There is a disturbing trend among some Catholics today, to attempt to base the Catholic faith solely on the written teachings of the Magisterium. If a teaching is not in a magisterial document, they do not believe it. They do not strive to learn the Faith directly from Tradition and directly from Scripture, but only from the Magisterium. And they do not see theology and theologians as having any role except that of explaining what the Magisterium has plainly stated in various documents, or of offering opinions that are entirely superfluous. They do not think that magisterial documents require interpretation in the light of theology in order to be properly understood. They do not realize that all magisterial documents are written by persons who have first studied theology for many years, and who have written those documents in the light of a theological understanding of Tradition and Scripture.
This error is similar to the fundamentalist Protestant error of sola Scriptura (Scripture alone). In the Protestant error, the truths of the Faith are said to be found only in Scripture, not also in Tradition and Magisterium. But this error quickly leads to other errors. The Protestant fundamentalist thinks that the meaning of Scripture is only the plain meaning as he perceives it; he does not allow for implicit meanings, nor does he consider that the meaning might be complex, and not easily or readily understood. And since Scripture is infallible, he assumes that his own shallow understanding of Scripture is the same as the teaching of Scripture, and is therefore infallible, and so as a result, he does not accept correction. No theological explanation seems to carry enough weight to cause him to change his mind, because theology is not infallible. He not only abandons Tradition and Magisterium, but also theology, and the use of reason to understand what faith teaches.
There is a similar error among many Catholics; it is also a type of fundamentalism, except that instead of being based solely on the writings of Scripture, it is based solely on the writings of the Magisterium. In the Catholic version of this error, the truths of the Faith are said to be learned only from the Magisterium – although these teachings are also admitted to be in Tradition and Scripture, the Catholic fundamentalist does not think that he should learn directly from Tradition or Scripture, lest he err in his understanding of those sources. Of course, he does not realize that he might also misunderstand magisterial documents.
And this error quickly leads to other errors. The Catholic fundamentalist thinks that the meaning of magisterial documents is only the plain meaning as he perceives it; he does not allow for implicit meanings, nor for an interpretation other than what is literal and narrow. He does not consider that the meaning might be complex, and not easily or readily understood. He sees no use for theological distinctions and terminology in explaining and understanding what the Magisterium teaches.
He has no use for philosophy or speculative theology or reason itself, nor does he find it useful to consider theological arguments based on Tradition and Scripture only. He considers such theological arguments to be useless opinions. Unless a theological argument is quoting a magisterial document that states a particular idea very plainly, in exactly the same language as used by the theologian, he does not accept the theological interpretation or argument.
The Catholic fundamentalist mistakenly thinks that the Magisterium always teaches infallibly. And next, he assumes that his own shallow understanding of a magisterial document is the same as the teaching of the Magisterium, and is therefore infallible. And so, as a result, he does not accept correction. No theological explanation seems to carry enough weight to cause him to change his mind, because theology is not infallible. He not only abandons theology, but also the use of reason to understand what the Magisterium teaches.
Could anything make this set of errors even worse? Some of these persons have decided to teach their fellow Catholics this same set of errors, leading them astray by a false claim of faithfulness to the Magisterium.