The Magisterium - frequently asked questions
The questions are not ranked in a logical order, but according to
their priority in the judgment of our
- Do the Roman authorities teach that the ordination of
women has been ruled out infallibly by the ordinary
Yes, that is what they claim -
but without proper justification for it!
- What does the ordinary magisterium mean?
The concordant teaching of all Catholic bishops together
with the Pope outside an ecumenical council.
- What five conditions need to be fulfilled, for the ordinary
magisterium to teach infallibly?
The bishops must (a)
judge (b) on a matter of faith or morals, (c) through a collegial action, (d)
in the service of the faith of the whole Church, (e) imposing a definitive
- What do Catholic theologians say about these pronouncements by the
The pronouncements have not
fulfilled the conditions stipulated by Vatican II.
- Does Ordinary Magisterium need to be verified by the
faithful before it can be truly held to be definitive and final?
- What is the significance of the extended oath of fidelity
required from bishops, theologians, parish priests and others?
a. The oath of fidelity has been reformulated to
implicitly include the ban against the ordination of women
(under teachings of the ordinary magisterium)
b. This interpretation is clear from Cardinal
Ratzingers Commentary on Ad Tuendam Fidem
c. The secret examination of new Bishops (José
- Have some Church leaders refused to take the oath of fidelity because
of its implying the exclusion of women from holy orders?
Yes, they have. Read, for example, the testimony of Fr.
- Are bishops, parish priests, theologians, etc. still bound by the
oath of fidelity if they come to realise that the arguments against
ordaining women are invalid?
No, they are not. In
that case, the oath ceases ab intrinseco [from within] at least
with regard to the ordination of women.
failings of the official teaching authority
- How many doctrines of official Church teaching have had
to be changed in the course of time?
Bishop Raymond Lucker counted sixty-five!
- Had the Inquisition that perpetrated so many injustices been
instituted by the Catholic teaching authority?
- Did Popes sanction the persecution of witches?
- Did Popes defend slavery as willed by God?
- Did Popes and General Councils claim that no one can be saved outside
communion with the Catholic Church?
- Did Popes refuse a Christian burial to those who took interest for
capital lent to other people?
- Did Pope Pius IX (1848 - 1878) condemn religious freedom, freedom of
conscience, socialism, democracy and the emancipation of slaves?
Yes, he did. He was recently beatified by Pope John Paul
- Do these errors and mistakes in the past prove that the teaching
authority itself should be discounted?
No, it does not.
But it shows that the teaching authority in the Church needs constant
Dissent by theologians in the
- Do theologians share in teaching authority?
They do to the extent that they help the Church discern the
- Have theologians an essential task, that is distinct and
complementary to those of the Pope and the bishops?
Yes, they do. Whereas the task of Pope and bishops is to
witness to revealed truth, theologians penetrate their deeper
- Do theologians who receive a canonical mission teach with
a higher authority?
- Do theologians enjoy academic freedom in the
They do by law, but not always in
- What are the limits of their academic freedom?
They are determined by the purpose and circumstances of
- Can a theologian legitimately dissent from officially taught
Yes he/she can, if there are good reasons
- Do theologians at times have a duty to express dissent from
officially taught doctrine?
a. Their integrity may
b. True obedience to the Gospel and truth
may demand open opposition to the teaching authority.
- How to determine the limits of legitimate dissent?
Conditions of charity, balance, humility and others
- What about Donum Veritatis, the Roman Instruction on the
Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian?
document makes the papal and curial magisterium the final norm of
- Can clear guidelines for dissent be formulated?
No, since many situations are unique.
- May a theologians dissent be voiced through the public
Yes, it may. Often the attitude of the Roman
authorities leave no other way.
- Why does dissent provoke such opposition and friction in the
Because in the real world conflict is
aggravated by many human factors.
caused by the Roman teaching authority in our
- Who exactly do we mean by the Roman teaching authorities?
They include Pope John Paul II and some of his Vatican
- Why may we speak of a crisis caused by the Roman teaching authority
in our time?
a. The magisterium has become the
battle-cry of intransigent people (Prof. Bernard Häring)
b. I look at my church and I am troubled(Mgr.
John J. Egan)
c. There is much untruth in the
Church. There is hypocrisy and humbug at all levels. There is pretended
loyalty, outward profession of the official line accompanied by inner denial;
there is the corrupting power of fear (Fr. Owen
d.Violence in the
Church (Fr. Camilo Macisse)
e. The secret
examination of new Bishops (José Manuel Vidal)
f. The Impact of Humanae Vitae (John Mahoney
- Are the Roman authorities right in their attempts to silence
a. It does not serve the good of the
Church if legitimate dissent is crushed.
the interference of the Vatican in USA universities
- Do the bishops and the Pope underestimate the laity?
a. They do!
b. They neglect to
consult the faithful as they should, cf. John Henry Newman.
c. The Church is a patriarchial society clinging on to
- Does the Pope rely too much on his own advisers?
Yes, he often does, with sorry consequences for the
- Do the Roman authorities attribute excessive importance to law?
a. Yes, they often show a mentality that gives an
overriding importance to legislation and jurisdictional acts.
b. their treatment of priests applying for
release from the law of celibacy is simply unchristian (Bishop Reinhold
c. They excommunicated seven women
who made have made a legal mistake, without regard to their personal motives or
- Do the Roman authorities promote a wrong understanding of
a. They do so,
when it suits them.
b. One recent example is
Ordinatio Sacerdotalis against the ordination of women.
- Do the Roman authorities not realise that doctrine
That seems to be the
- Do the Roman authorities damage the Church by exercising excessive
- Have the Roman authorities overplayed their hand in their socalled
Yes, decidedly so. Read: Hans Küng: Women's
Ordination and Infallibility.
Teaching authority in
- What does magisterium, teaching authority, mean?
In the course of time it has come to mean the
teaching authority of the hierarchy.
- If God reveals truth, why do we need a teaching authority?
Because we do not only respond with faith, but also seek
understanding in changing circumstances.
- Who possesses the revealed Word of God, the bishops and the Pope or
the People of God?
God has entrusted his Word to the
whole community of faith.
- Does a teaching need to be received by the People of God
for it to be authenticated?
- What does it mean to teach doctrine with authenticity?
In Church documents, the term at times denotes
infallible doctrine, but not always.
- What is the position of the Pope within the college of bishops?
The Pope is the head of the episcopal college.
- Do also the bishops and the Pope belong to the learning
They most certainly do.
- Where does the infallibility of the magisterium find its
Infallibility finds its source in the
inerrancy which is a gift to the whole community of faith.
- Are there non-infallible binding teachings?
Yes, there are.
- What is meant by the ordinary magisterium?
Especially, the common assent of the faithful under the
guidance of the magisterium.
- Does every part of Catholic doctrine share in the infallibility of
- Are the bishops and the Pope infallibile when they issue practical,
They are not.
- How do we surrender in faith to authentic doctrine set
forth by the magisterium?
Our surrender in faith is a
response to revealed truth proclaimed in the Church.
- What did Vatican II mean with obsequium fidei, obedience
It is a rich term, with a large
spectrum of connotations. Loyalty includes both loyal obedience and loyal
- How can we safely interpret the doctrinal texts of General Councils?
This is not as straightforward as it might
The position of Catholic
- When does an institute of learning become a
If it is devoted to higher
- What types of Catholic university do we find?
We may distinguish six types according to their status in
secular society and in the Church.
- What makes a university Catholic?
the last analysis, only people can make a university Catholic.
- How are theologians in Catholic universities bonded to
Mainly as individual members of the
Read: Theologians and the
Magisterium, by Richard A. McCormick. From Corrective Vision, Explorations
in Moral Theology, Sheed & Ward, 1994, Chapter 7.
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