When I was a fundamental Baptist, I was taught that Catholics have a “Magisterium” A shadowy group of men operating from within the Vatican. They decide doctrines and dogmas irrespective of whether they contradict Scripture or not.
Just to clarify, what is a “Magisterium”? And who belongs to it?

All the bishops who are in communion with the Pope form the Catholic Magisterium. There’s nothing shadowy about it. It’s analogous to saying, “The U.S. Government has a Congress.”

Other Christians use similar language. Lutherans, for example, refer to their leaders as a “Ministerium,” since they believe every pastor (or “minister”) is a bishop. And because it sounds different from the Catholic word. :smiley:

The Magisterium is "defined as ‘the Church’s divinely appointed authority to teach the truths of religion’. In other words, Our Lord gave His Church the authority to teach the faithful about what is expected of them, and that is what the Church has done consistently from the start.The Magisterium of Catholic Church teaches the faithful in two ways;

  1. Solemn Magisterium: is Church teaching which is used only rarely by formal and authentic definitions of councils or Popes. This includes dogmatic definitions by councils or Popes teaching “ex cathedra”
  2. Ordinary Magisterium: this second form of Church teaching is continually exercised by the Church especially in her universal practices connected with faith and morals, in the unanimous consent of the Fathers and theologians, in the decisions of the Roman Congregations concerning faith and morals, in the common sense of the Faithful, and various historical documents, in which the faith is declared."A Catholic Dictionary

This authority to teach is vested in the Bishops that are under the Holy Father and in the Holy Father himself. Examples of teachings from the Magisterium would be the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, the Immaculate Conception, and the divinity of the Holy Ghost.

The Magisterium is not a group of people. It is the teaching authority of the Church. That authority, passed down from the Apostles, is exercised by the Pope and the Bishops.

The Church stands as a three-legged stool - Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium. The Magisterium cannot be opposed to Sacred Scripture.

The Catholic Church is a 3 legged stool, of Scripture, Sacred “Tradition”, and the Magisterium. The Magisterium is older than the New Testament, because it is the humanly visible agency that communicated God’s will:
that there should be a “New Testament”; that the Hebrew, existing scriptures be considered still inspired, but now identified as the “Old Testament”; and which few of the hundreds of possible books would constitute the New Testament Canon. The great majority of Christians use the canon defined by the Magisterium. It originated with God, of course, but the Magisterium was the single, visible human agency God used to express His will.

The Magisterium also identified which few of the thousands of traditions in the early Church constitute Sacred Tradition. Most Christians today accept most of the Magisterium’s parameters of Sacred Tradition (including some aspects of the Trinity), and reject the same Christian traditions rejected by the Magisterium (like gnostic doctrines). What is astonishing is not the few of the Magisterium’s Traditions Baptists reject, like the Assumption, but the crucial ones they accept.

Without the Magisterium, the New Testament canon would be 270 books, not 27. God did not need to use a Magisterium (or a Bible, either). He chose to use such.

The Magisterium is not located at the Vatican, it is the Teaching Authority of The Church administered via all the Bishops in communion with the Pope.

They are mixing up Magisterium with the Roman Curia. The Roman Curia is a group of priests and bishops in Rome. But they are hardly shadowy. The members of the Curia is public record, there isn’t a “secret group.”

Every bishop has a group of priests (and sometimes newer bishops) who help the bishop with the administrative functions of the Church. They form the bishop’s “Curia.”

For example: the Archbishop of Philadelphia has a “Philadelphian Curia” while the Pope (who is the Bishop of Rome) has a “Roman Curia.”

The Roman Curia handles the day to day administrative functions of the Diocese of Rome. However, since the Bishop of Rome has lots of duties for the whole Church, the Roman Curia helps him with some of those administrative functions too. Just like some members of the “Philadelphian Curia” assisted Archbishop Chaput with the World Meeting of Families and other things that Archbishop Chaput may be involved with outside of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Finally, the Roman Curia has no power to set Church Discipline, develop Church Doctrine, or define Church Doctrine. That authority is reserved to the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him.

Now, if you were to ask: “does the Roman Curia operate like a bureaucracy and don’t bureaucracies breed red tape?” then my answer would be yes.

The Roman Curia over the years has become very large (in Church terms) and the last several Popes have been working to reform it and eliminate red tape and “careerism” that is inherit in bureaucracies.

I pray this helps

God Bless

Not so. The Catechism reminds us that the “Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it.” (from paragraph 86)

The Catholic Magisterium is a visible authority on earth that is directly in communion with our King of King and Lord of Lords Jesus Christ.

The Catholic Church’s Magisterium is not a democracy, she is both a visible and invisible body of a Royal hierarchy.

The Catholic Magisterium has been given the divine keys (authority) to the kingdom of heaven to bind and loose upon the whole earth, by our fully human and fully divine King and Lord of all, Jesus Christ, who will bind and loose from heaven in this full communion.

Jesus gave His divine keys to His Magisterium, in particular Peter in communion with his fellow brethren, when he walked the earth and when Jesus resurrected from the dead, with a direct commission specifically to forgive sin, baptize **all **nations, tribes and tongues and to teach and preach all, what our King and Lord revealed to them in the fullness of times, with the promise of the Paraclete, Jesus would send, in His name, to recall to the Magisterium all that Jesus revealed.

Before Jesus went to His passion and death for the sin’s of the world, Jesus prayed for all His disciples in His hearing and those who will believe after them (Jn.17) to be ONE, as He and the Father in heaven are One.

The Magisterium is the visible (authority) head on earth in the (body of Christ) Church Militant in every age since Pentecost in communion with the invisible Church Triumphant in heaven consisting of Saints, Martyrs, when all are united as One to our One Head Jesus Christ.

Jesus is our Shepherd, who appointed One Shepherd (Peter) on earth in communion with his brethren as One, in His absence until He returns, to tend and feed His flock for all others to follow.

This Oneness; is the Magisterium of the Catholic church consisting of Jesus Christ our King in communion with His royal Magisterium consisting of Peter (Bishop of Rome) and all his brethren in communion to this fully human and fully divine headship of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Magisterium divinely commissioned by God to feed and tend the flock of God on earth. The flock of Jesus Christ are in the care of Peter and the Magisterium in every age, who are of the Royal blood line of Jesus Christ Priesthood , Kingship and prophet office.

When the Royal priesthood (flock) are in full communion with Peter and the Magisterium reveals the body of Christ (Catholic Church) in full communion to our head Jesus Christ as One in all ages.

For another way to say the above:
EWTN : The Magisterium or Teaching Authority of the Church
by Fr. William G. Most

The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of Magisterium of the Church as the living teaching office of the Church alone, exercised in the name of Jesus Christ, giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition. It goes on to say that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome. (CCC 85).

Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith.(CCC 86)

Mindful of Christ’s words to his apostles: “He who hears you, hears me”, the faithful receive with docility the teachings and directives that their pastors give them in different forms. (CCC 87)

IGotQuestons… you should add the following link to The Catechism of the Catholic Church the to your favorites…


You can also find it here at the Vatican’s website - this is also the English translation; however, with a few clicks one can find other languages:

I like the online versions for lookups; however, I’m old school and a book in hand is easier for me to read. You can find the print version thru all of the major book retailers, and of course, at you local Catholic bookstore both online and brick-mortar. You’ll find many of your questions answered within the text. Sometimes not as clearly as others… those I would normally advise a priest to help with, or contact one of the CAF apologists - and we’re always here to try help

When I was IFB this was quite a common teaching to prop up their “the only authority I have is the Bible” POV.


I think it’s statements such as the one in this link that confuse so many. The magisterium is NOT the Pope and bishops, it’s 1) the consistent teaching of the church and 2) the office of the Pope and the office of bishops. The Pope and and bishops are the magisTERS–the teachers of the church. The magisterium is the teachING of the church–established over centuries.

The U.S. presidency is not equivalent to President Obama–just as analogy.

Just check any good Latin dictionary and this should become clear.

Pray tell, when read as a whole, not a little sound byte, what is misleading here?
The Magisterium or Teaching Authority of the Church

by Fr. William G. Most

By the Magisterium we mean the teaching office of the Church. It consists of the Pope and Bishops. Christ promised to protect the teaching of the Church : “He who hears you, hears me; he who rejects you rejects me, he who rejects me, rejects Him who sent me” (Luke 10. 16). Now of course the promise of Christ cannot fail: hence when the Church presents some doctrine as definitive or final, it comes under this protection, it cannot be in error; in other words, it is infallible. This is true even if the Church does not use the solemn ceremony of definition. The day to day teaching of the Church throughout the world, when the Bishops are in union with each other and with the Pope, and present something as definitive, this is infallible. (Vatican II, Lumen gentium # 25). It was precisely by the use of that authority that Vatican I was able to define that the Pope alone, when speaking as such and making things definitive, is also infallible. Of course this infallibility covers also teaching on what morality requires, for that is needed for salvation.

A “theologian” who would claim he needs to be able to ignore the Magisterium in order to find the truth is strangely perverse: the teaching of the Magisterium is the prime, God-given means of finding the truth. Nor could he claim academic freedom lets him contradict the Church. In any field of knowledge, academic freedom belongs only to a properly qualified professor teaching in his own field. But one is not properly qualified if he does not use the correct method of working in his field, e.g., a science professor who would want to go back to medieval methods would be laughed off campus, not protected. Now in Catholic theology , the correct method is to study the sources of revelation, but then give the final word to the Church. He who does not follow that method is not a qualified Catholic theologian. Vatican II taught (Dei Verbum # 10): “The task of authoritatively interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on [Scripture or Tradition], has been entrusted exclusively to the living Magisterium of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.”

Taken from The Basic Catholic Catechism
PART FIVE: The Apostles’ Creed IX - XII
Ninth Article: “The Holy Catholic Church; the Communion of Saints”

By William G. Most. © Copyright 1990 by William G. Most.


Incorrect. And sadly, the way many, many Catholics use the term. I think “magisterium” may even appear in the Catechism in this sense, but I won’t swear to that. One could say that the magisterium is the papacy, but not the Pope himself.

I wouldn’t say it’s a sound byte–it’s the thesis of the article.

This is how I remember them: Magisterium-sounds like majestic-must be Catholic.

Ministerium-sounds like miniscule-must be Lutheran. :wink:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.