The Magisterium of the Church

A term heard a lot is "The Magisterium of the Church". The Magisterium, Latin for "teaching", of the Church consists of a lot more than the Neo-Catholic concept of "everything the current Pontiff says". Never mind the heretical Neo-Ultramontane overtones that such a position holds! Indeed, the Magisterium is much more.

The Magisterium is the whole lived tradition of the Church. It is not mere authoritarianism or blind submission to the current authorities. It is the entire tradition of the Church as lived out and unfolded in the Gospels. It is the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3), it is the whole of the Church as the pillar and ground of Truth (1 Tim. 3:15), the faith once spoken by the Prophets and now witnessed in the fulfillment of the Gospels in the Holy Spirit (Heb. 1:1-2).

The Church is the communion of the saints (Apostles'/Nicene Creed) and the communion of the saints holds the highest authority in the tradition. The Church's life is lived in the prayers of its liturgy, it is witnessed in the reading of the Scriptures, it is expressed in the Gospel. The Church's Magisterium consists of the words of the Prophets and the Holy Martyrs, the Saints and the Apostles, the Venerable and Blessed Ones, the Confessors who suffered for their faith, the Holy Ecumenical Councils, and the definitions the Popes give to existing doctrine (Vatican Council, ch.4). He cannot make up his own doctrines any more than the rest of us can.

This is the Magisterium of the Church. It is Holy and Living Faith. It is not a dead faith nor a blind submission. Faith is not a mode of authoritarian subjection to a temporary earthly hierarchy. It is participation in a Divine and Holy Life in the Body of Christ which is the Living God. The Magisterium has no room for a dead authoritarianism. Anything that falsely teaches otherwise turns stale and moldy over time. It is wed to the present age, the spirit of the times. And ultimately, it drifts further away from God.


  1. Thanks for the explanation. It sort of explains why sometimes it seems like no two Catholic agree on anything.

    1. There must be heresies among us so that those who are approved may be made manifest (1 Cor. 11:19).