The Magisterium


#1

+T+
The living, teaching office of the Church, whose task it is to give as authentic interpretation of the word of God, whether in its written form (Sacred Scripture), or in the form of Tradition. The Magisterium ensures the Church’s fidelity to the teaching of the Apostles in matters of faith and morals.
+T+
Magisterium (from the Latin magister: ‘master’) is a technical ecclesiastical term in Catholicism referring to the authority of the Catholic Church to teach the truths of the faith infallibly.
+T+
I would appreciate some clarification about the nature of the magisterium. In particular I would like to know what process some idea will go through before it is accepted as a binding part of the magisterium. I understand that the original deposit of Faith has undergone a process of elaboration over time.

The reason I ask is that there sometimes seems to be confusion about what an official teaching of the church is. Not everyone is a Thomist for instance, and although Thomas Aquinas’ influence on the western church was enormous not everything he wrote has become accepted as part of the magisterium. Ditto for Molina and especially true for Augustine.

If John Paul II had written something profundly important for believers (let’s say in AD 2001) and everyone seems to agree is part of the magisterium, how are we to really know? It will not be in the catechism and will not be in the Code of canons. Are we free to disregard something that is not included in the catechism?How can we know that some future Pope will not write something that contradicts his ideas, and how do we as laypeople keep up with these developments?

Many such ideas are included in diverse Bulls and decrees, how are they collected into an authoritative basic set of beliefs everyone can subscribe to? What is behind the catechism?


#2

This question really makes no sense. In the quote you gave above, the magisterium is correctly defined as the “teaching office of the church”. To help clarify what that means, let us rewrite your question, and make the following analogous changes:
Pope John Paul II = Attorney General John Ashcroft

Believers = the citizens of the United States

Magisterium (teaching office of the Church) = Office of the Attorney General.
Making these substitutions, your question now reads:If Attorney General John Ashcroft had written something profoundly important for the citizens of the United States (let’s say in AD 2001) and everyone seems to agree is part of the Office of the Attorney General, how are we to really know?Do you now see why your question makes no sense?

How can we know that some future Pope will not write something that contradicts his ideas, and how do we as laypeople keep up with these developments?

The Holy Spirit protects Christ’s church from teaching errors in matters of faith and morals.


#3

[quote=Matt16_18]This question really makes no sense. In the quote you gave above, the magisterium is correctly defined as the “teaching office of the church”. To help clarify what that means, let us rewrite your question, and make the following analogous changes:Pope John Paul II = Attorney General John AshcroftBelievers = the citizens of the United States

Magisterium (teaching office of the Church) = Office of the Attorney General.

Making these substitutions, your question now reads:If Attorney General John Ashcroft had written something profoundly important for the citizens of the United States (let’s say in AD 2001) and everyone seems to agree is part of the Office of the Attorney General, how are we to really know?Do you now see why your question makes no sense?
[/quote]

No.

The Holy Spirit protects Christ’s church from teaching errors in matters of faith and morals.

Thanks for the response, but I think you missed my point entirely. Perhaps that’s why it made no sense to you.

I am not writing about doubts here, which is what you seem to be addressing. I know the Holy Spirit protects the church from errors. But how can the public discern between the mere personal opinion of the fallible JP II, other bishops and priests and the infallible decalaration of the infallible Pope JP II and the magisterium? How do Curial officials know the difference?

What about writings like “True Devotion to Mary” by St Louis? Clearly very popular and not considered contrary to the Faith, but is everything he writes considered part of the Magisterium or do we make allowances for his poetic license?

Some strict constructionists have said that there have been only two infallible ex Cathedra declarations (we already know which ones they are :slight_smile: ), but then others will say that something or other has the characteristics of an infallible teaching because of something or other.

My earlier post stated:
Many such ideas are included in diverse Bulls and decrees, how are they collected into an authoritative basic set of beliefs everyone can subscribe to? What is behind the catechism?

Perhaps the question is unanswerable, I don’t know right now how to phrase it any better.

It just seems like the nature of the ‘Magisterium’ can be somewhat obscure at time. I wonder if anyone else has sensed that.

Thanks,
+T+
Michael


#4

If you want to pursue this matter in some detail, I suggest one of the following books:

By What Authority?: A Primer on Scripture, the Magisterium, and the Sense of the Faithful by Richard R. Gaillardetz

Creative Fidelity: Weighing and Interpreting Documents of the Magisterium by Francis A. Sullivan

The Magisterium: Teaching Authority in the Catholic Church by Francis A. Sullivan


#5

The word “magisterium” is not a synonym for the doctrines of the Catholic Church. St. Louis de Montfort had no share at all in the teaching office (magisterium) of the Catholic Church.

The Justices of the Supreme Court each hold a share of the highest office within the judicial branch of the U. S. Government. The rulings handed down by the Supreme Court Justices are not the same thing as the *office * of the Supreme Court.

St. Louis de Montfort is like an attorney that writes a legal opinion for a case. The Supreme Court may decide to take under consideration the legal opinion of an attorney, and the Supreme Court may even rule that such and opinion is correct. But a postitive ruling by the Supreme Court doesn’t vest the attorney with a position in the office of the Supreme Court.


#6

Thank you both very much. I appreciate the help.

From the title alone I might guess that *Creative Fidelity: Weighing and Interpreting Documents of the Magisterium *by Francis A. Sullivan might be a good read on this subject. I will look for it.

Matt,
I think your analogies were excellent! Job well done.

Thank you,
Michael


#7

[quote=Hesychios]From the title alone I might guess that *Creative Fidelity: Weighing and Interpreting Documents of the Magisterium *by Francis A. Sullivan might be a good read on this subject. I will look for it.
[/quote]

I learned a lot by reading Creative Fidelity, even though I ended up not agreeing with everything Fr. Sullivan writes. One very nice thing about the book is that when significant differences of scholarly opinion existed, Fr. Sullivan presented all sides of the debate.

Here is the table of contents:[LIST]
*]1. Weighing and interpreting documents of the magisterium: What is it? Why do it?
*]2. Evaluating the level of authority exercised in documents of the magisterium
*]3. What is a dogma of faith?
*]4. Identifying defined dogmas in conciliar decrees: A. Criteria
*]5. Identifying defined dogmas in conciliar decrees: B. Application of criteria
*]6. Identifying defined dogmas in papal documents
*]7. Undefined dogmas
*]8. The interpretation of doctrinal texts
*]9. Some examples of interpretation
*]10. Documents of the ordinary magisterium
*]11. Evaluation and interpretation of the documents of Vatican II
*]12. Cooperation in a charitable duty[/LIST]


#8

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