What is the Magisterium and its role in Catholcism?

I am a protestant inquirer who would like to know more about the Magisterium and its role within Catholicism. Also, is it made up of cardinals like the College of Cardinals or is it a separate group of Catholic theologians?

My only knowledge is that it is the authority that lays down what is the authentic teaching of the Church but I have no idea if it is a group of people who reside in the same place in Rome near the Pope, or is it a geographically dispersed group of Catholic theologians or cardinals who occasionally meet as needed when clarification is needed on an important issue or matter of faith.

Other questions:
– How many people comprise the Magisterium?

– Does the Magisterium ever disagree with the pope on anything? If so, how are issues reconciled?

– Has the Magisterium existed throughout all of Catholicism?

– How does a Catholic get elected/selected to belong to the Magisterium?

Thanks in advance for your help in better understanding this topic.

Christ commanded the Apostles to teach, baptize and make disciples. This is the great commission.

The Magisterium is simply “Teaching Office” of the Church. The Apostles and their successors are Christ’s appointed teachers. The Magisterium exists as a gift of the Holy Spirit given to the Bishops in communion with the Chair of Peter. The primary goal of the the Magisterium is to protect the faith against error.

-Tim-

The Magisterium is made up of all the Bishops in the world and the Pope is the Bishop of Rome. Whoever is the Bishop of Rome is the leader of the Catholic Church (aside for some eastern churches). I don’t know the exact number. If there is disagreement among the Bishops the Pope makes the decision as to the direction of the Church. The title of Cardinal is given to men in the Church and they are responsible for electing the new pope. I’m sure if I made any mistakes someone here on CAF will correct me. They always do.:smiley:

Thanks, Patti. That’s more than I knew before. I appreciate it, and thanks to Tim, also.

Great question.

You answered it very well and accurately too. It is the teaching authority of the Catholic Church made up of all the bishops in union with the Pope.

Just to add to the great answers already…
The bishops and the Holy Father have access to many learned men and women who help through study and writing on various issues that the bishops need to address. While not teachers in a strict sense, they provide valuable input to the magisterial members.

Peace
James

Other posters already did a great job of succinctly summarizing things (i.e. it is the pope and the bishops in union with him). For more detail, here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

**The Magisterium of the Church **

85 “The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.” [47] This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.

86 “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.” [48]

87 Mindful of Christ’s words to his apostles: “He who hears you, hears me”, [49] the faithful receive with docility the teachings and directives that their pastors give them in different forms.

[47] DV 10 § 2.
[48] DV 10 para 2.
[49] Lk 10:16; cf. LG 20.

And also:

**The teaching office **

888 Bishops, with priests as co-workers, have as their first task “to preach the Gospel of God to all men,” in keeping with the Lord’s command. [415] They are “heralds of faith, who draw new disciples to Christ; they are authentic teachers” of the apostolic faith “endowed with the authority of Christ.” [416]

889 In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles, Christ who is the Truth willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility. By a “supernatural sense of faith” the People of God, under the guidance of the Church’s living Magisterium, “unfailingly adheres to this faith.” [417]

890 The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium’s task to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms:

891 “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful - who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council. [418] When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,” [419] and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.” [420] This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself. [421]

892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent” [422] which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.

[415] PO 4; cf. Mk 16:15.
[416] LG 25.
[417] LG 12; cf. DV 10.
[418] LG 25; cf. Vatican Council I:DS 3074.
[419] DV 10 § 2.
[420] LG 25 § 2.
[421] Cf. LG 25.
[422] LG 25.

Thanks, Joe 5859 and all others who have responded.

If I could summarize in my own words, it sounds like the Magisterium is not a body of theologians set apart physically (like the US Senate is set apart from the US president, for example), but rather a ‘logical’ body made up of the Pope and bishops to preserve the true Catholic faith without error.

In a sense, the bishops who comprise the Magisterium tend to their flocks and other duties as bishops in addition to being part of the Magisterium, correct? In other words, the Magisterium isn’t their only role within the Roman Catholic Church, correct?

Just wanted to verify if I missed anything important there.

Has the Magisterium existed since the founding of the Roman Catholic Church?

I wonder if Pope Francis can call a meeting of the Magisterium anytime he wants or if they have scheduled periodic meetings as a group.

Thanks again to all for your answers. I learn a lot from these questions so please bear with me. I appreciate your patience and understanding. Pardon my ignorance.

St Peter was our 1st Pope & the remaining apostles were the 1st Bishops, so yes, the Magisterium has been around since the beginning of the Church.

Yes, Pope Frances can call a meeting, or synod, and yes, they do meet periodically I believe.

Thanks, Patti. I wasn’t trying to criticize it or anything, by the way.

I just remember seeing Catholics refer to it on other CAF threads from time to time and I wanted to have a better understanding of it.

In my mind I had perceived it as being like the Catholic Church’s equivalent of the Supreme Court of the United States but for Catholic doctrine and faith issues.

FYI, I believe the 1st act of the new Magisterium was to replace Judas Iscariot with Mathias as the 12th apostle.

Also, I haven’t taken offense with anything you have said. You seem very respectful.:thumbsup:

Right. The Magisterium is not some separate association that people are appointed/elected to. It is simply the term used to describe the teaching authority of the Church. That authority comes from Christ and was entrusted to Peter and the Apostles and their successors (the pope and bishops in union with him). So bishops are part of the magisterium by virtue of their office as a bishop. It’s part of their job, whether they like it or not. :stuck_out_tongue:

In popular discussions, people tend to use the term in such ways that it can leave people with the impression that there is some separate group called the “Magisterium” that meets and votes on things on a regular basis. It’s not quite so mechanical as all that.

Throughout history, there have been 21 ecumenical councils of the Church and many other synods and councils. You could view these, more or less, as meetings of the magisterium (more so for the ecumenical councils and less so for the other meetings). Since Vatican Council II back in the 1960s, the bishops have met together for such synods generally every 2-4 years. Back in October there was a Synod on the Family in Rome (and there will be again this coming October). These synods don’t quite rise to the same level as an ecumenical council because they do not involve all of the bishops per se. They are more or less representative samplings of the bishops from all over the world who are meeting together to discuss a certain topic.

Don’t feel bad about asking questions. “Magisterium” is one of those $5 Catholic theology words that can be difficult to understand at first.

I think you expressed it very well. :thumbsup:

Has the Magisterium existed since the founding of the Roman Catholic Church?

Absolutely. As others have pointed out one of their first acts was to replace Judas. Another of their acts was to hold a council regarding the need for Gentiles to submit to the Mosaic Law (as recorded in Acts 15). Yet another example of the magisterium (teaching office) at work was Paul’s meeting with the “pillars of the Church” to make sure that he was not “teaching in vain”. In other words, he checked with Peter and the other apostles to make sure they were all, “on the same page”, as the saying goes.
So you can see the “teaching office” (Magisterium) at work in several places in the NT itself.

I wonder if Pope Francis can call a meeting of the Magisterium anytime he wants or if they have scheduled periodic meetings as a group.

Both actually. The Bishops in America have regular meetings. The Pope regularly communicates to the Bishops and they with him…and of course the Holy Father can call meetings as he sees fit.
Of course getting together can get mighty tricky when you have bishops all over the world.

Thanks again to all for your answers. I learn a lot from these questions so please bear with me. I appreciate your patience and understanding. Pardon my ignorance.

No problem. Thanks for such great questions.

Peace
James

Tommy999 #9
Has the Magisterium existed since the founding of the Roman Catholic Church?

MAGISTERIUM. The Church’s teaching authority, vested in the bishops, as successors of the Apostles, under the Roman Pontiff, as successor of St. Peter. Also vested in the Pope, as Vicar of Christ and visible head of the Catholic Church. (Etym. Latin magister, master.)
Modern Catholic Dictionary
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

therealpresence.org/cgi-bin/getdefinition.pl

It is vital to know that Christ Himself established His Magisterium (teaching authority) when He founded His Church as follows:

**All four promises to Peter alone: **
“You are Peter and on this rock I will build My Church.” (Mt 16:18)
“The gates of hell will not prevail against it.”(Mt 16:18)
I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven." ( Mt 16:19)
“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.” (Mt 16:19) [Later to the Twelve, also].

Sole authority:
“Strengthen your brethren.” (Lk 22:32)
“Feed My sheep.”(Jn 21:17).

It was Jesus who said to His Apostles “he that hears you hears Me” (Lk 10:16)

Already, Peter, the first Pope, had exercised his supreme authority in the upper room before Pentecost to have Judas’ place filled. At the first Apostolic Council of Jerusalem Peter settled the heated discussion over circumcising the gentiles and “the whole assembly fell silent” (Acts 15:7-12). Paul made sure that his ministry to the gentiles was recognised by, Peter (Gal 1:I8).

Tradition shows Pope St Clement exercising his primacy in about 96, on a matter of schism in the Church of Corinth. Of the same generation as Saints Peter and Paul and when St John the Apostle was probably still living in Ephesus, Pope Clement wrote as one commanding to the Church of Corinth in Greece: “If any disobey what He (Christ) says through us, let them know that they will be involved in no small offence and danger, but we shall be innocent of this sin.” (I Clem. ad Cor. 59,1).

The foundation of the Catholic Church by Jesus was His complete Way of enabling you and I to attain salvation after His redemption of mankind – through participating in His sacrifice on the Cross and receiving His Body and Blood in Holy Communion, through His sacraments of Confession and the other six according to our state – through Her teaching enabling us to live holy lives and repent of transgressions.

The Church is “the pillar and bulwark of the truth (1 Tim 3:16).” St. Paul says also, “through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Eph 3:10).” The Church teaches even the angels! This is with the authority of Christ! We are redeemed by Christ’s Passion and Death (heaven was opened); we are not saved until we co-operate with Him.

Others have also explained the reality well.

First of all, the magisterium is/aren’t people in the true sense of the word. I think many Catholics are quite confused about the meaning of “magisterium” at least if how they use the term is any indication. In Latin, the primary meaning of “magisterium” is “teachING” in the sense of the content of what is being taught, not who is teaching it. A teachER is a “magister” in Latin–thus many Catholics are confusing “teachers” with “teaching.”

One can also (but secondarily) speak about “magisterium” as the teaching office of the Church. Here again, it’s a mistake to completely conflate the office with the person holding the office–it would be equivalent to saying Barak Obama = the presidency. It’s sort of right, but not really accurately capturing the nuance in the term.

Hope that’s helpful.

Dave Noonan #17
First of all, the magisterium is/aren’t people in the true sense of the word.

Incorrect – it is the teaching authority as below, from post #16.

MAGISTERIUM. The Church’s teaching authority, vested in the bishops, as successors of the Apostles, under the Roman Pontiff, as successor of St. Peter. Also vested in the Pope, as Vicar of Christ and visible head of the Catholic Church. (Etym. Latin magister, master.)
Modern Catholic Dictionary
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

therealpresence.org/cgi-bin/getdefinition.pl

I think what Dave Noonan is trying to say is that the magisterium is not the people that comprise the magisterium but the magisterium is the teaching authority or the authority itself. Just as he gave an example, Obama is not the presidency. The presidency is some form that is not subjected to who is in it. Thus, by vesting the bishops, each is part of the magisterium by the office they hold, but the magisterium is not them (since the magisterium is the authority itself). The magisterium is the teaching authority and the bishops are a representation of that through the office they hold. To say that the bishops are the rules sounds off. How is a bishop a rule? Instead, the bishops teach the “rules”. Thus, the magisterium is the authority itself and it is not the bishops. The bishops are an instance of one who is part of the magisterium, the authority for teaching. Please feel free to correct me if I misunderstood, Dave Noonan.

The definition you presented doesn’t seem to conflict with what Dave Noonan said. The definition says “vested in the bishops.” So the bishops are an instance of the teaching authority of the church.

I hope that makes sense. Again, somebody please correct me if I’m wrong.

MyNameIsDan #19
I think what Dave Noonan is trying to say is that the magisterium is not the people that comprise the magisterium but the magisterium is the teaching authority or the authority itself.

Vatican II teaches that the “authority” exercising the Magisterium is a person and persons, as the revered Fr John A Hardon, S.J., has explained in posts #16, 18, for:
“Religious submission of will and of mind must be shown in a special way to** the authentic teaching authority 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.” Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), No. 25].
tinyurl.com/k762y3l

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