he and other popes, cardinals, and bishops have the right and duty to select future bishops and popes...
And then you supply a piece of scripture that 'appears' to back up Clement's claim...
But you conveniently left out the qualifying scripture, didn't you...
1Ti 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
1Ti 3:3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
1Ti 3:4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
1Ti 3:5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
This disqualifies anyone in your church that has been chosen to be a pope, cardinal, bishop or priest, including Clement...
Don't you find it odd that Clement was a pope in your religion but Timothy, a major bible figure was not???
Like I say, Clement seems to have 'turned a corner' in Christianity at about that time...He is not teaching what Jesus taught Paul who taught Timothy...Looks like he turned left while everyone else kept going straight...
After Luther 'dissented', did he still consider himself to have been a Christian befere his 'dissent'???
Huh??? I don't recollect that question...But since you've failed to answer most every question I put to you, I would say it's a small thing...
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