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Reblog – Magisterium And Infallibility: A Take

Magisterium and Infallibility: A Take. 

Mons Gherardini on Vatican II

Emphases mine.
Now, in conclusion, our discussion returns to Vatican II, so as to make, if possible, a definitive statement about whether or not it is part of Tradition and about its magisterial quality. There is no question about the latter, and those laudatores who for a good 50 years have tirelessly upheld the magisterial identity of Vatican II have been wasting their time and ours: no one denies it. Given their uncritically exuberant statements, however, a problem arises as to the quality: what sort of Magisterium are we talking about? The article in L’Osservatore Romano to which I referred at the outset speaks about doctrinal Magisterium: and who has ever denied it? Even a purely pastoral statement can be doctrinal, in the sense of pertaining to a given doctrine. If someone were to say doctrinal in the sense of dogmatic, however, he would be wrong: no dogma is proclaimed by Vatican II. If it has some dogmatic value also, it does so indirectly in passages where it refers back to previously defined dogmas. Its Magisterium, in short, as has been said over and over again to anyone who has ears to hear it, is a solemn and supreme Magisterium.
More problematic is its continuity with Tradition, not because it did not declare such a continuity, but because, especially in those key points where it was necessary for this continuity to be evident, the declaration has remained unproven.
 Please, pleaaase a prayer for this brave man!

Magisterium And Infallibility: A Take

The Magisterium is the teaching authority, or the teaching office, of the Church; the way we use to express the fact that the Church has the right to teach us what is the Truth. It comes from the Latin Magister, “teacher”.

The Magisterium is divided into two:

1. Infallible Magisterium, called Sacred Magisterium and

2. Fallible Magisterium, called Ordinary Magisterium.

The Infallible Magisterium is, in turn, divided as follows:

1.1. extraordinary declarations of the Pope, speaking ex cathedra. This is the typical subject coming out when there is any discussion about “infallibility”. An example is the declaration of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

1.2. extraordinary conciliar decrees. This is when not a Pope, but an ecumenical council declares what the entire Church holds as true. An example is the declaration of papal infallibility made by the First Vatican Council.

1.3. ordinary and universal Magisterium. This is what has always been held as true by the Church. Examples: male priesthood, ways of transmitting holy orders, doctrine of war, doctrine of capital punishment, and all the teachings that have been taught in the history of the Church as Christian truth.

2) The (fallible) Ordinary Magisterium is that part of the teaching which is not considered expression of what the Church has always held as true and can, therefore, be fallible. This is not easy to point out to and mainly pertains to all that teaching that is not directly related to 1. above; this kind of teaching is unavoidable in the work of every Pope, as no Pope can only open his mouth, not even in religious matter, to express what the Church has always held true. This is also what happens in the daily works of the bishops speaking individually or (when 1.2 does not recur of course) in groups: in all these cases, the Bishops endeavour to explain Catholic truths, but this doesn’t give to their teaching the character of infallibility.

Please do not confuse 2. with 1.3. The ordinary and universal Magisterium of point 1.3 is infallible, the ordinary Magisterium of point 2. is not. This is important as from what I read around, a lot of perfectly orthodox Catholics write “ordinary Magisterium” when what they mean to say is properly called “ordinary and universal Magisterium”.

1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 are, therefore, all expression of infallibility. Therefore, 1.3 (the ordinary and universal Magisterium) is infallible even when it does not find expression in any of 1.1 or 1.2.

Let us make a couple of examples of (infallible) ordinary and universal magisterium:

1.3.1 when the Church teaches that male priesthood is Catholic truth, she teaches this infallibly and there is no necessity to underpin this with an expression of extraordinary Magisterium, because the fact that male priesthood is a matter of ordinary and universal Magisterium makes it infallible anyway. This is very probably the only reason why Pope JP II did not state infallibly the (new)  dogma of male priesthood: male priesthood is – albeit not defined verbatim, as is the case in a dogma – already an infallible teaching. For the sake of completeness, if the Pope had declared such a dogma this would have been an expression of his extraordinary magisterium and would have been an extraordinary declaration under 1.1 above.

1.3.2 when the Church teaches the nullity of Anglican so-called orders, she teaches this infallibly, because the ways of transmission of holy orders are matter or ordinary and universal Magisterium. This is the reason why Anglicanorum Coetibus requires the convert who desire to become Catholic Priests to be ordained instead of conditionally ordained (which the Church would do if there were doubts about the validity of their orders), or not ordained at all (which the Church would do if there was no doubt about their orders being valid). The nullity of Anglican so-called orders being infallibly taught, there is no space for doubts about what is to do.

Coming now to another subdivision, the teachings of the first Group (the ones that I have called 1. Sacred Magisterium, that is: the one that is infallible and that, once again for the sake of completeness, includes not only the extraordinary declarations of 1.1 and 1.2 but also the ordinary teaching of 1.3, the “ordinary and universal Magisterium”) must all be held infallible, but they are divided in two categories of teaching:

1.a.1  teachings de fide credenda
1.a.2 teachings de fide tenenda

1.a.1 is somewhat higher in the hierarchy: this is that part of the infallible teaching which is explicitly and specifically revealed in the deposit of faith: The First Vatican Council put it in this way: “Wherefore, by divine and Catholic faith all those things are to be believed which are contained in the word of God as found in Scripture and Tradition, and which are proposed by the Church as matters to be believed as divinely revealed, whether by her solemn judgment or in her ordinary and universal Magisterium.” (Dei Filius, Par. 8.)

Here, a direct link with Scripture and Tradition is given, as the teaching is directly therein “contained”.

1.a.2 is somewhat lower in the hierarchy, but still expression of infallibility: this is the sum of all those infallible truths which are (Wikipedia) “proposed not as being explicitly in the deposit of faith, but nevertheless implied by it or intrinsically connected to it logically or historically”.

Here, a strong logical or historical link to Scripture and Tradition is given, but this link cannot – often for mere factual and historical reasons – be a direct one. An example of this is – always citing Wikipedia – Pope Leo XIII’s declaration of Anglican orders as null and void with Apostolicae Curae. Wikipedia calls these “dogmatic facts”, making clear that whilst the circumstances which cause the declaration to arise were not mentioned in the Bible, the declaration is founded on universally held Truth and is therefore infallible. Another example is to be found in the canonisations, with the relevant declaration not being – for obvious, purely historical reasons – contained in the Scripture or the Tradition, but being infallible nevertheless.

Once again:

1) Not everything which the Pope – or the bishops, come to that – teaches is infallible;

2) Infallible is not only what the Pope proclaims ex cathedra in matter of faith and morals, or what ecumenical councils have infallibly declared: ordinary and universal Magisterium is also infallible.

3) both teachings de fide credenda and de fide tenenda are infallible, be they expression of ordinary or of extraordinary Magisterium.

I hope that this helps to clarify the extent of the Church’s infallibility and the way it works. I have used as basis for this short exposition the relevant wikipedia entry, which I have found both better organised and more concise than the information found on the “Catholic Encyclopedia”, or browsing around.

If any Catholic should have misgivings about this, it might be reassuring to them to know that the Vatican has a troop of skilled theologians taking care that all Wikipedia entries pertaining to Catholic doctrine properly reflect what the Catholic Church teaches on the matter; it is, therefore, not likely (though always possible) that such an important entry contains imprecisions – from the Catholic point of view – that have not yet been corrected, and you can judge for yourselves the probability that it may contain theological errors. Note, though, that this means neither that Wikipedia is infallible, nor that the Vatican can ban Wikipedia entries from non-Catholic contaminations (the above mentioned entry is, actually, a good example of that). Nevertheless, you will be easily able to discern what is the Catholic statement from what is the Protestant dissent.

Therefore, if any non-Catholic – and I am thinking here particularly of those masters of self-delusion, the so-called Anglo-Catholics –  should be of the opinion that Church doctrine is not what the Church says it is, I kindly invite them to submit their own “truth” to Wikipedia instead of abandoning themselves to their childish, angering, and extremely time-consuming whining and quibbling on this blog, and good luck to them.


Let’s Take A New Oath: A Michael Voris Video


Yes, even the Scouts....


Interesting video of the always inspiring Michael Voris*, based on the concept of oath.

Think of it, one is surprised of how many people take an oath. Civil servants; military men; judges; jurors; witnesses…..

You would think that of all people, Catholics would be the one with the least difficulties in taking an oath. The granitic nature of Catholic teaching should make this so banal as to not even be matter of discussion, right? Unfortunately, we all know that this is not the case. This is not the case because heterodoxy has spread in many quarters of the Church; has been encouraged to spread by the very people who were in charge of avoiding its diffusion; and has now spread to the point that many Catholics do not even know that they have been fed with superficial common places in the best case and with heresy in the worst.

Yes, I do think that a demand of Pope Benedict to all the clergy to take an oath stating in no uncertain terms their total obedience to the Magisterium would create great difficulties. But this is not the reason to avoid it. In my eyes, the fact that it would create such an outrage is the reason why it should be done in the first place!
Alas: good as he is, Pope Benedict is no St. Pius X and we will not have any oaths during his pontificate; rather, we’ll have a mixture of admirable liturgical restoration – and great courage in starting to spreading the truth rather than politically correct soundbites – and accommodating episcopal appointments which help to perpetuate the grave situation we have today.

Until the situation improves – and it will be a long time before it does – the duty of spreading orthodoxy will fall, to a not little extent, on the shoulders of the laity. The more so in those countries (like England or France) where the clergy is – on average – below an acceptable level of decency.

Let us be prepared, then, and let us pay attention not only to the Magisterium, but to the news and debates surrounding the Church. It will make it more easy – when the occasion invariably occurs – to refute the lies, defend the truth and perhaps help the one or other soul on her way to conversion.


* al always, you might have to log in, which is fast and free.

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