Our group in the Catholicism 101 class is struggling with understanding the Magisterium. Could you please explain what it is and what it does?
Deriving from the Latin magester meaning "teacher", the Magisterium of the Catholic Church is the living teaching office of the Church. The Magisterium, comprised of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him and guided by the Holy Spirit, has been entrusted with the task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition. (Dei Verbum, n.10; CCC 85) This authority is given to the apostles by Jesus Christ, guarded from error by the Holy Spirit and guaranteed today by apostolic succession which is the unbroken succession of bishops going back lineally to the apostles.
Before Christ left this earth, he entrusted to his apostles the authority to teach, sanctify and govern in his name. This he communicated to them when he said: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." (Mt: 28:19) Jesus didn't leave this responsibility to the apostles to accomplish on their own; he promised special guidance to teach about and define truths contained in divine Revelation and on matters of faith and morals without error. "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come." (John 16:13) Here, Jesus announces the sending of "another Paraclete" (Advocate), the Holy Spirit who will now be with and in the disciples, to teach them and guide them into all truth. (CCC 243)
Jesus also assured the apostles that they would be exercising their authority in his name: "Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me." (Luke 10:16) And, he gave them authority to judge and teach upon matters of faith and morals: "Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Mt 18:15-18) St. Paul reiterates this authority in his address to the Thessalonians: "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us." (2 Thess 3:6, see also CCC 892) This authority of the Church to teach is emphasized in the Vatican II document, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium no. 25. The document states: "Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent." Therefore, when the Magisterium teaches, it is Christ who is teaching us through it.
In order that the full and living Gospel would be passed down after the deaths of the apostles and therefore always preserved in the Church, the apostles left bishops as their successors. "They gave them their own position of teaching authority" (CCC 77). St. Paul told Timothy, "and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. " (2 Tim 2:2) Here we see the first three generations of apostolic succession: Paul's generation, Timothy's generation and the generation to follow to whom Timothy will teach. The apostles transmitted all they received from Christ and learned from the Holy Spirit to their successors, the bishops, and through them to all generations until the end of the world. (CCC 98)
To preserve the faithful from deviations and defections and ensure that the People of God abides in the truth, "Christ endowed the Church's shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matter of faith and morals." (CCC 890) The college of bishops possesses infallibility in teaching when the bishops gathered together in an ecumenical council exercise the magisterium as teachers and judges of faith and morals who declare for the universal Church that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held definitively; or when dispersed throughout the world but preserving the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter and teaching authentically together with the Roman Pontiff matters of faith or morals, they agree that a particular proposition is to be held definitively. (Code of Canon Law: Can. 749 §2.) It is the responsibility of the faithful to follow completely the teaching of the Magisterium; for along with accepting the sacraments and submitting to the teaching authority of the pope and the bishops in communion with him, holding to the Catholic faith as taught by the Magisterium is at the very core of what it means to be Catholic. It is important to understand that there are not multiple magisteriums. The academic community and all others are at the service of the Magisterium and must remain faithful to the authority established by Christ.
There are two ways by which the faithful receive the truths that God has revealed: Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Together, "Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God, which is entrusted to the Church." (DV n. 10) To safeguard the Word of God and to prevent the faithful from straying from the truth, Christ established the Magisterium. Pope John Paul the Great captures this beautifully in his address to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith: "The Magisterium, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ (DV n. 10), is an organ of service to the truth and is responsible for seeing that the truth does not cease to be faithfully handed on throughout human history." (Pope John Paul II, Magisterium Exercises Authority In Christ's Name, 24 Nov. 1995)
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Code of Canon Law
New Advent /Catholic Encyclopedia
Kelly Wahlquist assists Jeff in the Twin City bible studies and edited the Catholicism 101 workbook.
Our small group in Catholicism 101 is was wondering why we do not use the Apostles' Creed for our Profession of Faith on Sunday and also why the two creeds, the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed are different. Could you address the origins of the creeds and the Church's teaching on when they should be professed?
The word creed is a derivative of the Latin word credo, meaning, "I believe". The words "I believe" are the first two words of the creed, which is a summarization of beliefs that Christians profess. This summary of faith is
laid out simply in a common language in such a way that it easily teaches, unites and proclaims the "whole knowledge of the true religion contained in the Old and New Testaments." (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catech. Illium. 5, 12:PG 33; CCC 186). From the beginning, the early Church used this brief synopsis of the essential elements of its faith to teach the candidates for Baptism, to help clarify orthodox teaching and to combat against heresies. Also known as "symbols of the faith" or "professions of faith", the creeds not only teach the faithful, they also prevent us from falling into error, which can result from our lack of knowledge of and/or our ability to selectively disregard all relevant facts of truth when we commence our own thinking. This guard against error can be seen as many professions of faith have been articulated in response to the needs of different eras. (CCC 192) The Catechism points out that none of the symbols of faith (creeds) can be considered superseded or irrelevant, but that two creeds occupy a special place in the Church's life: The Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed.
Throughout the Middle Ages it was believed that the Apostles' Creed was a collaboration put together directly by the twelve apostles. Legend holds that following Pentecost the twelve apostles gathered together to settle on a common form of their preaching of the faith before they set out on their individual journeys, with each apostle adding one article; thus forming the twelve articles of the Apostles' creed. The Church however teaches, "the creed was so named The Apostles' Creed because it is rightly considered to be a faithful summary of the apostles faith" (CCC 194). This composite of the main teachings of the apostles emphasized in twelve articles of the faith is referred to by the Catechism of the Catholic Church as "the oldest Roman catechism" (CCC 196). Originally, the creed was a baptismal creed. The simplistic and brief summarization of the apostles' teachings, which countered the teachings of a heresy known as Gnosticism, was given to the catechumens in the form of a question at their baptism. By answering with affirmation, the catechumen showed that they both understood and believed. The profession of faith used in Baptism today is based on the Apostles' Creed.
In 325 AD, the emperor Constantine in an effort to restore peace to the Catholic Church, which had been disrupted by the heresy of a man named Arius, summoned a council of bishops to Nicaea. The heresy was known as Arianism and it was at the heart of a controversy involving the Divinity of the Persons of the Holy Trinity. In defending the Church, the Council of Nicaea constructed the Nicene Creed; a symbol of the faith, which is not only a condemnation of specific heresies such as Gnosticism, Sabellianism, and most importantly Arianism; it is the summary of the story of history from Adam to Jesus. Each word in the Creed is designed to refute a heresy, yet each sentence flows together to give the big picture of salvation history. The Creed tells the story of our salvation, emphasizing the essential elements, and articulating the summary in a way "which permits us to express the faith and to hand it on, to celebrate it in community, to assimilate and live on it more and more" (CCC 170). As various heresies arose in the different stages of the Church's life, the Creed was revised in response to each of the needs. The Nicene Creed draws its great authority from the fact that it stems from the first two ecumenical Councils: the Council of Nicaea and the Council of Constantinople in 325 and 381 respectively. (CCC 195)
Recitation of the Profession of Faith
"Recitation of the profession of faith by the priest together with
the people is obligatory on Sundays and solemnities. It maybe said
also at special, more solemn celebrations" (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 44). "During the Easter Vigil and on Easter Sunday (but not on other Sundays of Easter Season), the renewal of baptismal promises and sprinkling with holy water replaces the Creed." (This is an adaptation, which the Holy See approved for the United States.) "This is to emphasize the traditional connection of Easter Sunday with baptism and because the profession of faith is included in the baptismal promises" (Zenit, Substituting for the Creed, Fr. Edward McNamara, Rome, 5 Dec 2006; www.zenit.org).
The text of the Creed is usually that of the Nicene Creed, yet the Apostles' Creed may be substituted on occasion. "The Roman Church's baptismal creed, the so-called Apostles' Creed, may be used in place of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, especially in Lent and Eastertide" (Missale Romanum, No. 19, p 513, English Interpretation). Although this does indicate that the Apostles' Creed may be said in place of the Nicene Creed, Fr. Edward McNamara, in response to which creed should be said at Mass on Sunday states, "Through this rubric the Church expresses a desire that both creeds should be known and used by all the faithful. The Nicene Creed would remain that of common use while the Apostles' Creed would also be used on occasion. The mention of this latter creed's primarily catechetical origin as a baptismal symbol is an indicator of why it is proposed especially for Lent and Easter. It must also be remembered that historically it was the Nicene Creed that was first introduced into the Eucharistic liturgy. And this was not originally done to recall baptism but rather to express the fullness of the faith in Jesus Christ" (Zenit, Rome, 5 Dec 2006).
Both the Apostles' Creed and Nicene Creed summarize the faith that Christians profess in a language that is common to all the faithful. The Apostles' Creed engages individuals into a personal profession of the faith, principally during Baptism; and the Nicene Creed, addressing more Christological issues, reveals an epitome of the story of salvation history. Both creeds beautifully guard the faith. Whenever we say either creed, we should work to understand the significance of every word we state and rejoice in the blessing this recitation brings; for "to say the Credo with faith is to enter into communion with God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and also with the whole Church which transmits the faith to us and in whose midst we believe: This Creed is the spiritual seal, our heart's meditation and ever-present guardian; it is, unquestionably, the treasure of our soul" (CCC 197).
Catechism of the Catholic Church
General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM 2003)
Kelly Wahlquist assists Jeff in the Twin City bible studies and edited the Catholicism 101 workbook.
Some of you have asked what bible software I use. I'm very much a Macintosh enthusiast so I use a program called Accordance Bible Software by Oaksoft. I have used many different applications but found this package to be the most flexible and powerful. One really nice thing about this application is that you can buy a Catholic module which has Vatican II, The Summa, The Council of Trent, the current Catechism, the Church Fathers, Canon Law and more.
It's nice to be able to search all the essential documents in seconds. Below you will find a synopsis of the application. For PC users I recommend Logos Software. Remember, if your in the market for a new computer, go Macintosh because the new Intel chip allows you to run either OSX for Mac or Windows for the PC.
Accordance Bible Software makes it incredibly easy to explore the text and background of the Bible. Here are a few of the ways Accordance can enhance your study of the Bible:
Dig into the Bible, not your Bible software
Accordance features an integrated and unobtrusive user interface that makes it easy to search the Bible. There are no hidden and confusing dialog boxes to deal with, because searching is built right into the window. Simply choose whether to search by verse or by word, enter your search, and click OK!
Compare multiple translations of the Bible
Accordance lets you display multiple Bible texts and translations side by side in the same window, making it easy to make comparisons.
Open right to the "page"!
The Resource palette gives you instant access to every book in your personal Bible study library, so that you can select a word or verse in the Bible text and go right to the appropriate section of a dictionary, commentary, or other study aid.
Look up the original Greek & Hebrew
Pass your mouse over a word in an English Bible with Key (Strong's) numbers to see the Greek or Hebrew word which it translates. For a definition, simply triple-click the word you wish to look up.
See where it happened
Adding the Accordance Bible Atlas lets you instantly locate any place you read about on the map. Simply select a place name in the text of the Bible, then click the Map button on the Resource palette to find that place on a map. From there, you can customize the map by overlaying different sites, regions, and animated routes; create a 3-D map that you can fly through; or amplify to the Bible Lands PhotoGuide to see photographs of a location.
Do your own thing
Accordance lets you study the Bible the way you want to. Attach your own notes to any verse. Collect lists of verses for further study. Create your own custom user tools. Even highlight the text of the Bible in an assortment of colors and styles.
Build a Bible reference library
With well over 200 Accordance-compatible Bible texts and tools to choose from, it's easy to build an extensive library of Bible texts, Greek and Hebrew lexicons, dictionaries, topical Bibles, commentaries, and theological works. And with all of these immediately accessible through the Resource palette, it's easy to find the information you need.
Broaden your search
Of course, having an extensive library isn't much help if you don't know which book to consult, so Accordance lets you search your entire library in a single pass! Enter what you're looking for into the Search All window and click OK. You'll soon be given a list of every book in your library which contains your search criteria, and you can simply click on a book name to go there.
Narrow your search
Accordance also provides numerous ways for you to narrow your search so that you don't waste time wading through a lot of extraneous search "hits." In Bible texts, you can create your own custom search ranges, such as "Torah," "Gospels," and "Davidic Psalms." In Tools such as commentaries and dictionaries, you can choose from various search "fields," such as "Titles," "Contents," and "Scripture" to find exactly what you're looking for.
Look up parallel passages
Certain Accordance CD-ROMs include databases of parallel passages which can be accessed through the Amplify palette, so that you can quickly find every place an Old Testament passage was quoted in the New Testament, and every parallel account in the Gospels, Epistles, and Hebrew Bible.
Dive into the original languages
The Accordance Scholar's Collection CD-ROM contains grammatically-tagged versions of the Hebrew Bible, the Greek New Testament, the Greek Septuagint, and other texts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls. These texts enable you to build complex grammatical searches, to view a wealth of statistical information about your search, and to pass your cursor over any word to see its lexical form, parsing information, and English definition! For those working with the original languages, no other program even comes close to matching the capabilities of Accordance.
Benefit from the best in Biblical scholarship
With Accordance, you can access some of the most up-to-date and authoritative Greek and Hebrew lexicons, original language tools, Bible dictionaries, and commentaries currently available.
Search the Bible graphically
Sometimes you need to find complex grammatical constructions and subtle relationships between words. The Accordance Construct window makes this easy by enabling you to build such searches graphically. Define a construct to find the Granville-Sharp rule in Greek or the Intensive use of the infinitive absolute in Hebrew. You'll be amazed at how powerful, and how easy to use, the Construct window really is.
Here is the third in a series of Lenten messages from Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia. Leave a comment below to show your appreciation to the Cardinal. You can also leave a comment on Youtube.