Examples of Authentic Fallible Magisterium

Okay, so I was just thinking about this because of the Pope’s recent interview (which everyone seems to be talking about). Outside of all the analysis being done, obviously such things as an informal interview wouldn’t constitute part of the authentic magisterium. Not everything a Pope says is infallible and not everything he says is magisterial either. I know Pope Benedict went to great lengths to stress his Jesus of Nazareth books were not magisterial in intent.

As I understand it there are three general levels of the magisterium (although I’m sure you could break it down further). There would be 1) extraordinary magisterium, 2) ordinary, infallible magisterium, and 3) ordinary, fallible magisterium. Of course, each would require either full assent of faith or religious submission of will and intellect. While things outside of this, like Pope Benedict’s book, might be persuasive, they would not be authoritative.

My question is this if anyone can help answer it: what would mark the line between the authentic magisterium and non-magisterial teaching?

The question in your last line is different from the question in the topic line. What is it that you want to know – do you want to know the difference between a fallible and infallible teaching, or the difference between a teaching and a non-teaching?

A timely question gets a timely answer from His Hermeneuticalness!

Ah, this thread is getting to the heart of my concern when I started a thread (closed after a few days) entitled “When is it OK to Criticize the Pope?”
What I should have asked is “What Kinds of Statements From the Pope are We Free to Disagree With?”

On anything not concerning matters of faith/morals we are free to disagree with any Pope/bishop, though we are not free to let our disagreements become vituperative.

On matters of faith/morals we are obliged to show them deference and obedience, though in cases where the magisterium is not exercised infallibly, measured discussion may reasonably continue.

Infallible exercises of the magisterium close discussion on a topic permanently, hence why such teachings are said to be “defined,” i.e., ended.

My understanding is that the Magisterium teaches infallibly in any of three ways:

  1. Papal infallibility (extraordinary)
  2. Conciliar infallibility (extraordinary)
  3. the ordinary universal magisterium – ordinary, not extraordinary, yet infallible

All other magisterial teachings are non-infallible, meaning that these teachings admit only a limited possibility of error, and never to such an extent that the faithful would be led astray from the path of salvation.

No magisterial teaching is “fallible”. Every magisterial teaching is authentic. The infallible teachings require the full assent of faith (theological assent). The non-infallible teachings require religious assent only. Some licit dissent is possible from non-infallible teachings.

The opinions of a Pope, even when expressed in a publicly available book of theology are fallible opinion, not a teaching. You are free to disagree with the Pope’s opinions.

First, No document is infallible – the defined dogmas and doctrines within are infallible.
It is vital to know when papal infallibility is exercised.

Vatican I (1870) in *Pastor Aeternus *proclaimed the dogma on papal infallibility and this was reiterated in Vatican II (Lumen Gentium 25).

From Vatican I (Pastor Aeternus), for infallibility to be exercised the Pope must teach
(a) ex cathedra (from the Chair of Peter), that is as Shepherd and Teacher of all Christians,
(b) speaking with Peter’s apostolic authority to the whole Church,
© defining a doctrine of faith and morals.

Thus the Pope is personally infallible only under the above conditions.

The bishops have collegial infallibility when they agree with the pope on a definitive teaching, and Ecumenical Councils approved by the Pope are infallible in defining a doctrine on faith or morals.

The three levels of teaching are:
**1) Dogma – infallible (Canon #750.1) **to be believed with the assent of divine and Catholic faith.
2) Doctrine – infallible (Canon #750.2) requires the assent of ecclesial faith, to be “firmly embraced and held”.
3) Doctrine – non-definitive (non-infallible) and requires intellectual assent (“loyal submission of the will and intellect”, Vatican II, (*Lumen Gentium *25), not an assent of faith.

This does not mean that the third category is “fallible” teaching, but that there is a very minimal chance that it could prove to be mistaken.

There is no “licit dissent”.

Well, some things coming from the pope or from a bishop could be teaching, but that wouldn’t necessarily make it magisterial, e.g. my reference to Jesus of Nazareth.

A timely question gets a timely answer from His Hermeneuticalness!

Thanks! I’ll have to read it.

**No magisterial teaching is “fallible”. **Every magisterial teaching is authentic. The infallible teachings require the full assent of faith (theological assent). The non-infallible teachings require religious assent only. Some licit dissent is possible from non-infallible teachings.

The three levels of teaching are:

  1. Dogma – infallible (Canon #750.1) to be believed with the assent of divine and Catholic faith.
  2. Doctrine – infallible (Canon #750.2) requires the assent of ecclesial faith, to be “firmly embraced and held”.
  3. Doctrine – non-definitive (non-infallible) and requires intellectual assent (“loyal submission of the will and intellect”, Vatican II, (Lumen Gentium 25), not an assent of faith.

This does not mean that the third category is “fallible” teaching, but that there is a very minimal chance that it could prove to be mistaken.

Ron Conte, I suppose you are referring to Abu’s last sentence. In that case, I get what you’re saying.

I probably should have made the heading: What is the “lowest” example of authentic, yet “non-infallible,” magisterium? It would definitely apply to encyclicals, but would it apply to homilies? What about addresses to organizations as are given by popes or bishops from time to time?

In theory, a Pope can teach under the Magisterium in a sermon or a speech or an interview, if he wished to do so and if he made it clear that he was doing so. Nothing prevents a Pope from exercising the Magisterium when and how he chooses.

But typically, sermons, interviews, speeches to organizations, the Pope’s general audience, and other comments are considered theological opinion, not an act of the Magisterium. The reason is that even a non-infallible teachings is binding, and in order for anything to be binding, those bound must be informed as to the content of the teaching and the requirement to believe. By custom, this type of expression by a Pope is not considered to be a teaching of the Magisterium.

The authentic non-infallible magisterium can be exercised by any individual Bishop who remains in communion with the Pope and the other Bishops. The authentic non-infallible magisterium exercised by the Pope is above that of an individual Bishop. So the “lowest” example of authoritative teaching is from an individual Bishop.

An encyclical, or any other type of papal document, can contain an infallible teaching, but typically the teaching content is non-infallible.

BTW, i don’t agree with the title of this thread, the Magisterium is never fallible. All magisterial teachings are either infallible (no possibility of error) or non-infallible (limited possibility of error).

The U.S. Bishops have taught, under the authentic non-infallible magisterium, that there is some possibility of licit dissent from non-infallible teachings.

“There exist in the Church a lawful freedom of inquiry and of thought and also general norms of licit dissent.”

“The expression of theological dissent from the magisterium is in order only if the reasons are serious and well-founded, if the manner of the dissent does not question or impugn the teaching authority of the Church and is such as not to give scandal.”

“Even responsible dissent does not excuse one from faithful presentation of the authentic doctrine of the Church when one is performing a pastoral ministry in her name.” [NCCB [URL=“http://www.priestsforlife.org/magisterium/bishops/68-11-15humanlifeinourdaynccb.htm”]Human Life In Our Day]

To claim that there is no such thing as licit dissent from a non-infallible teaching is to dissent from a non-infallible teaching. It is a self-contradictory position. The teachings of individual Bishops and of Bishops’ Conferences fall under the ordinary non-infallible magisterium, which requires religious assent (religious submission of mind and will).

Vatican II: “For bishops are preachers of the faith, who lead new disciples to Christ, and they are authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach to the people committed to them the faith they must believe and put into practice, and by the light of the Holy Spirit illustrate that faith. They bring forth from the treasury of Revelation new things and old, making it bear fruit and vigilantly warding off any errors that threaten their flock. Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent.” (LG 25)

Pope John Paul II: “With respect to the non-infallible expressions of the authentic magisterium of the Church, these should be received with religious submission of mind and will.”

Every teaching of the Magisterium that requires religious assent is a non-infallible teaching.

Ron Conte #10
The U.S. Bishops have taught, under the authentic non-infallible magisterium, that there is some possibility of licit dissent from non-infallible teachings.

Some never learn.

**No wonder that Bl John Paul II had to reaffirm that there has never been, and is no, “licit dissent” at his meeting with US Bishops at Our Lady Queen of Angels Minor Seminary, Los Angeles, Sept 16, 1987, before Donum Veritatis (CDF) in 1990. “It is sometimes claimed that dissent from the Magisterium is totally compatible with being a ‘good Catholic’ and poses no obstacle to the reception of the sacraments. This is a grave error that challenges the teaching office of the bishops of the United States and elsewhere.”

No, this is not consistent with Donum Veritatis precisely because it assumes a “licit dissent” and “which in practice, as far as the theological community was concerned, became ‘the ‘right of public dissent’.” *Battle For the American Church (Revisited), *Ignatius, 1995, Msgr George a Kelly, p 73].

Once again:
Not only do the U.S. Bishops’ Norms of Licit Theological Dissent, 1968, 51, not rule out public dissent from the Magisterium, but the bishops acquiesced in the public dissent of the unfaithful theologians already raging, as Dr Whitehead shows. It is the laxity in fidelity of too many bishops, and the encouragement of the Vatican at that time in the subsequent Truce of 1968 in the U.S., which allowed the culture of dissent to flourish – in seminaries, parishes, schools and universities.
[See *The Courage To Be Catholic, Chap 3, George Weigel, Basic Books, 2002].

How Dissent Became Institutionalized in the Church in America
by Kenneth D. Whitehead

“In the minds of the bishops in 1968, these Norms of Licit Dissent were perhaps drawn up and included in their Pastoral Letter in order to try to re-impose some measure of episcopal control and oversight over a situation of dissent that had literally already gotten out of hand. Whatever the original intention, however, the Norms only made a bad situation worse. It was simply unreal to speak about dissent that did not “question or impugn the teaching of the Church” when it was the object of the dissent from Humanae Vitae to question and impugn the authority of the Church. Similarly, it was idle to attempt to require that dissent could only be expressed “with propriety,” when the favored method of the dissenters was precisely to challenge the pope’s teaching with maximum publicity, hopefully in or through the mass media.

In short, the Norms were fundamentally misconceived and incoherent; and even if it could be shown that they were in any sense valid, they certainly did not apply to the kind of dissent the Church was facing. Virtually none of the dissent of 1968 and after was carried out in accordance with these Norms or with anything resembling them.

Yet the fact that such Norms could be found in an official bishops’ document served to create the illusion and the justification that, yes, dissent from Church teaching could somehow be “licit.” By admitting that dissent could ever be licit, the bishops simply invited dissenters in all cases to assert that their particular dissent was licit. Any bishop even contemplating disciplining or removing a dissenter henceforth had to admit the plea that the dissent of the latter was, after all, at least arguably licit, according to the bishops’ own criteria. In practice, virtually all dissent was thereby enabled to be considered licit.

Tolerated dissent thus fostered widespread disloyalty to the Church. It fostered dishonesty too, since the pretence had to be maintained that those who were disloyal were not to be judged disloyal under the regime of the Norms.

It was in this fashion, then, that theological dissent from magisterial teaching became virtually “institutionalized” in the Church in the United States. That this was hardly the intention of the bishops does not alter the fact that it was the almost inevitable result of their unwise attempt to lay out official “Norms” for what amounted to simple rejection of the Church’s teaching.

Kenneth D. Whitehead is a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education. He has authored or coauthored nine books, as well as many articles, and is the translator of some twenty published books.
Ignatius Press - *The Homiletic & Pastoral Review *

Donum Veritatis, CDF 1990, completely rules out all dissent:
#36. “The freedom of the act of faith cannot justify a right to dissent.”

Even for theologians #37 has this caution:
“Moreover, the theologian who is not disposed to think with the Church (sentire cum Ecclesia) contradicts the commitment he freely and knowingly accepted to teach in the name of the Church.”

#38: “The right conscience of the Catholic theologian presumes not only faith in the Word of God whose riches he must explore, but also love for the Church from whom he receives his mission, and respect for her divinely assisted Magisterium. Setting up a supreme Magisterium of conscience in opposition to the Magisterium of the Church means adopting a principle of free examination incompatible with the economy of Revelation and its transmission in the Church and thus also with a correct understanding of theology and the role of the theologian. The propositions of faith are not the product of mere individual research and free criticism of the Word of God but constitute an ecclesial heritage. If there occur a separation from the Bishops who watch over and keep the apostolic tradition alive, it is the bond with Christ which is irreparably compromised(38).
(38) Cf. Paul VI, Apost. Exhort. Paterna cum benevolentia, n. 4: AAS 67 (1975)15.

No doctrine is understood as defined infallibly unless this is manifestly evident. [Code of Canon Law, #749 §3

Some people like to get out their Vatican-1 checklists and go back over pre-V1 statements and decide if they are infallible. I’m pretty sure that’s not what Canon Law has in mind when it says “manifestly evident.” It’s gotta be pretty flippin’ obvious.

Ideally, we would know because the Church tells us that the teaching is infallible (though the Church prefers terms such as “irreformable” or “belongs to the Deposit of Faith.”). I say this is the only way we can know with absolute certainty.

Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott’s seminal work is Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, in which he proposes a detailed “hierarchy of truth,” and he categorizes much of Catholic doctrine using this hierarchy (this categorization represents his own opinion, but his opinion is well respected). At the top of the hierarchy is de Fide (of the Faith), which means infallible. There are far fewer de Fide doctrines than you might expect.

Having said all of that, I reiterate that all Catholics are bound by ALL teachings of the Magesterium. There is a common misconception that Catholics are bound only by infallible teaching - which is total bunk. Whether a particular teaching is considered infallible is really of interest only to theologians, and is pretty much irrelevant to laypeople.
[/quote]

Abu,

The speech of Pope John Paul II that you cited is not an act of the Magisterium. But in any case, he was speaking in general of dissent. He did not discuss the possibility of licit dissent, and he did not rule out licit dissent. He simply did not assert the opinion that you are asserting.

And the same is true for the CDF’s Donum Veritatis. Since most dissent is unfaithful dissent, the document has negative things to say in general about dissent. But it also clearly indicates the possibility of faithful dissent that contributes to the work of the Magisterium: “His objections could then contribute to real progress” (n. 30). Your claim that the document “completely rules out all dissent” is simply not supported by the contents of the document itself.

The teaching of the NCCB that I cited is an act of the Magisterium. Whoever rejects that teaching in fact dissents from a non-infallible teaching of the Magisterium. So the claim that no dissent is licit is a self-contradictory position.

If the distinction between infallible and non-infallible teachings were of no relevance to the laity, then the Church would not have written the distinction into Canon law, the CCC, the CDF commentary on the profession of faith, and other documents. The Church teaches this distinction to the faithful, and so we cannot claim that this teaching is irrelevant.

The faithful must give the full assent of faith to all infallible teachings. But they are only required to give religious assent to non-infallible teachings. And some licit dissent from non-infallible teachings is possible.

This point of doctrine is important because, as we progress from one Pope to another, from one set of Bishops to another, there will inevitably be some conflicts in the non-infallible teachings of individual Bishops, Bishops Conferences, and even successive Popes. The position that no licit dissent is possible becomes harmful when these conflicts arise. The believer ends up rejecting the authority of Bishops to exercise the Magisterium, or ends up rejecting one Pope or another. So it is an important distinction. The Pope is only infallible when his teaching meets certain conditions. Otherwise, his teaching is non-infallible and subject to the limited possibility of error and reform.

The individual Bishops, acting alone or in local groups, can exercise the non-infallible Magisterium. The Bishops are the successors to the Apostles, and not merely the mouthpieces of the Pope. They have the authority to teach under the ordinary Magisterium. So if anyone says that all magisterial teachings are binding, and no dissent is possible, he cannot account for the fact that individual Bishops, Cardinals, and Bishops’ Conferences disagree in their non-infallible teachings.

Ron Conte #13
The speech of Pope John Paul II that you cited is not an act of the Magisterium. But in any case, he was speaking in general of dissent. He did not discuss the possibility of licit dissent, and he did not rule out licit dissent. He simply did not assert the opinion that you are asserting.

The Holy Father was specifically addressing U.S. Bishops at Our Lady Queen of Angels Minor Seminary, Los Angeles, Sept 16, 1987:
**“It is sometimes claimed that dissent from the Magisterium is totally compatible with being a ‘good Catholic’ and poses no obstacle to the reception of the sacraments. This is a grave error that challenges the teaching office of the bishops of the United States and elsewhere.” **

Nothing could be clearer as a rebuke to what the bishops had tried to do concerning the dissent on *Humanae Vitae *in which Fr Charles Curran was one included in the attempt by many intellectuals and theologians since Vatican II to declare independence from the Magisterium, “with the logical result that professor poses as pope, and represents the crux of the confusion in the minds of believers about the meaning of their religion in the modern world.” Fr James V Schall, S.J., concludes: “The result of no real orthodoxy is a skepticism and usually a counter-orthodoxy.” Distinctiveness of Christianity, Ignatius Press].

The teaching of the NCCB that I cited is an act of the Magisterium.

The whole tenor of the document is “norms of licit dissent” to try to explain and defend(?) Humanae Vitae, and the bishops’ document does not possess infallibility.

As the renowned Kenneth D Whitehead wrote: “It was in this fashion, then, that theological dissent from magisterial teaching became virtually “institutionalized” in the Church in the United States. That this was hardly the intention of the bishops does not alter the fact that it was the almost inevitable result of their unwise attempt to lay out official “Norms” for what amounted to simple rejection of the Church’s teaching.”

for the CDF’s Donum Veritatis. Since most dissent is unfaithful dissent, the document has negative things to say in general about dissent. But it also clearly indicates the possibility of faithful dissent that contributes to the work of the Magisterium: “His objections could then contribute to real progress” (n. 30). Your claim that the document “completely rules out all dissent” is simply not supported by the contents of the document itself.

On the contrary dissent is totally ruled out by the CDF, naturally.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ruled very clearly and no fudging can obscure the reality.
**Sections 25-31 cover “not irreformable” teaching even for theologians **in the Instruction On The Ecclesial Vocation Of The Theologian, (Donum Veritatis) [DV] 1990, for those who “feel” that they cannot give “intellectual assent,” they have “the duty to remain open to a deeper examination of the question.” (31).

*Donum Veritatis completely rules out all dissent: *“
30. If, despite a loyal effort on the theologian’s part, the difficulties persist, the theologian has the duty to make known to the Magisterial authorities the problems raised by the teaching in itself, in the arguments proposed to justify it, or even in the manner in which it is presented. He should do this in an evangelical spirit and with a profound desire to resolve the difficulties. His objections could then contribute to real progress and provide a stimulus to the Magisterium to propose the teaching of the Church in greater depth and with a clearer presentation of the arguments.”

“32. The Magisterium has drawn attention several times to the serious harm done to the community of the Church by attitudes of general opposition to Church teaching which even come to expression in organized groups. In his apostolic exhortation Paterna cum benevolentia [1974], Paul VI offered a diagnosis of this problem which is still apropos. In particular, he addresses here that** public opposition to the Magisterium of the Church also called “dissent”, which must be distinguished from the situation of personal difficulties treated above. The phenomenon of dissent can have diverse forms. Its remote and proximate causes are multiple**.”
#36. “The freedom of the act of faith cannot justify a right to dissent.”

While #37 has this further caution:
“Moreover, the theologian who is not disposed to think with the Church (“sentire cum Ecclesia”) contradicts the commitment he freely and knowingly accepted to teach in the name of the Church.”

The infallibility of the teaching against contraception, the red herring raised here in particular by the dissenters against Humanae Vitae, whom the misled bishops tried to appease wrongly, is unassailable as evidenced by the inability to show otherwise.

There is no licit dissent from the Magisterium, on any truth of dogma or doctrine, and no prejudices, feelings, wishes, views, can alter that fact. No teaching exists to alter that fact, and none can be produced. Infidelity to Christ and dissent are rampant and chronic where the truth is denied.

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