In line with this article, I am going to ask you a question I have asked of many Catholics. Not one yet has answered.
If you are unable to interpret the Scriptures correctly without the help of the Magesterium, how can you correctly interpret the teachings of the Magesterium?
It would seem that you Catholics have the same “can’t interpret by yourself” problem - it’s just moved back one level.
They have a lot more theology than I do. So the answer would be trust, correct?
I thought about this a little bit more and came up with a question for you — actually two questions.
Isn’t your question a little bit silly?
Did you trust your profs in college and supply the answers THEY wanted on exams rather than your own opinion?
I think that’s a lovely question.
I’ve chewed on it for a couple of years.
Here’s what I think. We’re never going to get it all right.
We just get better at it, those who do theology. But we don’t get “there.”
And we shouldn’t expect to. The sort of programmatic way of showing this is that the Truth is a person, and every person is unfathomable. How much more unfathomable is the Divine Truth.
To use the “fathoming” metaphor, all we can do is get longer and longer sounding lines, with better and better scoops to show us what lies at the bottom of this ocean. But we’ll never get it all
To use some practical examples: So, you understand the Trinity? The Hypostatic Union? You can “work” each doctrine confidently and faultlessly out to each application?
Not me! But, with guidance I get slightly less fuzzy pictures — not with the artificial crispness of heretical over-simplicity (Arianism really is simpler to understand. Fine, junior G-man demi god. No sweat) but just slightly better resolution on what I will never be able to see altogether, certainly not before death.
and the magisterium’s role, very practically, is not to give me the whole picture, but to guide and direct me as I get a WEE bit better and understanding how even an illegal immigrant is ‘due’ mercy, because of God’s love for him. I may not know yet how to show that mercy, but I’m working on that.
People think we are all about systems and philosophies. And I guess we are to some extent, but not ALL. But if YOU have a question about Mary or Jesus or virtue, the magisterium can probably help you take the next step with some confidence.
That’s my guess.
In part, that's the purpose of the Magisterium - to engage in a dialogue to increase understanding of the Church's teaching.
Thus, when legalized abortion started to become prevalent in countries previously associated with Christendom, or at least, with overwhelming Christian majorities, and where it was thought that the laws were based on Judeo-Christian moral premises, the Church began to speak out on the evil that is abortion.
In our own country, prominent Catholics initially interpreted the teachings of the Magisterium to permit Catholic politicians to be “personally opposed” but nonetheless politically in favor of “choice.”
The Church listened, and then taught authoritatively, “No, you can't do that. To be a good Catholic, you must oppose legal abortion at every turn, and demand that the rights of unborn persons be defended in law.”
Many Catholic politicians tried various other methods of wriggling around this teaching of fundamental morality, but the Church magisterially answered all these evasions, objections and loopholes. This was possible because we believe in a living, continuing Magisterium.
Often, the Church takes the initiative to further clarify teaching, to answer questions, evasions, etc., with which clever people come up.
But layfolks and folks lower in the hierarchy can also, if they are in doubt about a teaching or practice of the Church, ask the Church for direction.
There is actually a process by which one may ask the Church a question concerning faith and morals and receive a direct, specific answer. Often, the process is used to clarify points of liturgical practice, etc., but the process can be used to clarify significant theological points, as well.
Thus, I've seen dubia (questions) asked about various theological issues, including the status of the baptism provided in the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Someone specifically asked, is LDS baptism valid? This is a pretty fundamental theological question for us Catholics, at least. Anyway, the answer was provided, no, LDS baptism is not valid, and then explained why.
But this sort of thing doesn't work unless the entity that answers the questions has the authority to do so.
We Catholics believe that our Magisterium derives its authority by being handed down by the Apostles through the ages to the current successors of the Apostles.