I understand that there are three magisterium in Roman Catholicism.

What is the General Magisterium according to Roman Catholic belief?

  • There's quite a lot in the Catholic Encyclopedia entry: if you don't want to read it all, scroll down to "The organization and exercise of the living magisterium," about two-thirds of the way through. [Note that some references in the article, like to the Inquisition, are outdated] Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 7:52
  • I read it. So, is that entire section about the General Magisterium? I read elsewhere that there are three magisteriums. Is that correct?
    – user900
    Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 8:16
  • The context of your quotation is the title page of the book where it says who paid for the edition to be printed. Tommaso Turco and Giovanni Battista de Marinis were in charge of the Order of Preachers, aka the Dominicans. "Magister Generalis" = Master General here refers to that specific office and "Magistrorum Generalium" is the (genitive) plural. The magisterium is a good thing to ask about but the quotation doesn't quite fit.
    – James T
    Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 12:58
  • I see now. Thanks again James for your answer. I have edited my original question and removed the quotation from Pugio Fidei.
    – user900
    Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 18:04

1 Answer 1


I hadn't heard of (or recalled) three layers of Magisterium until seeing this question (and I was hoping someone who was more familiar would post and answer sooner), but I was able to find a page (just one) that refers to three levels. Effectively, this resource claims that the General Magisterium, i.e., the general teaching authority of the Church on faith, is the full body of Baptized and confirmed and/or ordained Catholics.


The general Magisterium

a. seeks the truth fallibly, includes the possibility of significant error, but is guided by the Holy Spirit. b. this search for truth has the charism of certain fruitfulness. The faithful who seek new insights into the Faith, in accord with the teachings of the Magisterium proper, cannot fail to bear fruit that will last. c. is exercised by all the faithful by virtue of the Sacraments of baptism, confirmation, or ordination. d. is expressed in speculative theology, in discussions among the faithful, in sermons by ordained persons, and in non-official writings and discussions of Popes and Bishops. e. The Holy Spirit guarantees that this search for new insights into the truths found within Tradition, Scripture, and the teachings of the Magisterium proper will bear fruit that will last. f. assent is not required, except that all the faithful are required to assent to a sincere search for truth within Tradition, Scripture, and the teachings of the Magisterium proper g. anyone may dissent from particular ideas expressed in speculative theology, but no one may entirely dissent from the sincere search for truth within the Faith

However, as the author begins to summarize this in more plain English, he uses a concept we more commonly hear of, and which can be found more directly in the Catechism and other documents.

The difference between the proper Magisterium (the Sacred Magisterium and the Ordinary Magisterium) and the general Magisterium is analogous to the difference between the priesthood of all ordained persons and the priesthood of all the faithful.

The Church teaches that we're all (Catholics) called to be priests, prophets, and kings to some extent. As laity, we're much more limited in our authority and jurisdiction, of course. But, we do have a call to participate in these roles, and therefore a call to teach faith -- more accurately, to forward and/or extrapolate in a non-authoritative manner on the faith, which is taught authoritatively by the higher level(s) of the Magisterium.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church talks more about the hierarchy and the three roles of all Catholics, but doesn't phrase it in terms of levels of the Magisterium so directly. See Christ’s Faithful—Hierarchy, Laity, Consecrated Life if you're interested in that.

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