Sunday, January 03, 2016

"A non-magisterial magisterial statement?"

On December 10, 2015, the Pontifical Commission for Relations with the Jews released a document consisting of Reflections on Theological Questions entitled "The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable" (see our post, "New Vatican Document on Judaism Provokes Controversy," Musings, December 18, 2015).

Canonist Edward Peters, in "A non-magisterial magisterial statement?" (In the Light of the Law, December 15, 2015), has a very good discussion of the question of magisterial status of such documents -- a discussion provoking a response from Jimmy Akin in "Why the Holy See Issues Non-Magisterial Statements" (National Catholic Register, December 15, 2015), to which Peters briefly responds in an addendum to his original post linked above.

The debate turns on the question whether the magisterial character of prelates can be readily "turned off and on" (as Akin seems to maintain) or whether this character cannot be so easily laid aside (as Peters suggests). The position taken by Peters implies that theological statements by prelates, regardless of the "specific intentionality" whereby they wish their locutionary acts to be characterized (as 'magisterial' or 'non-magisterial'), can have am objectively magisterial character independent of any subjective intention. While this should not lead us to suppose that such statements have a greater conscience-binding character than they in fact have, yet underscores, in turn, that prelates need to exercise greater care in making assertions on faith and morals, says Peters.

Read both articles. It's an important and timely discussion. Both authors seem concerned about the direction things have been heading in recent years with off-the-cuff declarations and "non-binding" Vatican statements; but they offer quite different accounts of how these developments should be viewed.


  • Nabeel Qureshi, "Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?" (RZIM, December 22, 2015). Here, from a Muslim convert to Christianity, is the more nuanced sort of answer I wish I would see more often from Catholics. 
  • Francis J. Beckwith, "Why Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God" (The Catholic Thing, January 7, 2016).  I dunno.  Beckwith says all the right things in terms of magisterial teaching; yet we may need more emphasis on the lines he ends with, which touches on what one of my readers recently said to me in an email: "Do Muslims worship Jesus?"  That is the only important question in the final analysis.


Amateur Brain Surgeon


Inn't it interesting that Mr Akin identifies the problem as originating in the execrable 1960s?

It reminds ABS of an incredibly vexing and irksome phenomenon one is routinely confronted by in the Lil' Licit Liturgy - Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers.

Pope Sixtus (Xystus) 1st reigned from 115 AD to 125 AD and it was he who decreed that only the hands of the consecrated could touch the sacred species and that stricture stood in force until the 1960s.

Now, just combine the vain spilling of spiritual speculation (Franciscus' bailiwick) with the spilling of the Sacred Blood by a woman on her hands, forearms, dress, and sanctuary floor (ABS saw this happen in Franklin, Tenn on Dec 27)and one becomes flummoxed nearly to the point of catatonia.

Whether it is spilling speculation all over once-settled Doctrine or whether it is spilling His Sacred Blood in a sanctuary, there is not much to love about the Shadow Church, a Church that lacks substance.

Thanks, 1960s.

Chris Garton-Zavesky


Non-Magisterial Magisterial statement? Sounds like an oxymoronic tautology.

Pertinacious Papist


Hi Chris,

According to Dr. Ed Peters (canonist), it is, whatever Lombardi may say.

Chris Garton-Zavesky


It is magisterial -- or it is Not Magisterial?