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.