Today we examine the Catechism sections dealing with the deposit of faith, the Magisterium, and the way these two relate to each other.

III. The Interpretation of the Heritage of Faith

The heritage of faith entrusted to the whole of the Church

84 The apostles entrusted the "Sacred deposit" of the faith (the depositum fidei),45 contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to the whole of the Church. "By adhering to [this heritage] the entire holy people, united to its pastors, remains always faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. So, in maintaining, practising and professing the faith that has been handed on, there should be a remarkable harmony between the bishops and the faithful."46

The Magisterium of the Church

85 "The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ."47 This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.

86 "Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith."48

87 Mindful of Christ's words to his apostles: "He who hears you, hears me",49 The faithful receive with docility the teachings and directives that their pastors give them in different forms.

The dogmas of the faith

88 The Church's Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes truths contained in divine Revelation or also when it proposes in a definitive way truths having a necessary connection with them.

89 There is an organic connection between our spiritual life and the dogmas. Dogmas are lights along the path of faith; they illuminate it and make it secure. Conversely, if our life is upright, our intellect and heart will be open to welcome the light shed by the dogmas of faith.50

90 The mutual connections between dogmas, and their coherence, can be found in the whole of the Revelation of the mystery of Christ.51 "In Catholic doctrine there exists an order or hierarchy  of truths, since they vary in their relation to the foundation of the Christian faith."52

The supernatural sense of faith

91 All the faithful share in understanding and handing on revealed truth. They have received the anointing of the Holy Spirit, who instructs them53 and guides them into all truth.54

92 "The whole body of the faithful. . . cannot err in matters of belief. This characteristic is shown in the supernatural appreciation of faith (sensus fidei) on the part of the whole people, when, from the bishops to the last of the faithful, they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals."55

93 "By this appreciation of the faith, aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth, the People of God, guided by the sacred teaching authority (Magisterium),. . . receives. . . the faith, once for all delivered to the saints. . . the People unfailingly adheres to this faith, penetrates it more deeply with right judgment, and applies it more fully in daily life."56

Growth in understanding the faith

94 Thanks to the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the understanding of both the realities and the words of the heritage of faith is able to grow in the life of the Church:
- "through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts";57 it is in particular "theological research [which] deepens knowledge of revealed truth".58
- "from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which [believers] experience",59 The sacred Scriptures "grow with the one who reads them."60
- "from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth".61

95 "It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls."62

IN BRIEF

99 Thanks to its supernatural sense of faith, the People of God as a whole never ceases to welcome, to penetrate more deeply and to live more fully from the gift of divine Revelation.

100 The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him.

The word “Magisterium” was first used by a pope in the encyclical Etsi Multa written by Pope Pius IX:

22. And surely what these sons of perdition intend is quite clear from their other writings, especially that impious and most imprudent one which has only recently been published by the person whom they recently constituted as a pseudo-bishop. For these writings attack and pervert the true power of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff and the bishops, who are the successors of blessed Peter and the apostles; they transfer it instead to the people, or, as they say, to the community. They obstinately reject and oppose the infallible magisterium both of the Roman Pontiff and of the whole Church in teaching matters. Incredibly, they boldly affirm that the Roman Pontiff and all the bishops, the priests and the people conjoined with him in the unity of faith and communion fell into heresy when they approved and professed the definitions of the Ecumenical Vatican Council. Therefore they deny also the indefectibility of the Church and blasphemously declare that it has perished throughout the world and that its visible Head and the bishops have erred. They assert the necessity of restoring a legitimate episcopacy in the person of their pseudo-bishop, who has entered not by the gate but from elsewhere like a thief or robber and calls the damnation of Christ upon his head.

St. Vincent of Lerins writes about the Church’s dogmas in his Commonitory:

[59.] But the Church of Christ, the careful and watchful guardian of the doctrines deposited in her charge, never changes anything in them, never diminishes, never adds, does not cut off what is necessary, does not add what is superfluous, does not lose her own, does not appropriate what is another's, but while dealing faithfully and judiciously with ancient doctrine, keeps this one object carefully in view—if there be anything which antiquity has left shapeless and rudimentary, to fashion and polish it, if anything already reduced to shape and developed, to consolidate and strengthen it, if any already ratified and defined, to keep and guard it. Finally, what other object have Councils ever aimed at in their decrees, than to provide that what was before believed in simplicity should in future be believed intelligently, that what was before preached coldly should in future be preached earnestly, that what was before practised negligently should thenceforward be practised with double solicitude? This, I say, is what the Catholic Church, roused by the novelties of heretics, has accomplished by the decrees of her Councils,— this, and nothing else—she has thenceforward consigned to posterity in writing what she had received from those of olden times only by tradition, comprising a great amount of matter in a few words, and often, for the better understanding, designating an old article of the faith by the characteristic of a new name. – St. Vincent of Lerins, Commonitory Ch 23

Finally, the interrelation of Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium of the Church is examined in the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum:

10. Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church. Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the breaking of the bread and in prayers (see Acts 2, 42, Greek text), so that holding to, practicing and professing the heritage of the faith, it becomes on the part of the bishops and faithful a single common effort. (7)

But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, (8) has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, (9) whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.

It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God's most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.

Footnotes

45 DV 10 # 1; cf.I Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 1:12-14(Vulg.).
46 DV 10 # 1; cf. Acts 2:42 (Greek); Pius XII, Apost. Const. Munificentissimus Deus, 1 November 1950: AAS 42 (1950), 756, taken along with the words of St. Cyprian, Epist. 66, 8: CSEL 3/2, 733: "The Church is the people united to its Priests, the flock adhering to its Shepherd."
47 DV 10 # 2.
48 DV 10 para 2.
49 ⇒ Lk 10:16; cf. LG 20.
50 Cf.⇒ Jn 8:31-32.
51 Cf. Vatican Council I: DS 3016: nexus mysteriorum; LC 25.
52 UR II.
53 Cf. ⇒ I Jn 2:20, ⇒ 27
54 Cf. . ⇒ Jn 16:13
55 LG 12; cf. St. Augustine, De praed. sanct. 14, 27: PL 44, 980.
56 LG 12; cf. Jude 3.
57 DV 8 # 2; cf. ⇒ Lk 2:19, ⇒ 51
58 GS 62 # 7; cf. GS 44 # 2; DV 23; 24; UR 4.
59 DV 8 # 2.
60 DV 8 # 2.
61 St. Gregory the Great, Hom. in ⇒ Ezek. 1, 7, 8: PL 76, 843D.
62 DV 10 # 3.