The written decrees of the various Church Councils provide us with some of the most reliable Magisterial guidance.

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by Doug Lawrence

Pope’s sometimes act or teach in error.

Bishops sometimes act or teach in error.

Priests and Deacons sometimes act or teach in error.

Lay persons sometimes act or teach in error.

But duly called and properly constituted Church Councils rarely act or teach in error … even the Council infamously known as Vatican II.

Beginning with the 1st century Council of Jerusalem, with the original Apostles in attendance and St. Peter officiating … a pattern (probably borrowed from the practices of the old Levitical Priesthood/Temple Worship System) emerged that would serve the Church well for (at least) the next 21 Councils, and 2000 years.

All the Bishops, along with the Pope, get together.

All the Bishops, along with the Pope, deliberate on the question(s) of the day.

All the Bishops, along with the Pope, agree.
(Unanimous agreement among the Bishops is desired,
but not absolutely necessary.)

The official decree/constitution is set down in writing.

The Pope “signs off” on everything.

Everybody goes home to properly disseminate information on all the latest development(s).

The Church preserves the document(s) in perpetuity.

Because the sacred deposit of faith is “built” much like a brick wall … with interlocking divine truths stacked one on top of another, from the ground, up … with Tradition acting as the mortar … it’s no easy matter for anyone to “slip in” any abject heresy. (Tradition may be defined as the method by which the Holy Spirit infallibly guides the Church, from age to age.)

Heresy and the adoption of illicit practices usually result from later, false interpretations and other types of unfortunate human biases and sin … but because such things fail to fit the established pattern of Catholic truth … they usually stick out like the proverbial “sore thumb” … at least, to those “in the know”.

That’s why it’s important for every Catholic to know the authentic teachings of the Church, along with the genuine Catholic philosophy of life that springs from them.

The Pope, along with the Bishops, received the teaching authority (Magisterium) of their holy offices directly from Jesus Christ:

And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. (Matthew 28:18-20)

You’ll notice that Jesus never specified any particular list of written documents, and he never mentioned the Bible or the Catechism, probably because neither existed at the time. But today, we have the written decrees of 21 Church Councils, the infallible (Ex Cathedra) declarations of at least two Popes, and scores of Papal Bulls, Encyclicals, Catechisms, and other official written works … along with the Bible.

Surprisingly, not all of the Bishops (or even the Pope) agree with all that is contained in the above sources, so many of them seem to think they have the authority to preach a slightly altered Gospel, and practice a slightly altered Divine Liturgy.  And that’s typically where all the trouble begins!

Since the members of the Church’s Magisterium (the Pope and the Bishops) have a sacred duty to practice, preach and teach the authentic Catholic faith, just as they received it from Jesus, the Apostles, the Holy Spirit and the Church, introducing personal novelties and abuses is no small matter. It’s also worth mentioning that priests, deacons, consecrated religious and catechists operate under the authority of the Pope and the Bishops, so they all have similar obligations and responsibilities.

So what is a faithful Catholic to do when something begins to smell “fishy”?

You could ask your diocesan priest or bishop, but if corruption truly exists there (and when it does, it usually exists on a wide scale) the chances of receiving a proper answer … or any answer at all … may be slim to none. Instead, you simply go back and study/research the applicable Magisterial/Conciliar documents, along with earlier versions of the Catholic Catechism, etc. Once you find what you need, seek out a trustworthy source to help verify what you think you have.

What was true way back then is still true today, and if what is currently being promoted and taught in your diocese fails to match up, there is a problem, indeed!  (Do I have your attention, Rochester, NY and Los Angeles, CA?)

Here’s some links to dependable Catholic source documents and teachings:

All 21 Church Councils

Catholic Catechisms

Major Papal Encyclicals

The Holy Bible

Other excellent source documents

The Catholic Treasure Chest

Papal Encyclicals: Spotlighting a century of Catholic social teaching

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For more than 100 years, Catholic social teaching has tried to help people face the world’s social, political and economic challenges with the power of the Gospel.

Pope Benedict XVI announced June 29 that he had signed his first formal contribution to the list of papal encyclical letters on social themes and that it was titled “Caritas in Veritate” (“Love in Truth”). Although dated June 29, the letter was released July 7.

The letter looks at modern problems in the field of promoting development, and the pope asked for prayers for “this latest contribution that the church offers humanity in its commitment for sustainable progress in full respect for human dignity and the real needs of all.”

Instead of focusing on theological beliefs, the social encyclicals written by most modern-day popes have tried to shape the way Christians and all people of good will can better serve the common good.

Each social encyclical was unique in that it sought to respond to the most pressing social realities at the time.

Read the article