Essay on Magisterium: Authority From Sources and Faith in Medieval Scholastics

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1910 Words
Date:  2022-12-27


Magisterium in its original form connotes authority as received from the source. The Catholic Church identifies various sources of this authority. The church identifies six origins of such authority including revealed truths and the doctrine of faith. The medieval scholastics believed that magisterium is simply an authority to teach a certain body of knowledge. It falls within the interpretive scholastic ability to digest certain scripts or empirical data. They failed to separate scholarly teachings from infallible teachings that communion can rely on as guiding and truth.

Trust banner

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

Modern understanding of magisterium borrows from the scholastics the fundamental principles of the concept but also sets out to put boundaries on what it means to teach. First, the magisterium is the authority to interpret the Word of God and his intentions. As Jesus taught, so did disciples and later apostles-all of which embody the church. So, it follows within the church's mandate. They add the second missing part of responsibility by providing the dogmatic structure to the scripture. According to Aquinas, teaching authority rests in the realm of the ordained bishops of the Catholic Church. Such powers come from the very fact that a bishop has all degrees of Orders to join the collegiate (Notes on The Magisterium: Apostolic succession & collegiality p.2).

The bishops are successors of apostles (Ratzinger, p.97). Apostles received direct authority to teach the church from Jesus Christ. He showed them through examples and public works. This is the fundamental difference between scholastics and modernists as the scholastics view magisterium as simply the theological authority. The modernists view bishops as the source of teaching authority where the bishop of the Catholic Church in Rome, who succeeds from Apostle Peter, is the primary teacher of the church. Notice the use of the word 'of' to describe the action. They also view theologians as teachers within the Catholic Church. The Pope, who proceeds from Apostle Peter, is an authentic teacher who can speak authoritatively about a matter of contention.

True Reform

A number of differences exist about true and false reforms. The best way to look at it is by looking at true reforms while contrasting them with false reforms. True reform maintains communion of the whole body of the church (Dulles p.403-5). Any reform that promotes religious schism is false. Good reforms come from within the body of the church and not from external factors (p.406). Reformers must work within the provided channels and framework. When reform stems from a body of persons who are not in full communion with the church, it is not reform but rather an attack. True reform also seeks to revitalize the principles of Catholicism. Briefly, the thought that the church has erred in its canonical interpretation is fundamentally flawed (p.6). Beyond that, reform must adhere strictly to the Catholic doctrine and dogmatic teachings and definitions (p.406). Any reform that deviates from this church tradition is faulty and can lead to punishment.

Fundamentally, reform should be aware of the structures of the church. It is important to realize that the structure has a sacred foundation, such as that of apostolicity or collegiality from where the church originates. In such a situation, reform respects a certain bureaucratic channel that is long and tedious. Dulles believes the reformers must exercise patience because the process can be painfully slow. An attempt to force the church to abandon this accepted, though imperfect, process disturbs the very nature of reform agenda, which is to improve the existing canonical frameworks.

If the reformers try to use socio-political avenues to inform the church, such reforms will be misplaced because they are likely to stem from human nature. The intention for reform must have an overwhelming sense of positivity. It should be aimed at infusing enthusiasm in the practice of faith and not in an attempt to gain fame, superiority or otherwise. It should also not try to regurgitate over human error such as sins and iniquities (p.407). In those words, the Anglican ordinations are not true reforms. Issues of same-sex unions in the church fundamentally contradict divinely given scriptures as the main body of authority and, therefore, falls perfectly in the realm of misplaced reform agenda.

Magisterium Dissent

The magisterium is a complex foundation that has various responses. Strictly, within the Catholic Church, the church's authority is not debatable as the church is adamantly non-democratic (Ratzinger p. 137). The options are few for members who feel otherwise. For some people, the magisterium is simply not comprehensible. If you cannot understand its foundations or expectations, it becomes hard to internalize or practice it. Lack of comprehension is a common phenomenon that can make someone to suffer in silence. For example, some people fail to understand the doctrine of papal infallibility or the concept of the Holy Trinity. In that case, one has to seek divine enlightenment and counsel from within the same hierarchical order.

Alternatively, someone can read further on the concepts to gain knowledge. According to Ratzinger, it is in the unfailing devotion to seek the radiance of the Gods image through purification of thought that a person truly uncovers the divine (p. 142). Another response to the magisterium is doubt. You can doubt that Christ is risen; Thomas did that without consequence. In such a case, it is human to doubt certain things. You can also feel disappointed in the way the church is handling the teachings. You may have opinions on how certain doctrines can be taught. However, you must find the source of your dissatisfaction. If it is in the discipline and ferventness at which the church pursues moral virtues especially against popular human wishes, the thoughts must be seen as against the Body of Christ (p.136)

You can also offer a dissenting voice to the magisterium. This is the doubt that goes beyond incomprehension. To understand dissent well, it is good to understand the various levels of the authority as understood in the magisterium. The most important level is the direct revelation from God. These teachings emanate from the Holy Scriptures as written in the Bible. Together with the doctrine of faith, they form the creed and dogmas of the practiced faith. The church has pronounced itself exhaustively about these definite teachings. For example, not believing in the existence of God is a contradiction of the basis of the Christian life. The second level is about definitive teachings that are not revealed. Other levels of the magisterium include proximate faith, common teaching, and opinions. All these are approved teachings of the church (Dulles, pp. 83-84). Thinking otherwise is considered dissent.

Dissenting about the components of the creed and the very essence of faith is a heresy (p. 88). It means you do not believe. Doing so leads to automatic excommunication. It means you are questioning the very foundation of Christian faith, which suggests that you should not be in communion with believers. Dissenting on the definitive teachings impairs your ability to participate in the Eucharist with the communicants. You are not in harmony, and therefore you should stay outside the body of the church. Before you offer your dissent, you should consult your conscience exhaustively. You should also seek guidance, further teachings, expositions, prayers, and divine help. If at the face of all that doubts still linger, you may voice your dissent. At the core of it, you may have a reform agenda on the things that are held as authoritative teachings. Everything else is about the basis of Catholicism and its foundation.

The church is committed to improving the coherence and practice of the faith. So, it encourages people to express dissatisfaction with the formulated teachings of the church-magisterium. However, the church is averse to scandals. Over the years, the church has learned that public campaigns can distract the communion from pursuing faith in its purest form. Such activism often yields divisions that harm the overall body of faith. In that case, they recommend private dissent preferably in a small group (p. 97).

They also believe that as more voices seek to improve the body of teachings and modalities, the natural path to the correction of errors within the magisterium will improve. However, everything must be within the provided official channels and structures of the church. This approach will feature perfectly as part of the true reform within the church. Contrary efforts are likely to encourage discord. The very essence of slow and quiet dissent is to enable objectivity in the debate. When matters go public, the voice of reason persists over the voice of God and his intentions. Harming the church in the eyes of the public is not the true intentions of the instituted dissent mechanism. Public dissent abuses this provided platform.

Communion Ecclesiology

Eucharistic ecclesiology has been a contentious body of knowledge that the Catholic Church has dealt with over the years. Ratzinger (p.76) distinguishes first what he calls the Eucharist from the communion. He sees the Eucharist as a sacrament, fully defined and received into the teachings of the church. He also sees communion as a physical gathering. He goes further to show the communion as the basic level of the church as envisaged in the teachings of Jesus Christ about gathering in his name. However, he goes forth to add more into what constitutes the now known ecclesial body of the communion.

He notes the bible verse that says that whenever two or three people gather, Jesus is present as the basic definition of the church. On the other hand, the Eucharist calls for more than a congregation of people. According to him, as long as the congregants meet the precondition of reconciliation, a Eucharistic body of the church is present. The two institutions are generally public. Those who wish to partake in it are free to do so. What makes the church Eucharistic is by the sacrifice that Jesus did through death and resurrection. Jesus teaches us that if we partake in the communion of his death and resurrection, we are in communion with the father. In doing so, we form the body of the church as envisaged in his teachings.

However, Jesus also had a structure. While Jesus wanted people to participate in the Body of Christ en masse, He did not want them to feel the need to belong to a certain congregation. He instructed them to come together in His name. This worked so well at the beginning of the universal church when Christians were persecuted. They had to operate in confined spaces where they encouraged each other to spread the gospel. Jesus did so while still keeping a formal structure of the universal church where He was the head.

The Catholic Church follows directly in His example of the basic structure and hierarchy of the church. He who lived and continues to live through eternity is the head of the church. When He departed, he entrusted the foundation of the church on one of his disciple-Peter. In the Catholic Church, the Body of Christ is the Eucharistic ecclesiology as taught, practiced, and inspired by the apostles. The Catholic Church embodies this teaching as the truth. Ratzinger views communion ecclesiology as a responsibility bestowed upon the apostles, today bishops (p. 90). Together, they form the eclectically the council, similar in functions with that of the collegiate. This is the source of the formal structure of the church.

The original gathering that Jesus had at Cana of Galilee, which began his commissioning, did not have the formal authority. The formal authority started...

Cite this page

Essay on Magisterium: Authority From Sources and Faith in Medieval Scholastics. (2022, Dec 27). Retrieved from

Free essays can be submitted by anyone,

so we do not vouch for their quality

Want a quality guarantee?
Order from one of our vetted writers instead

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the ProEssays website, please click below to request its removal:

didn't find image

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience and 25% off!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism