The Magisterium is the teaching office of the Catholic Church. It is made up of the Pope and the bishops who are in harmony with the faith. As an authority, they make pronouncements on divine truths, instruct the faithful on the beliefs and practices of the Church (see Acts 15:22-29) and catechesis on scripture, faith and morality. This body is the one essential part of the Catholic Church without which she can easily fall into chaos in relation to the Christian faith and morals and in interpreting portions of Scripture. It is important to note that the Magisterium is guided by the Holy Spirit to prevent her from teaching error (see Acts 15:28).
Some or perhaps most Catholics do not even see why they need to submit to this office and are ignorant of the Church’s position on Scripture, faith and doctrine which is beautifully summed up in the Catechism. This problem stems from the false doctrine of Scripture Alone from Protestantism which claims that the Bible is the final authority of the Christian faith. Clearly, this claim has no root in Scripture itself. Rather, the Scripture points to the Church as the pillar and the authentic source of truth (see 1 Timothy 3:15).
The Magisterium does not forbid faithful Catholics from engaging in Bible study for instance, nor does the office undermine the individual study of scripture. The Catechism, a product of the Church’s teaching authority is a wonderful way to examine and get a clearer and deeper understanding on topics about faith and morals in Sacred Scripture. Sadly, it is often avoided and to some extent criticised by non-Catholics and even some Catholics as undermining the Bible.
Now, consider this scenario:
In a game of soccer, two teams of eleven players each play a game which is moderated by a referee. What is the duty of the referee? To ensure that there is fair play and order in the game. The referee does not necessarily disrupt gameplay but only when the rules of the game is compromised. In instances where a foul is committed, everyone looks to the referee to step in and make a just decision. And oftentimes, the referee comes under harsh criticism when he fails to act justly.
The Magisterium can be likened to the referee. It is the duty of this office to instruct the faithful to know well what they believe, to correct and to step in and bring clarity when there is confusion as to how a portion of Scripture is to be interpreted so that there is unity and oneness in belief (see Acts 15, 2 Peter 1:20, 21). And doubtless, the Holy Spirit is of order and one with the Godhead. It is not always that the faithful runs to the Catechism especially whenever they engage in a Bible study but in the moment where one finds it difficult to interpret Scripture (see Acts 8:30-31, 2 Peter 3:15-16). Jesus Christ pointed to the Church and the elders as the final authority to consult in bringing one to order (see Matthew 18:17).
Jesus Christ promised us his Holy Spirit who will teach us and guide us into all truth. And truly His Spirit guides us as Catholic faithful to understand the faith and Scripture. But we should note that we exist as members of one body in Christ which is His holy Church in whom He appointed shepherds to guide, guard and feed His flock. Since the Holy Spirit is One, we see in the Magisterium the fulfilment of this promise of Christ to send the Advocate and Teacher which has kept the One Holy Catholic Church from error and being torn apart by division as to what to believe. And so we still believe in one Lord, still hold onto the one true faith and still share in the one baptism (see Ephesians 4:5) professed by the early Christians. This would have been impossible if there was no teaching authority in the Church and everyone lived as they believed and thought to be true. Anyone could just get up and form a sect as there are ten thousands of denominations now, making himself as his own magisterium. And just as Christ said that He will be with us TILL THE END OF TIME, the Church has OUTLIVED all her persecutors and those who sought to divide her. Thank God for the Magisterium! Thank God for the Catholic Church!
By Osei Kwame Jnr