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Magisterium 教會訓導權 Teaching Authority of the Church

刊登日期: 2013.06.09
作者: Fr. Thomas Au 區耀邦神父  

One of the most unique qualities of the Catholic Church, differing from other Christian denominations, is this “Authority of the Church” , to teach as Jesus taught. It comes primarily from Mt. 28: 28-20, Mt. 16:18-19 and Lk. 22:31-32. 

In this article I would like to look at it from a different angle: in relationship to Romans 10:9, 14- 17. In October I reflected on this passage within the topic of faith. In this article I will focus on vs 14-15 in terms of the Church’s responsibility to teach. 

Rom. 10:14-15 “But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent?” 

For us Catholics, this is important because we do not take the position that we can come to know God’s will by reading the Bible ALONE nor do we think that we can interpret the meaning of the words by ourselves. The fact is that we can’t even read the Bible if someone has not translated it for us from the original Greek. 

At the beginning of the Church “many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us” (Lk. 1:1), there were many versions of what we now call the Gospels. They were simply testimonies of the life and teachings of Jesus shared by believers. Often the stories were exaggerated, embellished or details mistaken that needed verification or correction. That was very normal. We do that all the time in our retelling of events in our own life. Just like our own stories, they were not written down immediately nor recorded by a video camera in our cell phones. But as the apostles and eyewitnesses began to die, naturally or by martyrdom, they had the need to write them down to make sure that what is passed on is true and accurate. Some of the versions of the Gospels were deemed unacceptable, as in the case of the Gospels of Peter, Mary Magdalene or Philip (used by the book The Da Vinci Code). By the 4th century acceptable narratives and writings of the apostles were officially formed into what we now call the Bible, all 73 books. (This will be changed by Martin Luther to 66 books in the 16th century.) 

The Church has recognized that she has both the responsibility to safeguard the authenticity of the “Truth” passed on and the integrity of those who exercise the responsibility. The parish priests, as pastors of souls, are “sent” by the bishops. This safeguarding and sending is essentially what the Church calls “magisterium”, the “teaching authority of the Church.” No one has a self-proclaimed authority without the Church’s public declaration. This is usually done by the fact that a priest is ordained by a bishop. Subsequently, he is assigned to a parish by a bishop. 

If a priest teaches something contrary to the truth, the bishop can forbid him to teach publicly. If a priest lives a life immorally, which destroys his credibility to speak truthfully, the bishop could even forbid him to exercise his priesthood publicly. 

In some of these cases, some people may think that a bishop acts dictatorially, particularly when a priest says things they like to hear or he speaks so beautifully. It is even more controversial when the priest may be right and the bishop wrong. That is why it is very important that all Catholics should know what the Church officially teaches, regardless of who is doing the talking. But in our day and age of popularity trumping authenticity, this gets very muddy. 


I will conclude this reflection next week, focusing on vs 17. 

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