Pastoral Teaching Authority – Magisterium


The ultimate authority in the Church is God, who reveals. And the absolute truth is his Word. The role of bishops or those who are endowed with pastoral teaching authority is to facilitate others to hear the Word of God. Hence there is a need for trustworthiness or reliability of those who are helping others to hear the Word of God. The apostle and apostolic men were chosen by Christ and called to be his witnesses (cf. 1Thess 2:13; Acts 2:42). The apostles entrusted their mission to their successors. The pastors have a special responsibility towards the common profession of faith. “When conflicts arise as to the terms of its creed, or to its interpretation, those with pastoral responsibility must have the authority to judge which of the conflicting opinions is in accord with the faith of the Church.” This authority of the bishops no way takes the superiority to the Word of God. Dei Verbum (10) makes this point very clear. From these counciliar texts we can draw the following conclusions-:

  1. Magisterium is to serve the Word of God, when the Sacred Scripture is not understood properly or misinterpreted, then the magisterium has the duty to give the correct interpretation.
  2. The Authentic teaching authority of the Church cannot add anything to the Word of God.
  3. As teachers of faith and morals the bishops have all the more duty to listen to the Word of God. Before they are teachers, they are hearers of the Word of God.
  4. Their primary duty is to guarding scrupulously the deposit of faith and to defend the purity of faith.
  5. This is a divine commission; the source of teaching authority is God. The bishops by their Episcopal ordination share the divine command to the apostles in a special way.
  6. They have to exercise the teaching authority always with the help of the Holy Spirit. It is the Catholic belief that bishops as the successors of the apostles will have always the special assistance of the Holy Spirit in exercising the teaching authority in the Church.
  7. Their teaching must be based on the already revealed Word of God they may give a new understanding, or a new explanation but never add anything to the revealed Word of God.

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