Francis J. Beckwith's Reflections on Faith, Ethics and Culture
Two questions for Catholics to consider in light of the alleged circularity of Protestant ecclesiology: First, was there anything like a Catholic magisterium in the Old Covenant, that is, in the life of ancient Israel? If not, why then is it necessary for there to be one in the new covenant Church? Second, does the magisterium truly liberate one from the circle (or spiral) of interpretation? It’s interesting to me that the late Avery Cardinal Dulles, after arguing for the necessity of a magisterium in providing the church with a clear, authoritative word, concludes his chapter with the following statement, “The meaning of magisterial decisions, in turn, has to be studied with reference to the way they are understood and interpreted by pastors, theologians, and the faithful.”1 Dulles evidently realized the there is a certain amount of naiveté in the notion that bishops of the Catholic Church agree on how to interpret the magisterium. And if Dulles is right, that we must look to “pastors, theologians, and the faithful” for a reliable interpretation of Scripture, are Protestants really that off the mark? Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J. Magisterium: Teacher and Guardian of the Faith. (Naples, FL: Sapientia Press, 2007), 10.
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