He Who Hears You, Hears Me

Upon commissioning the preaching of the Gospel, our good Lord said to His Apostles, “He who hears you hears me.” (Luke 10:16, RSV) These words the Catholic bishops applied to themselves: “This sacred Council teaches that the bishops, from divine institution, have taken the place of the Apostles, as the pastors of the Church: he who hears them, hears Christ.”1

Is this a legitimate understanding of these words of the Gospel? If so, then what does it mean to “hear” the bishops? Again our Lord addressed the Apostle Peter, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mtt. 16:18, DRA) The early Church Father St. Cyprian of Carthage interprets this Scripture passage thus:

[The Lord] founded a single chair, and He established by His own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others [the Apostles] were that also which Peter was; but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. If someone . . . desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?2

In order to hold fast to the “chair of Peter” and so remain in the Church, to which teachings must one assent? We examine the principles of the Faith in order to understand the nature of teaching authority in the Church.

Faith Through Hearing

In the epistle to the Romans, an argument is made for the necessity in the order of salvation of hearing the Gospel preached:

But the righteousness based on faith . . . what does it say? The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach) . . . For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved. But . . . how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent? . . . So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ. (Rom 10, RSV)

By faith we are justified, and this faith comes from hearing, and in order to hear there must be preaching. But this is not just anyone’s preaching; rather “what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.” However, the word of Christ is “the word of Faith which we preach” — “we” meaning the Apostles. In other words, the Apostles’ preaching is identical to the preaching of Christ. They are one and the same. It is no wonder that it was said of the early Christians: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship.” (Acts 2:42a, RSV) The early Christians recognized the Apostles’ preaching as that of Christ.

The Object of Faith

To “hear” the Apostles’ preaching means to be justified by faith. Not only does justification by faith have Christ as its source; Christ is also the object of this faith. As explained by St. Thomas Aquinas, theologian par excellence, the formal aspect of the object of faith is that whereby we believe, namely because Christ Himself has revealed it. Thus our faith is in Christ Himself. He is the motive for our believing any particular teaching, the authority in which we put our faith.

The material aspect of the object of faith, on the other hand, is each particular teaching we believe that comes to us from the Apostles. That Christ is the source of the Apostles’ preaching is something we materially believe because Christ Himself commissioned the Apostles.

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age. (Mt 28:18–20, RSV)

One cannot have faith if one intentionally rejects even one of these “material” apostolic teachings, because that destroys the formal aspect of faith.3 If we were to pick and choose which of Christ’s teachings to believe, clearly our faith in what we do believe would not have Christ’s authority as its motive. Rather, we would be putting faith in our own judgment or whatever other reason we may have for believing, and this is not supernatural Faith, but only human faith. Hence justification by faith requires hearing the apostolic teaching in the sense of believing it as from Christ Himself.

Apostolic Succession

It is clear that justification by faith requires hearing “the word of Faith which [the Apostles] preach,” which is none other than Christ’s preaching. Further, faith is absolutely necessary for salvation — “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16, RSV). Thus there must be a means for us to hear that word of faith, in these times now — times when neither Christ nor the Apostles are actually present preaching.

The early Church Fathers who were most closely connected to the Apostles, having been taught by them, left writings which support the fact that there is indeed a means for hearing the word of apostolic Faith even now. St. Clement of Rome wrote as early as 80 AD:

Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [bishops] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry.4

Clearly St. Clement saw the preaching of the Apostles as something continued by the apostolic successors, the bishops.

It is this apostolic succession which ensures the continued preaching of Christ so that we may hear and be saved by Faith. Because of an unbroken line of apostolic succession, not only is

  • today’s Church numerically the same as the Church first founded by Christ on the Apostles, but
  • her doctrine is also the same as that transmitted by Christ to the Apostles. This is because
  • she teaches and acts with the authority of the Apostles that resides in their successors, the bishops.5

As early as 190 AD, St. Irenaeus confirms the first way in which the Catholic Church is apostolic, the unbroken line of apostolic succession in the Catholic Church:

It is within the power of all . . . to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times . . .

[We do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops.6

With regard to the second way the Church is apostolic, the continuity of teaching through the apostolic Tradition, St. Irenaeus again writes:

The Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although she is disseminated throughout the whole world, yet guarded it, as if she occupied but one house. She likewise believes these things just as if she had but one soul and one and the same heart and harmoniously she proclaims them and teaches them and hands them down, as if she possessed but one mouth. For, while the languages of the world are diverse, nevertheless, the authority of the Tradition is one and the same.7

The third way, the authority given to the successors of the Apostles, is referred to in St. Ignatius of Antioch’s writings as early as 107 AD:

See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles . . . Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. . . . Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.8

Because of apostolic succession, he who hears the bishops, hears the Apostles, hears Christ.

The Promise of the Holy Spirit

The bishops’ faithful transmission of Christ’s teaching can only happen because of the movement of the Holy Spirit in the Church. “No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor 2:11). Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit to reveal and interpret His teachings to His Church, and ensure the continuity of doctrine. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16:13, RSV) This property of the Church to teach the truth of Christ without error through the guarantee of the Holy Spirit, we call infallibility. “And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever.” (Jn 14:16, RSV) Christ’s promise to be with the Church until the end of time we call the property of indefectibility. It is these two properties, infallibility and indefectibility, effected by the Holy Spirit, that make the Church essentially immutable in her teachings. Doctrines are understood more fully over time, but they can never change in substance.

When we believe in the holy Catholic Church, the formal object of our Faith is the Word Himself speaking with the breath of the Holy Spirit through the mouths of the bishops. St. Thomas writes, “If we say: [I believe]In’ the holy Catholic Church, this must be taken as verified in so far as our faith is directed to the Holy Ghost, Who sanctifies the Church; so that the sense is: I believe in the Holy Ghost sanctifying the Church.”9

Still, the promise of the Holy Spirit is not carte blanche, so to speak. The inspiration of the Holy Spirit is not given for the Church’s invention of new teachings, but rather for a faithful transmission of the teachings of Christ Himself — what we call the “deposit of Faith,” as well as for a fuller understanding and explication of that Faith. Although the bishops have authority handed down to them through apostolic succession, this does not mean that they are of themselves infallible. They are still human beings subject to error and weakness. Bishops are very much servants to the Tradition of the truth that has been handed down to them, and are guaranteed instruments of the Holy Spirit only when they teach with the authority given them.10

Since the bishops’ teaching is limited in its protection by the Holy Spirit, when are we assured that the bishops do exercise their apostolic authority to teach?

Three Authoritative Magisterial Acts

Coming from the Latin magister for teacher, the word Magisterium is used to designate the bishops’ teaching office and acts. There are three acts of magisterial teaching. The first magisterial act is of the Pope on his own, when he pronounces a dogma ex cathedra. This solemn definition may be expressed with the words: “by the authority of Jesus Christ and Our own, We pronounce, declare and define the dogma,” or other words to that effect.11

The second magisterial act is of the College of Bishops, using such words as these: “The sacred and holy, oecumenical and general Synod of Trent . . . adhering to the doctrine of the holy Scriptures, to the apostolic traditions, and to the consent of other councils and of the Fathers, has thought fit that these present canons be established and decreed.”12

The third and final magisterial act is of the ordinary Magisterium, which teaching has been confirmed with words like, “[This] teaching . . . has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium . . . Wherefore . . . in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare . . . that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”13

The first two magisterial acts of the Pope and of the College of Bishops are an exercise of the Church’s “solemn judgment.” They are both definitive acts in so far as they both solemnly define doctrine to be held by the faithful.14 Ex cathedra literally means “from the chair” in reference to the “chair of St. Peter.” Only the Pope can speak ex cathedra, as he alone is the successor of Peter and therefore occupies “the chair.”

We teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks ex cathedra, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals.15

A College of Bishops also employs supreme power over the Church “whose head is the Supreme Pontiff and whose members are bishops by virtue of sacramental consecration and hierarchical communion with the head and members of the college, and in which the apostolic body continues together with its head and never without this head.”16 The proclamations of the dogmas of the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception are examples of ex cathedra acts, while an example of a magisterial act of the College of Bishops is the proclamation of the creed at the Council of Nicaea.

In contrast to these two extraordinary acts employing the supreme power of the apostolic teaching authority, the third kind of magisterial act is not a solemn judgment, and so is called the ordinary Magisterium.

Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: “He who heareth you, heareth me.”17

The ordinary Magisterium refers to traditional teaching acts throughout the world over time with a universal and constant consensus of the bishops in union with the Pope. This happens “when the Roman Pontiff or the College of bishops exercise their authentic Magisterium, shown by the nature of the documents, frequent repetition, or the tenor of the verbal expression.”18 Such an act definitively proposes a doctrine, but not through one solemn definitive act, rather over time through a collective act of the bishops in union with the Pope. An example of ordinary magisterial teaching is the doctrine of the impossibility of women’s ordination, taught perpetually, but only recently defined by a solemn judgment.19

By each of these three magisterial acts, the Church exercises her teaching authority, though she requires different degrees of assent according to the kind of doctrine taught.

Three Kinds of Church Doctrine

While all of the above magisterial acts are infallible when definitively proposing doctrine, the teaching acts of the College of Bishops and the ordinary Magisterium do not always definitively propose doctrine. Teaching acts may also be non-definitive, meaning that they allow the possibility of further interpretation. It is how the doctrine is understood and thus taught that determines whether or not the teaching act is definitive and infallible, i.e. not subject to error. Three kinds of doctrines may be proposed by the Magisterium for our assent, only two of which constitute infallible teachings.

The first category of doctrines are those recognized as “divinely revealed truths.” These truths are taught as explicitly revealed through Scripture or handed down through the Church’s living Tradition. When a doctrine of this category is taught, the teaching is, like all magisterial teachings, authoritative, and therefore demands our assent. The act concerning this category is also definitive (proposing something for belief), as well as infallible (without error). Further, the matter defined is irreformable (cannot be changed). Examples of such content are doctrines on the creed, the Sacraments, the true church, the authority of the Pope, original sin, and the immorality of murder.

The second category are “truths of Catholic doctrine,” which are taught as necessarily following from revealed truths. Like first-category truths, they are taught by an act that is not only authoritative, but also definitive. Again, these truths are irreformable because they are at least implicitly contained in the deposit of faith as following from other irreformable teachings.20 Examples of these doctrines include truths that logically follow from revealed truths (the legitimacy of only male ordination, the infallibility of the Pope) as well as historical truths (the legitimacy of a papal election, a council, or canonizations; or the invalidity of Anglican ordinations).

The third category of teachings contains only opinions which have not been understood as necessary but rather as contingent. Or perhaps the Magisterium may still be in the process of discerning these matters. Thus, the Magisterium teaches them, but not definitively. Though these teachings are not irreformable since they are neither revealed nor definitively taught, they do merit a particular response from the faithful because they are still authoritative, as we shall discuss further on.

Since the Church continues to understand the truths of the Faith ever more deeply, many truths in the second category of Catholic doctrine (though not all) may at some time in the future be recognized as a first-category revealed truth. For example, the dogma of the infallibility of the Holy Father, though definitive as a Catholic doctrine up until the First Vatican Council, was not recognized as a divinely revealed truth until that point.21

Thus, in the course of her history, certain truths have been defined as having been acquired though the Holy Spirit’s assistance and are therefore perceptible stages in the realization of the original promise. Other truths, however, have to be understood still more deeply before full possession can be attained of what God, in his mystery of love, wished to reveal to men for their salvation.22

A third-category teaching which at one time was uncertain may become certain and therefore be definitively proposed as a second-category doctrine. Likewise a doctrine that is presently considered as implicit in the Faith, and not explicitly revealed, may later be understood as explicitly revealed.23 Of course, doctrine can never be demoted to a lower category, since the Church does not regress in her understanding of the truth. Once defined, doctrines are irreformable because definitive teaching is infallible.

Three Kinds of Assent

Each teaching by the three magisterial acts laid out above merits the assent of the faithful, though a different kind of assent is required for each category of teaching. This is because the reason for our assent differs according to the kind of doctrine taught.

First-category doctrines defined as divinely revealed are said to be de fide credenda which means to be believed from Faith. Second-category doctrines defined as truths of Catholic doctrine are said to be de fide tenenda or held from Faith. Because both of these kinds of doctrine are irreformable, in both cases the assent we owe them is complete and irrevocable faith. However, there is a difference between them formally. Recall what we said previously about the object of our faith. Formally, the object is our motive for assenting. Regarding first-category doctrines, the motive is that Christ speaks through Scripture and Tradition, whereas with second-category doctrines our faith is in the Holy Spirit as the cause of the Magisterium’s infallibility.24

The situation is different with third-category doctrines that are taught authoritatively, while not being defined. These teachings are not held to through the theological virtue of faith, but only on account of obedience based on the moral virtue of Religion. The moral virtue of Religion moves us to have a great respect for the teaching authority of the bishops, not primarily for their erudition, though presumably they are learned men when it comes to the doctrines of the Faith. Our respect rather is on account of their office to which we owe a humble submission, insofar as they represent Christ. The words “He who hears you, hears me” apply no less to the Magisterium when teaching a third-category non-definitive doctrine. Christ wishes for us to submit to them, whom he gives special graces for their teaching office. Hence non-definitive teachings are said to require religious submission of will and intellect.

Religious Submission of Will and Intellect

The response of religious submission of will and intellect means refraining from obstinately adhering to a contrary opinion. While knowledge does not require an act of the will, since our intellect is moved to assent by certain demonstration, opinion, like faith, does require an act of the will, since objects of both faith and opinion have not been sufficiently proven.25 Yet unlike faith, which is based on trust in an unerring authority, opinion lacks firm conviction since there remains the possibility of error. If our will is docile to the Magisterium, then, rather than judging our own contrary opinion more worthy, we will prefer to assent to Magisterial doctrine, though uncertain and proposed non-definitively.

Our external submission is extremely important here because it conduces to unity in the Church. These teachings are such that the contrary is said to be tuto doceri non potest, which means they cannot safely be taught. It would be rash or dangerous, if not erroneous, to hold the contrary. Doing so does great harm to the Church, and can lead to schism.

But external submission is not enough. Submission “cannot be simply exterior or disciplinary, but must be understood within the logic of faith and under the impulse of the obedience to the faith.”26 Submitting to the Magisterium in these doubtful matters is a good for ourselves, because it is a spiritual perfection. While submitting to the Church’s authority because we agree with her teachings comes from a purely human motive, to submit to the Magisterium as to Christ Himself is supernaturally motivated by the belief that Christ manifests His will to us even through the superior who is in grave sin. As Divine Intimacy, a compendium of Carmelite spirituality, states,

We should not obey through the motive of human confidence in the person of our superior: because he is intelligent, prudent . . . That is human obedience, the fruit of human prudence — an act good in itself but not supernatural . . . We must found it on supernatural confidence, on trust that springs from recognition of the divine government working through the superiors God has given us . . . based on the unique motive of Faith which knows that one who hears the superior hears God. “He who hears you hears Me.”27

Since we need not adhere with the conviction of faith to these doctrines, however, but only submit in obedience to the teaching authority who asserts them, our degree of adherence is “differentiated according to the mind and the will manifested.”28

Obedience does not require the denial of one’s own judgment to the point of affirming the contrary — an affirmation which would not be conformable to truth. It simply demands that we give up our actions according to our own opinion.29


There are times when we need not assent to the teaching of a particular bishop, or even in some cases, must not, for example, 1) when that bishop is schismatic, or 2) when he teaches contrary to the Magisterium, or 3) when he is not exercising the authority of his office but is only expressing his private opinion on a matter other than Faith or morals. Schism is when the bishop has himself refused to submit to the authority of the Magisterium, while heresy is an obstinate rejection of an infallible Church doctrine. Regarding a bishop’s own opinion, we are free to respectfully disagree, in keeping with the virtues of charity and piety, as with any other superior. In none of these cases mentioned is the bishop teaching in communion with the Pope, nor therefore is his teaching a magisterial act to which we owe our assent.

We must not, however, jump to the conclusion that because one doctrine taught by one of the three magisterial teaching acts “appears” to contradict another doctrine previously taught, that therefore one of those teachings is in error. Such an apparent contradiction is due to our own misreading or misinterpretation. For example, some have thought there was a contradiction between the teaching on the necessity of membership in the Church for salvation, and that on non-Catholics receiving grace. To this the Holy Office replied:

Now, among those things which the Church has always preached and will never cease to preach there is also contained that infallible statement by which we are taught that there is no salvation outside the Church. This dogma must be understood in the sense in which the Church itself understands it. For Our Saviour gave the things that are contained in the deposit of faith to be explained by the ecclesiastical Magisterium and not by private judgments.30

The two doctrines appear contradictory only when interpreted as mutually exclusive, whereas a careful reading of Church documents shows them to be perfectly reconcilable.

It is the Magisterium’s prerogative to interpret its own doctrines, and its job to explicate them more fully over time. Doctrine must be understood in accordance with “the mind of the Church,” not according to our own mind. It is the theologian’s job, on the other hand, to reconcile what might seem like contradictory magisterial teachings. We must make a concerted effort to interpret teaching within context, and when the wording is ambiguous, in the light of previous doctrine. Respectful discussion in the appropriate circumstances, being careful not to cause scandal, may be in keeping with religious submission of will and intellect.

If, despite a loyal effort on the theologian’s part, the difficulties persist, the theologian has the duty to make known to the magisterial authorities the problems raised

  • by the teaching in itself,
  • in the arguments proposed to justify it, or even
  • in the manner in which it is presented.31

Dissent, which is an act of schism and a sin against charity — “a model of protest which takes its inspiration from political society”32 — must be distinguished from dialogue inspired by a genuine desire to resolve difficulties. Loyal dialogue is praiseworthy as a stimulus to the Magisterium to present truths more explicitly, but loyalty requires submission when difficulties remain.

In cases like these, the theologian should avoid turning to the “mass media,” but have recourse to the responsible authority . . . Faced with a proposition to which he feels he cannot give his intellectual assent, the theologian nevertheless has the duty to remain open to a deeper examination of the question. For a loyal spirit, animated by love for the Church . . . it can be a call to suffer for the truth, in silence and prayer, but with the certainty, that if the truth really is at stake, it will ultimately prevail.33

Our good Lord willed that we should hear with our ears the truths necessary for our salvation, and have security in infallible teaching. Magisterial teaching, though at times contingent and thus necessarily subject to reform, nevertheless anchors us amid a world of arbitrary opinion. The Magisterium is a gift to light the way for us wayfarers on the path to a full understanding of the truth in heaven. If we are not willing to submit ourselves to its teaching, however, we make this gift void for ourselves. Let us pray to the Holy Spirit for a greater faith and for the virtue of religion by which we may submit our intellect and will in order to “hear” the bishops’ holy teaching. “Blessed is the man that heareth me . . . He shall find life and salvation from the Lord.” (Prov. 34a, 35b DRA)

  1. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium on the Church (21, Nov. 1964). http://www.vatican.va, 20.
  2. St. Cyprian of Carthage, The Unity of the Catholic Church, 1st edition (251/256 A.D). http://www.catholicfaithandreason.org.
  3. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 2nd rev. ed., trans. English Dominican Fathers, http://www.newadvent.org, II–II 5, 3.
  4. St. Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians, trans. Alexander Roberts and William Rambaut, from Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1 (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885). Revised and edited by Kevin Knight. www.newadvent.org, 44.
  5. “The Church is apostolic . . . in three ways: she was and remains built on ‘the foundation of the Apostles’; . . . the Church keeps and hands on the teaching . . . she has heard from the Apostles; she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by the Apostles until Christ’s return.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), §857; quoting Eph 2:20; Rev 21:14. Interpretation given is from Dr. Joseph Arias Holy Spirit and Theology class notes, Fall 2018.
  6. St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3, 3, 1–2.
  7. St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1, 10, 2.
  8. St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans, trans. Alexander Roberts and William Rambaut. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited by Kevin Knight. www.newadvent.org, 8.
  9. Summa Theologica, II–II, 1, 9, ad 5.
  10. “For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.” First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor aeternus on the Church of Christ (18 July 1870), 4, 6.
  11. See, for example, Pope Pius XII’s Apostolic Constitution “Munificentissimus Deus,” (1 Nov 1950), and Pope Bl. Pius IX’s Bull “Ineffabilis Deus,” (8 Dec 1854).
  12. Council of Trent, Session 7 Decree Concerning The Sacraments (3 Mar. 1547) www.thecounciloftrent.com. Introduction. See also Council of Florence Session 6 (1438–1445).
  13. Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis On Reserving Priestly Ordination To Men Alone (22 May 1994), http://w2.vatican.va, 4.
  14. The bishops “nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held. This is even more clearly verified when, gathered together in an ecumenical council, they are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal Church, whose definitions must be adhered to with the submission of faith.” Lumen Gentium, 25.
  15. Pastor Aeternus, 4, 9.
  16. Code of Canon Law, www.vatican.va, 336.
  17. Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Humani Generis Concerning Some False Opinions, (12, Aug. 1950), http://w2.vatican.va, 20.
  18. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the Professio Fidei (29 Jun 1998). http://www.vatican.va, 11.
  19. “The teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents . . . This judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” Ordinatio Sacerdotalis 4.
  20. “God has given to His Church a living Teaching Authority to elucidate and explain what is contained in the deposit of faith only obscurely and implicitly.” Humani Generis, 21.
  21. “Although its character as a divinely revealed truth was defined in the First Vatican Council, the doctrine on the infallibility and primacy of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff was already recognized as definitive in the period before the council.” Doctrinal Commentary, 11.
  22. Doctrinal Commentary, 3.
  23. “Moreover, it cannot be excluded that at a certain point in dogmatic development, the understanding of the realities and the words of the deposit of faith can progress in the life of the Church, and the Magisterium may proclaim some of these doctrines as also dogmas of Divine and Catholic faith”; that is, second-category doctrines as also first-category dogmas (Doctrinal Commentary, 7).
  24. On the first two kinds of teachings: “There is no difference with respect to the full and irrevocable character of the assent which is owed to these teachings. The difference concerns the supernatural virtue of faith: in the case of truths of the first paragraph, the assent is based directly on faith in the authority of the Word of God (doctrines de fide credenda); in the case of the truths of the second paragraph, the assent is based on faith in the Holy Spirit’s assistance to the Magisterium and on the Catholic doctrine of the infallibility of the Magisterium (doctrines de fide tenenda.)” Doctrinal Commentary, 8.
  25. Summa Theologica, II–II, 4, 1.
  26. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum Veritatis On the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian (24 May 1990), www.vatican.va, 23. Henceforth DV.
  27. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D., Divine Intimacy, trans. by the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Boston (Baronius Press, 2014), 123–124.
  28. Doctrinal Commentary, 11. Also: “This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.” Lumen Gentium, 25.
  29. Divine Intimacy, 24.
  30. Congregation of the Holy Office, Letter Suprema haec sacra (8 Aug. 1949), para 5, 6. See also: “God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever be in opposition to truth. The appearance of this kind of specious contradiction is chiefly due to the fact that either the dogmas of faith are not understood and explained in accordance with the mind of the church or unsound views are mistaken for the conclusions of reason.” First Vatican Council, Session 3 Dogmatic constitution Dei Filius on the Catholic faith (24 April 1870), 4, 6.
  31. DV30.
  32. DV, 33. Numbering added.
  33. DV, 31.
Joanne M.M. Baker About Joanne M.M. Baker

Joanne M.M. Baker is a homeschooling mother of eight children. She earned her undergraduate degree at Thomas Aquinas College and is currently pursuing a Master’s in theology. She and her husband have conducted a study of the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas for eight years in Denver, Colorado. Please contact her directly through her website: Mind of the Church.


  1. Avatar Tom Showerman says:

    I thank the Good Lord for inspiring you to write this article.
    May God continue to bless you and your family.

    Tom Showerman

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