4. Teaching Office
In order to maintain the Church in the
purity of the faith transmitted by the Apostles, Jesus conferred on Her a
participation in His own infallibility. "Infallibility" means "immunity from error".
It is a gift of the Holy Spirit which protects the Church from error when the
Church solemnly defines a matter of faith or morals.
By a supernatural sense of the faith, the
People of God under the leadership of the living Magisterium (the teaching
office of the bishops) attach themselves indefectibly to the
apostolic faith. The pastoral ministry of the Magisterium is
ordered, therefore, to safeguard the People of God in the truth.
This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it.
To fulfil the teaching office of their
pastoral ministry, the Apostles and their successors, the bishops, are given a gift
of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The Pope, as
head of the college of bishops, enjoys this gift of infallibility
in a unique sense. As pastor and supreme teacher of all the
faithful, and charged with the responsibility to confirm his
brothers and sisters in the faith, the Pope may proclaim as
definitive a point of doctrine touching faith and morals.
When the Church, by her Magisterium,
proposes something to be believed as being revealed by God in Jesus Christ, a Catholic
is obliged to adhere to the definition with the obedience of
faith. When the Magisterium proposes something not in a
definitive way but so as to help the faithful in a better
understanding of God's Revelation, a Catholic is obliged to give
to such teaching the religious assent of his spirit.
It is, therefore, the Pope's role, as it was
that of Peter, to guide the community of Christ's faithful, to safeguard them in
the truth, and to confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith
made possible in Jesus Christ.
Fr. Kevin Beach