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25. Among the principal duties of bishops the preaching of the Gospel occupies an eminent place. For bishops are preachers of the faith, who lead new disciples to Christ, and they are authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach to the people committed to them the faith they must believe and put into practice, and by the light of the Holy Spirit illustrate that faith. They bring forth from the treasury of Revelation new things and old, making it bear fruit and vigilantly warding off any errors that threaten their flock. Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.
Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held. This is even more clearly verified when, gathered together in an ecumenical council, they are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal Church, whose definitions must be adhered to with the submission of faith.
And this infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of Revelation extends, which must be religiously guarded and faithfully expounded. And this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith [Luke 22:32], by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals. And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment. For then the Roman Pontiff is not pronouncing judgment as a private person, but as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the charism of infallibility of the Church itself is individually present, he is expounding or defending a doctrine of Catholic faith. The infallibility promised to the Church resides also in the body of Bishops, when that body exercises the supreme magisterium with the successor of Peter. To these definitions the assent of the Church can never be wanting, on account of the activity of that same Holy Spirit, by which the whole flock of Christ is preserved and progresses in unity of faith.
But when either the Roman Pontiff or the Body of Bishops together with him defines a judgment, they pronounce it in accordance with Revelation itself, which all are obliged to abide by and be in conformity with, that is, the Revelation which as written or orally handed down is transmitted in its entirety through the legitimate succession of bishops and especially in care of the Roman Pontiff himself, and which under the guiding light of the Spirit of truth is religiously preserved and faithfully expounded in the Church. The Roman Pontiff and the bishops, in view of their office and the importance of the matter, by fitting means diligently strive to inquire properly into that revelation and to give apt expression to its contents; but a new public revelation they do not accept as pertaining to the divine deposit of faith.
(Text from Lumen Gentium.)
25. Inter praecipua episcoponim munera eminet praedicatio evangelii. Episcopi enim sunt fidei praecones, qui novos discipulos ad Christum adducunt, et doctores authentici seu auctoritate Christi praediti, qui populo sibi commisso fidem credendam et moribus applicandam praedicant, et sub lumine sancti Spiritus illustrant, ex thesauro revelationis nova et vetera proferentes (cf. Mt 13, 52), earn fructificare faciunt erroresque gregi suo impendentes vigilanter arcent (cf. 2 Tm 4, 1-4). Episcopi in communione cum Romano pontifice docentes ab omnibus tamquam divinae et catholicae veritatis testes venerandi sunt; fideles autem in sui episcopi sententiam de fide et moribus nomine Christi prolatam concurrere, eique religioso animi obsequio adhaerere debent. Hoc vero religiosum voluntatis et intellectus obsequium singulari ratione praestandum est Romani pontificis authentico magisterio etiam cum non ex cathedra loquitur; ita nempe ut magisterium eius supremum reverenter agnoscatur, et sententiis ab eo prolatis sincere adhaereatur, iuxta mentem et voluntatem manifestatam ipsius, quae se prodit praecipue sive indole documentorum, sive ex frequenti propositione eiusdem doctrinae, sive ex dicendi ratione.
Licet singuli praesules infallibilitatis praerogativa non polleant, quando tamen, etiam per orbern dispersi, sed communionis nexurn inter se et cum successore Petri servantes, authentice res fidei et morum docentes in unam sententiam tamquam definitive tenendam conveniunt, doctrinam Christi infallibiliter enuntiant. Quod adhuc manifestius habetur quando, in concilio oecumenico coadunati, pro universa Ecclesia fidei et morum doctores et indices sunt, quorum definitionibus fidei obsequio est a, adhaerendum.
Haec autem infallibilitas, qua divinus redemptor ecclesiam suam in definienda doctrina de fide vel moribus instructam esse voluit, tantum patet quantum divinae revelationis patet depositum, sancte custodiendum et fideliter exponendum. Qua quidem infallibilitate Romanus pontifex, collegii episcoporum caput, vi muneris sui gaudet, quando, ut supremus omnium christifidelium pastor et doctor, qui fratres suos in fide confirmat (cf. Lc 22, 32), doctrinam de fide vel moribus definitive actu proclamat. Quare definitiones eius ex sese, et non ex consensu ecclesiae, irreformabiles merito dicuntur, quippe quae sub assistentia Spiritus sancti, ipsi in beato Petro promissa, prolatae sint, ideoque nulla indigeant aliorum approbatione, nec ullam ad aliud indicium appellationern patiantur. Tunc enim Romanus pontifex non ut persona privata sententiam profert, sed ut universalis ecclesiae magister supremus, in quo charisma infallibilitatis ipsius ecclesiae singulariter inest, doctrinam fidei catholicae exponit vel tuetur. Infallibilitas ecclesiae promissa in corpore episcoporum quoque inest, quando supremum magisterium cum Petri successore exercet. Istis autem definitionibus assensus ecclesiae numquam deesse potest propter actionern eiusdem Spiritus sancti, qua universus Christi grex in unitate fidei servatur et proficit.
Cum autem sive Romanus pontifex sive corpus episcoporum cum eo sententiam definiunt, eam proferunt secundum ipsam revelationem, cui omnes stare et conformari tenentur et quae scripta vel tradita per legitimam episcoporum successionern et imprimis ipsius Romani pontificis cura integre transmittitur, atque praelucente Spiritu veritatis in ecclesia sancte servatur et fideliter exponitur. Ad quam rite indagandam et apte enuntiandam, Romanus pontifex et episcopi, pro officio suo et rei gravitate, per media apta, sedulo operam navant; novam vero revelationem publicam tamquam ad divinum fidei depositum pertinentem non accipiunt.
(Text from Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, Volume Two, ed. Norman P. Tanner S.J., Georgetown University Press, 1990.)
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Lane Core Jr. (email@example.com)
Created December 12, 2001; not revised.