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Magisterium 教會訓導權 Teaching Authority of the Church

刊登日期: 2013.06.16
作者: Fr. Thomas Au 區耀邦神父  


 Last week we looked at Rom. 10:14-15 (“And how can people preach unless they are sent?”) and considered the role of the bishops and priests as teachers of the truth. This week we will look at the content of the truth being passed on. 

Rom. 10:17, “faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” 

In this text the “word of Christ” is not confined to the Bible alone. We as Catholics believe that the apostles and their successors have the responsibility to “teach ….. everything I (Jesus) commanded you.” Mt. 28:20. And from Jn. 21:25, the last sentence from the Gospel, we read, “There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written” as well as 1 Tim. 3:15, “ the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.” The apostles passed on, through their “word”, what Jesus taught them and showed them in their relationship with Him. This, what the Church calls the “deposit of faith”, is like a seed sown in the ground. It is this deposit that the Church calls Sacred Tradition with a capital “T”. 

Not only did they pass it on, they also had to guarantee that whatever else was said of Jesus and His teaching was true. And at times they had to refute what was said or taught by someone else. In Acts 15 we find the first controversy of the Church when the apostles, led by Peter, had to clarify and reaffirm what the Church understood as the essential elements of the faith. And for the subsequent 2000 years, the leaders of the Church had to, from time to time, exercise the same responsibility. These we can read in the history of the Church, particularly the history of heresies. We can also see how disturbing and confusing it has been since the Reformation. 

In this sense, we believe that the “teaching Church”, under the stewardship of the bishops headed by the Pope, teaches us authentically what Jesus Himself would say. This is the content of the “magisterium”. We can see this word, “magisterium”, used legally in “magistrate”, as an officer of the court who upholds the intent and interpretation of the law. In the United Kingdom, they make sure the intent of the “Magna Carta” is protected. In the United States, the Supreme Court has the task of protecting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In a similar sense, there is a “magistrate” in every discipline of knowledge, even in mundane things like sports. Someone has to make sure that soccer, basketball, golf, etc, remain intact. Rules have to be applied so that the game is not corrupted or changed. 

Now, most people would think of this in terms of the bishops having the power to tell us what they want us to hear and learn. I would like to think of it rather as a burden. The bishops have the responsibility to teach, timely and correctly, what Jesus wants us to know. I feel that burden every time I teach a class or preach a sermon. I have to make sure I prepare my classes carefully. I have to make sure I do not distort or misrepresent the Truth placed in my hands. 


What we, as regular faithful, have to do is to give assent to this authority, trusting that Jesus is still in charge, through the Holy Spirit, that what we believe and apply in specific time and issue, remains His Truth to the Greater Glory and Honor of God ( Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, 愈顯主榮). 

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