Ordinary and Universal Magisterium


#1

There are three modes of infallibility in the Church:[list]
*]extraordinary papal magisterium, also known as papal infallibility or ex cathedra
*]extraordinary magisterium of ecumenical councils
*]ordinary and universal magisterium[/list]
There have been 21 ecumenical councils in the history of the Church, not counting the council of Jerusalem described in Acts. It is fairly easy to get a handle on these, with only a few minor points of dispute.

There have been 2, or 7, or 13, or 28 ex cathedra proclamations, depending on whose list you use. But we’ve already had several threads on this topic, so I don’t need to start a new one.

However, it seems that Catholics are all over the map when it comes to determining which Church teachings are infallible by the ordinary and universal magisterium. Everyone has different opinions about this, e.g., whether the Church’s teaching on immorality of contraception is infallible via the ordinary and universal magisterium.

What I’d like to do in this thread is come up with a list of which Church teachings have been explicitly identified by the magisterium as being infallible via the ordinary and universal magisterium. Of course, the premier example of such a teaching is the impossibility of ordaining women to the priesthood, which is identified as infallible via the ordinary and universal magisterium in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.

I’m interested in seeing how many other teachings have been explicitly identified as infallible by the ordinary and universal magisterium.


#2

This note by Archbishop Bertone states the following:

It must be stressed then that in the Encyclicals Veritatis splendor and Evangelium vitae and in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, the Roman Pontiff intended, though not in a solemn way, to confirm and reaffirm doctrines which belong to the ordinary, universal teaching of the Magisterium, and which therefore are to be held in a definitive and irrevocable way.

Identifying the infallible teachings from Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and Evangelium Vitae is straightforward, but I can only guess at what the infallible teaching from Veritatis Splendor is.

From Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (1994):

Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.

From Evangelium Vitae (1995):

Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15), is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the Church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.

Given such unanimity in the doctrinal and disciplinary tradition of the Church, Paul VI was able to declare that this tradition is unchanged and unchangeable. Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops-who on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrine-I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.

Taking into account these distinctions, in harmony with the Magisterium of my Predecessors and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.


#3

Good luck on doing that!

There are thousands (millions? billions?) of infallible truths contained in the deposit of faith. But not having a list of all these infallible truths isn’t a problem for Catholics, because Christ founded his Church on men who are vested with the authority to shepherd the flock, and Christ gave his church the Holy Spirit to guide her until the end of time. If Christ wanted to give us lists, he would have given us lists. Instead of lists, he gave us shepherds.

Particular men are vested with the authority of Christ to solemnly define the dogmas of the Church, if that becomes necessary. If a truth of the deposit of faith becomes disputed, the teaching office of the Church can be exercised in an extraordinary manner to clear up the dispute.

It is a futile exercise to look for a list of all infallible truths in the deposit of faith that have not yet been solemnly defined by extraordinary exercises of the magisterium of the Church. Catholics are called to obedience to the duly appointed shepherds, not endless dissent. Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account.
Heb 13:7


#4

[quote=Matt16_18]Good luck on doing that!
[/quote]

Thanks! I figure someone has to try.

[quote=Matt16_18]There are thousands (millions? billions?) of infallible truths contained in the deposit of faith.
[/quote]

Or maybe a dozen or so. I hope to find out.

[quote=Matt16_18]But not having a list of all these infallible truths isn’t a problem for Catholics, because Christ founded his Church on men who are vested with the authority to shepherd the flock, and Christ gave his church the Holy Spirit to guide her until the end of time. If Christ wanted to give us lists, he would have given us lists. Instead of lists, he gave us shepherds.
[/quote]

I agree.

[quote=Matt16_18]Particular men are vested with the authority of Christ to solemnly define the dogmas of the Church, if that becomes necessary. If a truth of the deposit of faith becomes disputed, the teaching office of the Church can be exercised in an extraordinary manner to clear up the dispute.
[/quote]

Or, as is more often the case, the ordinary magisterium can settle the dispute authoritatively but non-infallibly, as Pope Pius XII’s Humani Generis makes clear:

  1. Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: “He who heareth you, heareth me”; and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians.

[quote=Matt16_18]It is a futile exercise to look for a list of all infallible truths in the deposit of faith that have not yet been solemnly defined by extraordinary exercises of the magisterium of the Church.
[/quote]

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

[quote=Matt16_18]Catholics are called to obedience to the duly appointed shepherds, not endless dissent.
[/quote]

Catholics are called to more than obedience for infallible teachings; they are called to believe them with divine and Catholic faith.


#5

Here are some from the Doctrinal Note for Ad Tuendam Fidem.

These are identified as infallible without indicating the mode of infallibility. I’ll need to check these against the ecumenical councils.

To the truths of the first paragraph belong the articles of faith of the Creed, the various Christological dogmas and Marian dogmas; the doctrine of the institution of the sacraments by Christ and their efficacy with regard to grace; the doctrine of the real and substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the sacrificial nature of the Eucharistic celebration; the foundation of the Church by the will of Christ; the doctrine on the primacy and infallibility of the Roman Pontiff; the doctrine on the existence of original sin; the doctrine on the immortality of the spiritual soul and on the immediate recompense after death; the absence of error in the inspired sacred texts; the doctrine on the grave immorality of direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being.

The following are explicitly identifed as deriving from the ordinary and universal magisterium:

Other examples of moral doctrines which are taught as definitive by the universal and ordinary Magisterium of the Church are: the teaching on the illicitness of prostitution and of fornication.


#6

[quote=Matt16_18]Good luck on doing that!

There are thousands (millions? billions?) of infallible truths contained in the deposit of faith. But not having a list of all these infallible truths isn’t a problem for Catholics, because Christ founded his Church on men who are vested with the authority to shepherd the flock, and Christ gave his church the Holy Spirit to guide her until the end of time. If Christ wanted to give us lists, he would have given us lists. Instead of lists, he gave us shepherds.

Particular men are vested with the authority of Christ to solemnly define the dogmas of the Church, if that becomes necessary. If a truth of the deposit of faith becomes disputed, the teaching office of the Church can be exercised in an extraordinary manner to clear up the dispute.

It is a futile exercise to look for a list of all infallible truths in the deposit of faith that have not yet been solemnly defined by extraordinary exercises of the magisterium of the Church. Catholics are called to obedience to the duly appointed shepherds, not endless dissent.Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account.
Heb 13:7
[/quote]

While Catholic2003s intent may be to help him and other Catholics distinguish between what teaching to accept vs those to believe, my interest is in being able to defend Church teaching to non and fallen away Catholics with whom I tend to get into discussions about Church positions.

When they claim X or Y is not infallible, then I’d like to be able to reply confidently that it is, while being able to show in writing, the defense of my statement.

The exercise in and of itself, is not futile, and can serve more than one purpose.


#7

I’ve found a better version of the Doctrinal Commentary on Ad Tuendam Fidem on EWTN. So here is the paragraph of infallible teachings I quoted earlier, this time with footnotes indicating the source of the teaching:

To the truths of the first paragraph belong[LIST]
*]the articles of faith of the Creed,
*]the various Christological dogmas (21) and Marian dogmas; (22)
*]the doctrine of the institution of the sacraments by Christ and their efficacy with regard to grace; (23)
*]the doctrine of the real and substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist (24)
*]and the sacrificial nature of the eucharistic celebration; (25)
*]the foundation of the Church by the will of Christ; (26)
*]the doctrine on the primacy and infallibility of the Roman Pontiff; (27)
*]the doctrine on the existence of original sin; (28)
*]the doctrine on the immortality of the spiritual soul and on the immediate recompense after death; (29)
*]the absence of error in the inspired sacred texts; (30)
*]the doctrine on the grave immorality of direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being. (31)
[/LIST]
Footnotes:

(21) Cf. DS 301-302.
(22) Cf. DS 2803; 3903.
(23) Cf. DS 1601; 1606.
(24) Cf. DS 1636.
(25) Cf. DS 1740; 1743.
(26) Cf. DS 3050.
(27) Cf. DS 3059-3075.
(28) Cf. DS 1510-1515.
(29) Cf. DS 1000-1002.
(30) Cf. DS 3293; Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, 11.
(31) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, 57: AAS 87 (1995), 465.

I’ll be looking these up in Denzinger the next time I visit the library, to determine the precise mode of infallibility for each.


#8

If you want to do this, I suggest that you start by getting an English translation of “Denzinger-Schönmetzer”: The Sources of Catholic Dogma, 30th edition, Heinrich Joseph Denzinger, B. Herder Book Co., St. Louis, Missouri, 1957.

“Denzinger-Schönmetzer” is abbreviated DS in the footnotes to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Another reference that you will want to obtain is Dr. Ludwig Ott’s, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma.

These two references should cover most of the questions that you get concerning Catholic dogma.


#9

[quote=Matt16_18]If you want to do this, I suggest that you start by getting an English translation of “Denzinger-Schönmetzer”: The Sources of Catholic Dogma, 30th edition, Heinrich Joseph Denzinger, B. Herder Book Co., St. Louis, Missouri, 1957.
[/quote]

Another excellent book along these lines is The Christian Faith: In the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church, ed. by Jacques Dupuis.


#10

Some more homework for you … Here is a website where someone has gone to the trouble going through Dr. Ludwig Ott’s, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, and compiled a list of the dogmas contained in Ott’s book: Dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church.

There are over 200 dogmas listed. One would need a copy of both Ott and Denzinger to figure out which of these doctrines have been solemnly defined by the extraordinary exercise of the magisterium. :o


#11

[quote=Matt16_18]There are over 200 dogmas listed. One would need a copy of both Ott and Denzinger to figure out which of these doctrines have been solemnly defined by the extraordinary exercise of the magisterium. :o
[/quote]

See this thread for another website with this list, and the list itself posted. In this version, those dogmas from the first seven Ecumenical councils have been identified with an asterisk, in a effort to identify common beliefs with the Eastern Orthodox.

I was under the impression that all of the dogmas from Ott were defined via the extraordinary Magisterium. I will certainly check this out on my next library trip.


#12

Ott’s book lists the “theological grade of certainty” for each of the dogmas discussed. Ott does distiguish between a dogma that is de fide definita and a doctrine that is, say, sententia fidei proxima.

Not every dogma listed in Ott’s book was solemnly defined by an extraordinary exercise of the Magisterium (i.e. not all are de fide definita).


#13

Found another one, from the 2000 Papal Address to the Roman Rota:

It seems quite clear then that the non-extension of the Roman Pontiff’s power to ratified and consummated sacramental marriages is taught by the Church’s Magisterium as a doctrine to be held definitively, even if it has not been solemnly declared by a defining act. This doctrine, in fact, has been explicitly proposed by the Roman Pontiffs in categorical terms, in a constant way and over a sufficiently long period of time. It was made their own and taught by all the Bishops in communion with the See of Peter, with the knowledge that it must always be held and accepted by the faithful.

In this sense it was reaffirmed by the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Besides, it is a doctrine confirmed by the Church’s centuries-old practice, maintained with full fidelity and heroism, sometimes even in the face of severe pressures from the mighty of this world.


#14

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.