Question re Magisterium


#1

Hey, guys. I was trying to straighten out some questions I had about Catholic doctrine and figured I’d post them here. Two prefatory remarks: (1) I’m not trying to make any point in asking these questions; I just genuinely want to get a clearer understanding of the doctrines. (2) Please forgive any terminological problems with the way I formulate this; hopefully I will at least convey what I mean in a general sense, but I may fail to use appropriate technical terms.

Okay, the question is best framed in terms of a hypothetical. Suppose the magisterium of the Church at time 1 tells Catholics that a certain proposition X is true. (I won’t use terms like doctrines, dogmas, etc., since I’m not confident I’ll appropriately capture the nuances.) Suppose that this pronouncement X at time 1 is NOT infallible (not ex cathedra, etc.). And suppose further that, being fallible, X turns out to be wrong, and that at a later time 2, the magisterium correctly starts to teach not-X.

The question relates to conduct occurring by Catholics between times 1 and 2. May a Catholic examine the arguments in favor of X and conclude that they are wrong, since the teaching of X is fallible? And if the Catholic does determine that X is wrong (correctly, as it turns out in the hypothetical we’re considering), may he reject X with a clear conscience and without committing a sin or doing something wrong? I understand that if X were taught infallibly, then that would put it off limits, but again, that is not the situation I’m concerned with. Further – at time 2, would those who rejected X in contravention of the magisterial teachings of earlier times be rehabilitated? Can one end up in hell, on the Catholic view, for having held a view that is actually correct, simply because it was fallibly (and wrongly) rejected by the teaching magisterium of the Church during one’s own lifetime?

Thanks in advance for your help with this.

CThomas


#2

CThomas;

Jesus would have refused to answer a question like this and a zen master would probably hit you over the head with a stick.

Question: Does the magisterium have a strangle hold on the lives of Catholics and damn all acts of personal conscience hell?

Answer: NO.

Question: Well then, are Catholics allowed to do whatever they want based on their personal conscience?

Answer: NO.

Question: So how do you resolve this paradox?

Answer: Though a life of prayer, the Sacraments (especially Eucharist), scripture study, life in Catholic community, service to the Church and to the poor, acceptance of and entrance into the mysteries, and , most importantly, a humble daily walk with the Lord our God.

Note: when a post says “I am not trying to cause trouble”, we can usually assume that the poster is trying to cause trouble.

Only God can resolve your paradox, may you find Him now.

The Chancellor


#3

CThomas;

Jesus would have refused to answer a question like this and a zen master would probably hit you over the head with a stick.

Question: Does the magisterium have a strangle hold on the lives of Catholics and damn all acts of personal conscience to hell?

Answer: NO.

Question: Well then, are Catholics allowed to do whatever they want based on their personal conscience?

Answer: NO.

Question: So how do you resolve this paradox?

Answer: Though a life of prayer, the Sacraments (especially Eucharist), scripture study, life in Catholic community, service to the Church and to the poor, acceptance of and entrance into the mysteries, and , most importantly, a humble daily walk with the Lord our God.

Note: when a post says “I am not trying to cause trouble”, we can usually assume that the poster is trying to cause trouble.

Only God can resolve your paradox, may you find Him now.

The Chancellor


#4

CThomas,

Check out these articles, Magisterium Part 1 and Magisterium Part 2. This is part 1 and 2 of a four part series on the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Hope this helps.

God Bless,
ZP


#5

I think you asked a great question, and I don’t agree with Chancellor’s rude response at all.

I personally don’t agree with the doctrine of papal infallibility, but I have studied the theology of infallibility a little bit. I will tell you my understanding.

A statement by the Pope does not really need to be ex cathedra to be infallible. Any teaching by the Pope that is agreed upon by the bishops is considered infallible. It can’t really be changed unless the Church were to later alter the whole concept of the Magisterium. So for example, Humanae Vitae, which banned contraception in 1968 but was not ex cathedra, is still considered infallible because it is taught by the Pope and the bishops as a whole and has been taught by such for quite some time.

Hope that helped.


#6

I just want to add something. Theoretically the Magisterium can never contradict itself, but I think it has in subtle ways. For example, the moral theology of sex changed form the early 20th century to Humanae Vitae in 1968. Originally it was only ok to have sex if you intended to procreate, but later the possibility of procreation was enough.


#7

Hi. For me as a person coming into the Catholic faith, my assumption is the Magisterium is correct. Not, they are wrong and they have to prove they are right. I feel I must submit.

Now, I do believe everything they teach, but you know, I’m not so sure I understand it. But, its OK, do I understand the assumption of Mary? Nah, but its not really a stumbling block for me.

Teak

edailymissal.org


#8

I think you’re mistaken in your last statement; it seems to imply that sexual relations are wrong where there is no possibility of procreation. To my knowledge, the Magisterium never taught that it was wrong/sinful for married couples to engage in sexual relations if procreation was not possible (eg. wife past menopause; husband or wife infertile).
[Moral theology is not necessarily an expression of infallible teaching.]

I realize there may have been some individuals who did teach it was wrong. But if there were such a teaching by the Magisterium, it would obviously have to be recorded somewhere – in an official Church Council document or in various papal encyclicals. In other words, some record that officially that was the teaching of the Pope and the bishops and was to be accepted by all the faithful. This would be true for any doctrine considered “infallible”.

Nita


#9

Nita, I believe it was in previous papal documents. I just don’t have the information. I could be wrong, I’m not infallible, like some people.


#10

We are required to be obedient to Church teaching in all matters of faith and morals regardless if it is defined ex cathedra or not infallibly proposed.

At times the magisterium proposes matters of faith and morals infallibly, i.e., with the assurance that what is proposed is absolutely irreformable and a matter to be held definitively by the faithful. At other times the magisterium proposes matters of faith and morals authoritatively and as true, but not in such wise that the matter proposed is to be held definitively and absolutely. But still the matter proposed is to be held by the faithful and to be held as true.** Note that the proper way to speak of teachings proposed in this way is to say that they are authoritatively taught; it is not proper to say that they are fallibly taught.**

Moral teachings authoritatively but not infallibly proposed as true are binding upon the consciences of the faithful (including pope, bishops, theologians, and ordinary laypeople). All the faithful are to give these teachings a religious submission (obsequium religiosum) of will and mind. Teachings authoritatively proposed are proposed as true, not as opinions or “prudential guidelines.”

Can we dessent to obsequium religiosum? No, not really. But a very well informed theologian on the cutting edge of teaching formation (say in the moral aspects of new and complex technology areas like genetic research) may “withhold assent” and raise questions, but this is a far cry from “dissent.”

Your question is really theoretical in nature since there has never been a retraction of moral teaching - just greater definition for clarity and refinement. Do you have an example of what you imagine is a retraction of a teaching?

In essence the magisterium speaks with the authority of Christ and we are not to try and form ways of circumventing teachings that are meant to prevent us from falling into grave sin since that would be self defeating.

Here is an interesting article: Authority and Dissent in the Catholic Church by Dr. William E. May

James


#11

CThomas,

Your question seems to pertain to those things in which Catholics are obliged to give their assent. Infallible dogma falls into this category. However, even the ordinary teaching or doctrine of the Magisterium not infallibly defined also falls into this category, according to the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium:

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. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking. (Lumen Gentium, 25).

The Code of Canon law likewise states:

Canon 752 While the assent of faith is not required, a religious submission of intellect and will is to be given to any doctrine which either the Supreme Pontiff or the College of Bishops, exercising their authentic magisterium, declare upon a matter of faith or morals, even though they do not intend to proclaim that doctrine by definitive act. Christ’s faithful are therefore to ensure that they avoid whatever does not accord with that doctrine.

Canon 1371 The following are to be punished with a just penalty:

1° a person who, apart from the case mentioned in Canon 1364 §1 , teaches a doctrine condemned by the Roman Pontiff, or by an Ecumenical Council, or obstinately rejects the teaching mentioned in Canon 752 and, when warned by the Apostolic See or by the Ordinary, does not retract;

2° a person who in any other way does not obey the lawful command or prohibition of the Apostolic See or the Ordinary or Superior and, after being warned, persists in disobedience.
Cardinal Ratzinger (then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith) published the following doctrinal commentary related to the above paragraph:

[quote]
To this [third] paragraph belong all those teachings on faith and morals - presented as true or at least as sure

, even if they have not been defined with a solemn judgment or proposed as definitive by the ordinary and universal Magisterium. Such teachings are, however, an authentic expression of the ordinary Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff or of the College of Bishops and therefore ***require religious submission of will and intellect.***[18] They are set forth in order to arrive at a deeper understanding of revelation, or to recall the conformity of a teaching with the truths of faith, or lastly to warn against ideas incompatible with these truths or against dangerous opinions that can lead to error.[19]

 A proposition contrary to these doctrines can be     qualified as erroneous or, in the case of teachings of the prudential order, as rash     or dangerous and therefore "tuto doceri non potest".[20]


As examples of doctrines belonging to the third paragraph, one can point in general to teachings set forth by the authentic ordinary Magisterium in a non-definitive way, which require degrees of adherence differentiated according to the mind and the will manifested; this is shown especially by the nature of the documents, by the frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or by the tenor of the verbal expression.38

[Footnotes:]
18 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 25; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum Veritatis, 23: AAS 82 (1990), 1559-1560.

19 Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum Veritatis, 23 and 24: AAS 82 (1990), 1559-1561.

20 Cf. CIC, cann. 752, 1371; CCEO, cann. 599, 1436 § 2.

38 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 25; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum Veritatis, 17, 23 and 24: AAS 82 (1990), 1557-1558, 1559-1561.
To the question whether obstinate refusal to obey canon 752 is a “grave” sin, any violation of law associated with a “penalty” (i.e., penance) is normally considered grave, because sins which are merely venial do not require penance.
[/quote]


#12

By ecclesial discipline, the faithful are obliged to give their religious assent to the proposition made at time 1, insofar as the current magisterium continues to affirm that proposition to be true or at least certain.

In other words, old bishops and popes are no longer in office when they die. We only owe our religious obedience to our parish pastor, our ordinary (normally the diocesan bishop), and the Roman Pontiff. These three men are the lawful pastors of our soul, and we must submit to them in matters religious. Any other priest is not in our “chain of command” unless these pastors manifestly delegate such authority to them.

May a Catholic examine the arguments in favor of X and conclude that they are wrong, since the teaching of X is fallible?

We are called to “test everthing, hold fast to the good.” So yes, we must always contemplate the arguments in favor of Church teaching. We must always do so in the spirit of charity, giving due respect to our lawful pastors. We may not dissent. Dissent is incompatible with charity. Honest “difficulties” may remain in our attempt to assent to the teaching in question. These “difficulties” are not the same as public dissent.

I recommend reading Donum Veritatis, which was cited above by Cardinal Ratzinger. This will help clarify the difference between public “dissent” (a sin) and “difficulty” with one’s interior assent to Church teaching. Keep in mind, Donum Veritatis is an instruction to “theologians” who have higher education and bona fide credentials in Catholic theology as compared to your average lay Catholic. Nonetheless, the distinctions between “dissent” and “difficulties” given by Cardinal Ratzinger are instructive to all Catholics.

And if the Catholic does determine that X is wrong … may he reject X with a clear conscience and without committing a sin or doing something wrong?

No. This would be a violation of charity. We are called to obey our superiors and submit to them" (Heb 13:17). Canon 752 demands religious assent for all doctrines, even non-infallibly defined ones. Religious assent of intellect and will is not compatible with “rejecting” authentic teaching of the Magisterium. Nonetheless, not all teachings of our bishops and pope are intended to be held as “certain teaching.” One has to discern their intention according to their mind and will, according to their manner of speaking or writing.

Further – at time 2, would those who rejected X in contravention of the magisterial teachings of earlier times be rehabilitated?

It seems to me they would still have to reconcile with the Church through the Sacrament of Penance if they obstinately rejected authentic non-infallible doctrine, because they still contradicted the law of charity in violation of canon 752.

Can one end up in hell, on the Catholic view, for having held a view that is actually correct, simply because it was fallibly (and wrongly) rejected by the teaching magisterium of the Church during one’s own lifetime?

Yes, it is possible to be damned for sins against charity. However, only God knows if one is judged for hell.

For example, the Church teaches that the tribunal process is not infallible. However, even a licit and valid yet unjust excommunication must be obeyed. The victim of this kind of unjust excommunication is called to obey, even though they remain in a state of grace. The injustice is a “cross” that they are called to carry. Truth, in the final analysis, will win out. However, if he disobeyed even an unjust excommunication, his grave sin would be the result of lack of charity toward his lawful superiors, not whatever matter he was innocent of which the tribunal erroneously judged him as guilty.

The Catholic Encyclopedia article called “Excommunication” explains:

Excommunication is said to be unjust when, though valid, it is wrongfully applied to a person really innocent but believed to be guilty. … In chapter xxviii, de sent. excomm. (Lib. V, tit. xxxix), Innocent III formally admits the possibility of this conflict. Some persons, he says, may be free in the eyes of God but bound in the eyes of the Church; vice versa, some may be free in the eyes of the Church but bound in the eyes of God: for God’s judgment is based on the very truth itself, whereas that of the Church is based on arguments and presumptions which are sometimes erroneous. He concludes that the chain by which the sinner is bound in the sight of God is loosed by remission of the fault committed, whereas that which binds him in the sight of the Church is severed only by removal of the sentence. Consequently, a person unjustly excommunicated is in the same state as the justly excommunicated sinner who has repented and recovered the grace of God; he has not forfeited internal communion with the Church, and God can bestow upon him all necessary spiritual help. However, while seeking to prove his innocence, the censured personis meanwhile bound to obey legitimate authority and to behave as one under the ban of excommunication, until he is rehabilitated or absolved.


#13

The Chancellor has been accused of rudeness. His answer: guilty as charged. I repent and ask your forgiveness.

I realized after reading Dave’s magisterial response from Canon law that if CThomas was wanting the canonical answer my response was impertinent. Canon law is a remarkable set of rules ethics and morality. It is also amazingly flexible to adapt to real-life contingencies.

Sometimes (though not here) Canon Law can be quoted in a “proof text” kind of way that can make it sound much more harsh and legalistic than it actually is.

In practice there is a lot of room for discretion as to when and where various canons apply. You are all saved from further on this by me because my books of CanonLaw and commentaries are at the office. This is probably good.

The Chancellor


#14

While the encyclical itself was said not to be infallible by the Vatican, it did teach infallible doctrine, not because the Pope and Bishops agreed, but because the Church since earliest times taught that contraception and abortion are forbidden. Google Didache, it is one of the early documents. Humanae Vitae reiterated this ancient position. :slight_smile: :thumbsup: .


#15

The Magisterium teaches infallibly in any of three ways:

  1. solemn definitions of the Pope
  2. solemn definitions ofEcumenical Councils
  3. the universal Magisterium, when the Pope and the Bishops, dispersed through the world, teach one doctrine definitively to be held.

All other teachings of the Pope and/or the Bishops are non-infallible (as opposed to fallible), meaning that there is a limited possibility of error.

Decisions of the temporal authority of the Church are fallible.


#16

Without reading through all of the different answers supplied I will make recourse to 3 Bible passages that I believe deal nicley with this situation.

Matthew 16:19
"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven."

Matthew 18:17
"If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Matthew 23:1-3
1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2 saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.

To summarize the above:

  1. Jesus Gave the Keys to Peter (The Church) to bind and loose on earth.
  2. If we have disputes we should teke them to the Church for resolution.
  3. We should be obedient to the teachings of the Church, even thouth the teachers may be "less than perfect.

Thus if, in the very unlikely situation that you propose, the Church changed or even reversed itself on some issue, no problem or sin is incurred by the faithful.
If on the other hand some of the faithful, on their own, decide that the Church’s position is wrong they run afoul of Jesus own desire that we be obedient to the Authority of His Church. Now if one holds such a dissenting opinion privately and without “teaching” this opinion to others, the sin would likely be mitigated. However if one were to “Spread dissention”, that is “teach” this opinion that the church is wrong, then it is better that they have “a millstone tied around their neck”.

Peace
James


#17

The Chancellor was not rude. A bit “overly humorous” perhaps, but not rude.The proper response to the Chancellor should be to see the humor in it, “get” the joke, reply with a slightly “tighter” question explaining (succinctly) the reason for the import of the need for an accurate response from SOMEONE capable of doing so, and waiting for said response.

I realized after reading Dave’s magisterial response from Canon law that if CThomas was wanting the canonical answer my response was impertinent. Canon law is a remarkable set of rules ethics and morality. It is also amazingly flexible to adapt to real-life contingencies.

Sometimes (though not here) Canon Law can be quoted in a “proof text” kind of way that can make it sound much more harsh and legalistic than it actually is.

In practice there is a lot of room for discretion as to when and where various canons apply. You are all saved from further on this by me because my books of CanonLaw and commentaries are at the office. This is probably good.

The Chancellor

The dog ate MY books on Canon Law, so I don’t comment on these legal matters anymore.

My dog also made snacks out of my grade-school homework quite often. I wonder why that was… hmmm…


#18

Hey, thanks very much for all the thoughtful and interesting responses. I think they have helped me to get a clearer understanding of the Catholic views on these questions. And a special thanks to “the Chancellor” for reconsidering and retracting his initial response.

Thanks again to all who responded (and I will continue to appreciate any further insights).

Regards,
CThomas


#19

“We only owe our religious obedience to our parish pastor, our ordinary (normally the diocesan bishop), and the Roman Pontiff. These three men are the lawful pastors of our soul, and we must submit to them in matters religious”

Would you not agree that you are not to submit to your priest if you feel he is teaching against Catholic teaching (both infallible and authoritative/fallible)? I’m sure people are aware of priests who interpret Magisterial documents one way which others might interpret another. If a person has multiple parishes near him, is it sinful for him to go to another church if his thinking/perspective matches up more with another area priest? Of course this gets somewhat back into the OP’ers question - how do you know you are legitimately dissenting/resisting rather than sinfully disobeying. I’m also wondering if the citations of canon law, DV, and LG do not beg the question as perhaps they are reformable in and of themselves.


#20

Would you not agree that you are not to submit to your priest if you feel he is teaching against Catholic teaching (both infallible and authoritative/fallible)? *

If there is a blatant teaching or practise that is not in conformity with a dogmatic belief or to the Catholic Catechism then a person is in fact obligated to bring it to the attention of the priest to discuss it or to then bring it to the attention of the Bishop if it continues. There is a certain “tact” required though and it must be done in spirit of charity not manifest itself as a challenge to authority or to cause division and dissent. Normally, most people will ask another priest at another parish or an associate priest or deacon or respected lay CCD teacher etc. to get a 2nd opinion on an apparent discrepancy. In all the cases the priest should first be extended the benefit of the doubt and one should discuss it in person without gossiping about it or spreading rumors.

The Bishop will correct any abuses or problems that are not resolved locally at the parish level if they are brought to his attention.

James


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