Catholic Classroom: The Magisterium
Question: What Is the Magisterium?
Something we are expected to do as Catholics is to be faithful to the Magisterium. But what is the Magisterium? You cannot be faithful to someone or something if you don’t know what it is. Fortunately, it is actually a simple concept. The Magisterium is the teaching office of the Church. It is the pope in communion with the bishops, divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit to interpret the Word of God.
We have seen in our own time and throughout history that the Word of God can be misinterpreted. This is the result of human error, not of any shortcoming in the Word itself. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (85-87) teaches that the Magisterium interprets both Scripture and Tradition, and it can be trusted because its authority comes from Jesus, who said to the apostles, “Whoever listens to you listens to me” (Luke 10:16).
The Magisterium serves (but does not supersede) the Word of God by infallibly interpreting it. This can happen either through the extraordinary Magisterium, which provides solemn and formal definitions, or the ordinary and universal Magisterium, which issues and upholds teachings from the pope and the bishops in communion with him.
Jesus gave the Church a gift in the Magisterium. Its goal is not to police the faithful into following a set of rules. Rather, it seeks to make the truth of the faith more accessible to all people. After all, Jesus has no intention of being obscure or difficult to understand. God’s Law and Word are for us, and he desires that we accept and live out the truths of the faith with all our hearts. The Magisterium helps us to do this more perfectly.