Tag: Church teaching authority

What Is The Magisterium? Teaching Authority Of The Church

What Is The Magisterium? Teaching Authority Of The Church


The crisis that has afflicted the Catholic Church since the middle of the 1960s has been a crisis of both faith and morals, that is, a crisis that has made many Catholics no longer know what to believe or what kind of conduct God expects of us. What is needed as a remedy for this is a firm standard, a reliable guide or teacher who can tell us both what we must believe and what we must do. And, of course, in Christ’s true Church we do have such a reliable standard and guide. But even Catholics of good will can sometimes be confused about exactly which voices within the Church they are to follow.

In the past the average Catholic could depend on the word of his parish priest if he had any doubts about correct Catholic belief or conduct, or even on the example of the many good Catholics about him. But today one can no longer trust everything that is said by just any priest or theologian, and our fellow parishioners are likely to be totally confused about what the Church proclaims to have been revealed by God. And so it behooves us to understand a word and concept that is apt to be unfamiliar or confusing. This word is Magisterium. Now the Latin word magisterium originally meant the duty or office of a teacher, tutor, master, etc. And in the case of the Church it means simply the teaching authority or office of the Church. The Magisterium is the teaching office of the Church, accomplished by the Holy Father and the bishops teaching in union with him.

The rule of what we must believe as Catholics was defined by the First Vatican Council (1870) thus:

…Further, all those things are to be believed with divine and Catholic faith which are contained in the Word of God, written or handed down, and which the Church, either by a solemn judgment or by her ordinary and universal teaching [magisterium], proposes for belief as having been divinely revealed.
This quotation brings up several points that must be explained. In the first place, the decree speaks of the “Word of God, written or handed down,” that is, recorded either in Sacred Scripture or in Sacred Tradition. Now at first it might seem as if Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition are two separate sources of divine revelation. But the Second Vatican Council explained that in fact, “Sacred

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