Priests and the Magisterium


Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, O.P.

Sometimes we might hear some misguided Catholic say something like, “Well, my priest supports (insert text).”  It is worth noting that sometimes a priest may say something contrary to Church dogma be it knowingly or unknowingly is another subject.  It is of surprise that Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, O.P., knowingly defies Church teaching on subjects such as same-sex unions and the ordination of women into the priesthood, especially in the given context of his own words.  You may find an article here.

Sometimes, even priests say things that are contrary to Church dogma. It is supposed to be their duty to uphold the teachings of the Magisterium and not put themselves on the level of the Magisterium which is the pope and the bishops.  Now, this article is not going to speak about whether the Holy Father’s decision was the right one or not and I personally am unsure what to think on the subject seeing that he was not appointed head of the Synod on the Family but I can still understand the concern.  The purpose of the article is to call to attention for the need of prudence on the part of the laity, because it is very easy for a priest or sometimes even a bishop to mention his own opinions in a homily which may be passed off as Church doctrine: that is called Montanism and it was rejected as heresy by the Church in the 2nd and 3rd centuries.  This heretical movement later inspired Baptist, Pentecostal and other neo-Protestant movements in their beliefs about the pastor being moved by the Holy Spirit and cannot err, but of course this leads to endless schisms.

The ordinary Magisterium consists “of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him” (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2034).  This Magisterium, the pope and the college of bishops, alone is “as authentic interpreter of the affirmations of Scripture and Tradition” (no. 1008).  Apart from this Magisterium, be it a Protestant community or even a group of individual Catholics, what they say does not account for Church dogma unless it has been defined as such by the Magisterium.  It should be noted most heresies were devised by priests or bishops: i.e. Arianism by Arius a priest, Nestorianism by Nestorius an archbishop, Sabellianism by Sabellius a priest, or Lutheranism by Martin Luther a priest.


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