Yes Virginie, The Catechism is a Magistral Document



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The Magisterium is the teaching authority of the Catholic Church. After all, the word comes from Latin magisterium, which means “teacher”. Thus, when Saint John Paul II, in promulgating the Catechism of the Catholic Church, called it “a sure standard for education faith ”, he seems to call him by definition Magistral. He said that in Fidei deposit. Fidei deposit is an apostolic constitution. An apostolic constitution is the highest and most solemn decree that a pope can issue. I mean, look, when a pope promulgates a document – say, a catechism – as a formal act of his papacy, it’s an act of the Magisterium. It’s not like the Pope is saying, “You know, this is my personal opinion. “

You may be wondering, dear reader, why I am doing the same. Maybe you’ll wonder less when I tell you I’m on Facebook. There, in the midst of the shootout of private opinions disguised as masterful decrees, I read this:

The catechism is not in itself a masterful or inspired text (see Ratzinger’s doctrinal note on its publication while he was at the head of the CDF). It informs theologians that the catechism is not a masterful document and does not end the debate on the doctrines summarized therein, which rest or fall on the soundness of the argument and the correct interpretation and authority of the texts. lectures on which his statements are based and should continue to be debated. The theology of the proof text is never theology.

Well, ok. There is a lot to iron. Let’s take a look at a few other things first before moving on to Ratzinger’s “doctrinal note”. Here again is Saint John Paul II, again in Fidei deposit:

A catechism must faithfully and systematically present the teaching of Sacred Scripture, the living Tradition of the Church and the authentic Magisterium.

The Catechism contains a “faithful” and “systematic” presentation of “the authentic Magisterium”; call me crazy, it must be Magistral. The Pope continues:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved on June 25 and which I now order publication by virtue of my apostolic authority, is a declaration of the faith of the Church and of Catholic doctrine, attested or enlightened by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church.

Saint John Paul II publishes it “by virtue of his apostolic authority”; it is a “declaration of… of the Magisterium of the Church”. Damn, that must be Masterful, then.

USCCB understood that one, too much. The Catechism was “promulgated by the Holy Father within the framework of his ordinary Magisterium”. He is “part of the ordinary teaching authority of the Church.”

Pope John Paul II placed his apostolic authority there. Its doctrinal authority is peculiar to the papal Magisterium.

It holds, continues the USCCB, a “privileged place” among the “catechetical documents within the Magisterium of the Church.

All this to say: The Catechism is a Magistral text.


So what does Ratzinger say in his “doctrinal note” that supposedly calls all of this into question? Right here is the key passage, quoted by Jimmy Akin:

The individual doctrine presented by the Catechism has no other weight than that which they already possess. The weight of the Catechism itself lies in the whole. Since he transmits what the Church teaches, he who rejects it as a whole unquestionably separates himself from the faith and teaching of the Church.

At this point, we have to be careful. Ratzinger does not deny that the Catechism is Magistral. What he is to say, is that the content of the Catechism has no additional Magistral weight above what it already possessed. Their inclusion in the Catechism does not invest them with an additional weight.

It is a commonplace that different lectures carry with them different levels of authority. This does not mean, and never has meant, that Catholics are free to disregard things they do not like. And that doesn’t mean that something with less The authority of the judiciary is in a way not Masterful at all. This is frankly absurd.

But the author of the Facebook comment above betrays it when he says that the content of the catechism “depends on the correctness of the argument” (as if the catechism was only theology or philosophy) and “should continue to be be debated. “This is code language for“ there are things in the catechism that I don’t like and wish I had a justification to reject. ”This is not the case, according to the USCCB (in the text I linked above); and no, according to the same Cardinal Ratzinger in a 2004 CDF document. There, ten years after Pope John Paul II promulgated the Catechism, he called it a “proclamation of faith” and declared:

[T]Faith is not primarily the object of intellectual experimentation, it is rather the solid foundation – the hypostasis, as the Letter to the Hebrews (11,1) tells us – on which we can live and die .

If it was not so – if the Catechism were a theological text, something that “rested or fell on the soundness of the argument”, and so on, then, according to Ratzinger, it would be “entirely the product of our own thought and no different from the philosophy of religion. But the Catechism, as a “book of faith”, is more than that. It’s not Cogito corn Creed.




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