There are a variety of terms used in the Catholic Church to refer to particular statements or beliefs. Here are a number of some such terms:

  • Dogma
  • Doctrine
  • Infallible statement
  • Infallible papal teaching
  • Statement made ex cathedra
  • Definitively proposed doctrine
  • Authoritative statement

Are any of these the same? Are all infallible statements papal teachings? Are all doctrines dogmas? What exactly are the differences between these?

  • 1
    This exact question is answered in a different site: ewtn.com/vexperts/showmessage.asp?number=564105 This might be of some help Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 9:49
  • @JayarathinaMadharasan Yes, it is one of the pages I visited while putting the above list together. I am hoping that someone can answer with even more clarity and background. As a minor example, that page seems to needlessly comment on dogmas in the section on doctrines. And a good answer might make the reference to the levels of the Magisterium a bit more clear (though without going off on a tangent about them).
    – Alypius
    Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 17:23

6 Answers 6


Most of these terms are used interchangeably. So a clear cut definition may not be possible.

  • Doctrine: The official teachings of the Catholic church contained in the Word of God, written or handed down, and defined with a solemn judgment of the Church as divinely revealed truths. This may or may not be a dogma. Example, Mary, Co-Redemptrix
  • Dogma: Doctrines that are proclaimed formally by the Church as revealed in Scripture or Tradition. This may have been done by papal pronouncement (Pius IX: Immaculate Conception), by a Council (Chalcedon: Christ is two natures in one Divine Person). Those who do not believe in a Dogma, is considered to have left the church, on their own accord.
  • Statement made ex cathedra: This Literally means "Statement made from the chair". It is a theological term which signifies authoritative teaching and is more particularly applied to the definitions given by the Pope. I Vatican Council says that when Pope makes a statement ex cathedra, he does so in his office of pastor and doctor of all Christians. (Session IV, Const. de Ecclesiâ Christi, c. iv). Example: when declaring and defining a dogma, Pope makes that statement ex cathedra.
  • Infallible statement: Statements that are considered to be exempt or immune to error or failure; in particular in theological usage, by a special Divine assistance, church/pope is preserved from making an error when defining a dogma in the matters of faith and morals. All statements (with usual conditions) made by the Pope ex-cathedra are Infallible. But this is not necessarily reserved only to the pope. The teaching of the Magisterium of the Church are also considered infallible.
  • Definitively proposed doctrine: In simpler terms, this is implicitly accepted doctrines which are derived from previously revealed doctrines/dogmas. These are not articles of faith by themselves, but are necessary for faithfully keeping and expounding the deposit of faith. That is, if you do not believe them, then there might arise doctrinal inconsistency in faith. These doctrines may not have been officially proposed by the Church as formally revealed. And as it is usually the case, if some one inside the Church opposes its validity, these doctrines could, by dogmatic development, one day be declared to be revealed.
    • For example: The declaration of Pope Leo XIII in the Apostolic Letter Apostolicae Curae on the invalidity of Anglican ordinations. You don't have to believe that Anglican ordinations are invalid to be a catholic, but If you believe Anglican ordinations are valid ordinations, then there will be a problem with what you believe constitutes a valid ordination. As a valid ordination requires to be performed by a person with valid apostolic succession.
    • Other examples include doctrine that priestly ordination is reserved only to men, the teaching on the illicitness of prostitution, fornication and euthanasia.

On Infallible papal teaching and Authoritative statement, I don't have idea I am sorry. May be someone else can help.


  • This is incorrect; dogma = infallible = ex cathedra = irrevocable and is the highest level of Magisterial doctrine. Ordinary doctrines and teaching are binding but not irrevocable (that is, infallible). (And ex cathedra means literally "from the chair", and speaks of the Pope specifically exercising the Apostolic Authority of his Office to define dogma).
    – user32
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 19:11
  • @SoftwareMonkey, I made the same comment to you at a different answer: Doctrines put forth by the "ordinary and universal magisterium" are infallible and hence binding on the faithful, hence irrevocable. (1, 2, 3, 4 All of these say that doctrines are immune from errors) I have never seen a revocable doctrine of the Catholic church ever. I would love to see an example of it. Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 5:17
  • @KorvinStarmast Thanks for pointing out. I have corrected it. Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 7:52
  • Already up voted, enjoyed the answer. Commented Nov 14, 2016 at 2:33
  • And different degrees of assent are required for different levels of magisterial teaching. And RCs often differ in this area. Thus what is lacking is an infallible list of all infallible teachings, and what level the rest belong to, unless implicit obedience to basically all public papal teaching is enjoined, as many papal statements wrongly call for. The very premise of ensured perpetual magisterial infallibility is unseen and unnecessary in Scriptural.
    – Daniel1212
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 5:16

I was looking for this answer a while in my Seat of Wisdom Diocesan Institute notes, hopefully this answers your question. I think Jayarathina (can I call you Jay?) has a pretty good answer. I'm not going to try to define terms, just make up some new ones.

And if someone could please fix the latin words I'm trying to use, I can't find them in the dictionary and I didn't write them very well in my notebook!

There are a few levels of Magisterial Teaching. Some people say there are 3 some people 4 and Wikipedia says there's 7, but I'll go with 5, the first two are infallible the last 3 aren't so much.

  1. Creanene..

    Dogma, this is teaching on revealed truth. Things the Catholic Church says she knows about God. This includes old pronouncements on the Trinity and newer pronouncements on the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

    The penalty for going against dogma is heresy.

  2. Tenende

    Doctrine, this is a truth that is proposed definitively. These concern matters that the Church has to deal with. Defining a prohibition on the ordination of women might be an example of this, although Pope Benedict XVI didn't seem to think it was.

    The penalty for breaking doctrine isn't usually death. But it is a "just penalty", whatever that is. I think the worst would be excommunication.

  3. Obsequium (Following Canon 752)

    These are doctrines of the Pope or Bishops.

    752 Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it.

    An example of this might be the Dormition of Mary. Whether or not Our Lady truly died or just fell asleep before her assumption (which is Dogma). The important distinction here is the submission of intellect.

  4. Obsequium (Following canon 753)

    These are more like the orders given by Bishops.

    753 Although the bishops who are in communion with the head and members of the college, whether individually or joined together in conferences of bishops or in particular councils, do not possess infallibility in teaching, they are authentic teachers and instructors of the faith for the Christian faithful entrusted to their care; the Christian faithful are bound to adhere with religious submission of mind to the authentic magisterium of their bishops.

    The old USCCB Movie rating is an example of this. I don't know if it is any more, now that it's part of the Catholic News Service. I think I might want to ask that question here.

  5. Sevandi

    The Decree of a Pope or a Bishop. This is something that we are all called to observe, but it might not necessarily be incumbent upon us to act upon. For instance, if someone is decreed a heretic. That's a bummer for them, but we don't have to do anything (except maybe stop going to their yoga classes).

When I first saw this chart, I thought it was very awesome and helpful. If only I'd transcribed the Latin words a little better I might have had a better answer here.

One thing about infallible statements is that they are not open for discussion. I think that's what "Definitively Proposed" alludes to. Anything else "Authoritative statement" etc.. would be up for review. Offenses against the moral law, like Abortion, are not up for discussion and they cut across dogma and doctrine. The Church has a duty to uphold both sides of the natural law; That is both the side that God proclaimed in the 10 commandments and the side that He wrote in our hearts when he formed us out of the vast nothingness of nothing.

  • "Defining a prohibition on the ordination of women might be an example of this, although Pope Benedict XVI didn't seem to think it was." - It is not clear what this statement means.
    – user13992
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 19:29
  • @FMS you'd have to read the link, I don't remember why the Pope thought it wasn't an infallible statement.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 19:32
  • I do not want to distract from such an awesome answer Chat better?
    – user13992
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 19:39
  • Actually, while assent of faith is required for so-called "infallible" teachings, religious submission of mind and will is required, meaning no public dissent is supposed to be allowed (though mental reservations are) for fallible teachings such as encyclicals, (HUMANI GENERI) etc. Even "social doctrine has the same dignity and authority as her moral teaching...which obligates the faithful to adhere to it." Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church" (2005) Such applies all but the lowest level of magisterial teaching, if u can figure out where each belongs, however unscriptural.
    – Daniel1212
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 15:47

All bold and italics used are by me, not the original text.

For those who rightly believe that the Catholic Faith is the true Faith, there are four levels of Catholic teaching that a person must assent to, each having a different level of authority. In order, these are:

  1. Solemn Magisterium
  2. Ordinary and Universal Magisterium
  3. Ordinary Magisterium
  4. Teachings of Saints, Doctors, etc

(1st) The Solemn or Extraordinary Magisterium** is any infallibly defined (divinely revealed) dogma.

Here are the criteria for infallibility, there are four of them.

  • Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council, 1870 Session 4, Chapter 4, Paragraph 9**:

    "Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians (number 3 below), in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority (number 2 below), he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church (number 1 below), he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable."

    To paraphrase, what this means is that the pope cannot err when:

    1) Teaching on faith and morals

    2) In virtue of his apostolic authority

    3) With the intent of binding all Christians to belief/obedience

    There is one more thing that pertains to infallibility, from the same Council:

  • Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council, 1870 Session 4, Chapter 4, Paragraph 6**:

    "For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles."

    4) Something that is already contained in the deposit of faith handed down by the Apostles and not a new doctrine.

    Any Papal statement that meets the previous 4 points is infallible and God the Holy Ghost has spoken through the lips of the Pontiff. To willingly deny any such teaching severs one immediately from the Body of Christ; such a person is a heretic.

  • Pope Vigilius Second Council of Constantinople, ex cathedra:

    “…we bear in mind what was promised about the holy church and him who said that the gates of hell will not prevail against it (by these we understand the death-dealing tongues of heretics)…”

  • Pope Vigilius, Second Council of Constantinople, ex cathedra:

    "And about that claim of the Apostle: Even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what you have received, let him be accursed. As we said earlier, I repeat once more: If anyone preaches to you a gospel contrary to what you have received, let him be accursed. Since the Lord declares that the person is judged already, and the Apostle curses even the angels if they instruct in anything different from what we have preached, how is it possible even for the most presumptuous to assert that these condemnations apply only to those who are still alive? Are they unaware, or rather pretending to be unaware, that to be judged anathematized is just the same as to be separated from God? The heretic, even though he has not been condemned formally by any individual, in reality brings anathema on himself, having cut himself off from the way of truth by his heresy. What reply can such people make to the Apostle when he writes: As for someone who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned."

  • Bull of Pope Paul IV, Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio, (#1):

    "In assessing Our duty and the situation now prevailing, We have been weighed upon by the thought that a matter of this kind [i.e. error in respect of the Faith] is so grave and so dangerous that the Roman Pontiff,who is the representative upon earth of God and our God and Lord Jesus Christ, who holds the fulness of power over peoples and kingdoms, who may judge all and be judged by none in this world, may nonetheless be contradicted if he be found to have deviated from the Faith [...] and We have been concerned also lest it may befall Us to see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by the prophet Daniel, in the holy place."

  • Sermon of Pope Innocent III:

    “Still the less can the Roman Pontiff glory because he can be judged by men, >or rather, can be shown to be already judged, if for example he should wither away into heresy; because he who does not believe is already judged.”

    This is where many people often get hung up. They proclaim with their lips that they believe in the dogmas, when in reality they deny them, maybe without even realizing it. But just how is a person to believe a dogma? Are we to wait for some theologian or priest to explain it to us? Not at all. We simply need to read these precious words of God the Holy Ghost, very, very carefully, and believe and obey their objective sense, as evidenced by the following teachings:

  • Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council, Session 3, Chapter 4, ex cathedra:

    "Hence, too, that meaning of the sacred dogmas is ever to be maintained which has once been declared by Holy mother Church, and there must never be any abandonment of this sense under the pretext or in the name of a more profound understanding."

    As is clear, the meaning of a dogma is to be maintained as it has been declared, not as it has been explained or interpreted later by this or that saint or theologian! This is why wise Catholics read the ecumenical Councils and other ex cathedra statements and believe them in all simplicity, exactly as they are written.

(2d) Adhere to all the teachings of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium.

The Ordinary and Universal Magisterium consists of teachings that have been held by the unanimous agreement of the Popes throughout the ages as well as that of the Fathers of the Church, even though they may have not been solemnly declared ex cathedra.

  • Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session 4, AD 1546:

    "Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, It decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall,--in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, --wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church,--whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures,--hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended) to be at any time published. Contraveners shall be made known by their Ordinaries, and be punished with the penalties by law established."

    This means that if one or two Early Christian Fathers, the early bishops of the first few centuries of Christianity, held to a certain manner of interpreting the Scriptures on such and such a doctrine, while other Fathers interpreted it otherwise, then we are not bound to believe either interpretation as divinely revealed. Likewise, if some of the Fathers professed their belief in one manner in a certain treatise, but retrenched or amended it in another, it is clear that it cannot have been held as a definitive Apostolic doctrine, but was rather a speculation only.

    Only if ALL the Fathers, who taught concerning the particular point of revelation in question, did so unanimously, with no dissenting opinions among them, can we say that their teachings on the matter are to be held as a divinely revealed dogma; the complete absence of any contrary opinions among the Fathers of the Church, gives us certainty that God Himself willed His Church to believe it as they have proposed it. If one or more Fathers ever dissented and taught in a contrary sense, however, then it is clear that neither the original opinion, nor the dissension can be considered as a divinely revealed doctrine passed down from Christ and the Apostles, but rather a mere human speculation. Finally, some while some Fathers may have been silent on a particular issue, that silence cannot be considered dissent, nor can it detract from the unanimity of the other Fathers, but rather should be considered tacit agreement.

    Teachings of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium are to be believed by Divine and Catholic Faith, that is to say they are Divinely revealed, inerrant dogmas, as Pope Pius IX defined:

  • Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council, Session 3, Chapter 3:

    "Wherefore, by divine and Catholic faith all those things are to be believed which are contained in the word of God as found in Scripture and tradition,and which are proposed by the Church as matters to be believed as divinely revealed, whether by her solemn judgment or in her Ordinary and Universal Magisterium."

    Further proof that these interpretations are to be understood as dogmas of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium comes from the Profession of Faith uttered by the same pope:

  • Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council, Session 2, #1, #3, ex cathedra:

    "I, Pius, bishop of the Catholic Church, with firm faith... accept Sacred Scripture according to that sense which Holy mother Church held and holds, since it is her right to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures; nor will I ever receive and interpret them except according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers."

    If it is forbidden even for the pope, the one who is given the power, by God Himself, of defining the dogmas of faith, to interpret Scripture in a sense contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers, then it logically follows that such interpretations of the Scriptures are indeed divinely revealed dogmas of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium - otherwise the pope would be able to annul or "redefine" them, but he cannot.

    The Ordinary and Universal Magisterium can and will never be contrary to the Extraordinary (Solemn) Magisterium, and vice versa.

  • Pope Leo X, Apostolici Regiminis, 1513:

    "As truth cannot contradict truth, we declare every assertion contrary to the truth of Divine faith to be absolutely false, and strictly forbid any one to teach differently; we command that those who adhere to such assertions shall be avoided and punished, as men who seek to disseminate damnable heresies."

    To willfully reject a teaching of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium is the mortal sin of heresy.

(3d) Consent to the teachings of the Ordinary Magisterium ...

... understanding that these teachings, while reliable, are not guaranteed by God the Holy Ghost to be free of error.

The Ordinary Magisterium is any teaching issued by the pope while exercising his Ordinary teaching capacity, such as some encyclicals, sermons, addresses to different groups, etc... While these demand assent of intellect and will and our obedience, they are fallible, and thus are subject to future correction. If a later ex cathedra decree contradicts a previous pope's ordinary teaching, we must assent to the ex cathedra decree.

(4) Follow the examples and teachings of our great Church Fathers, Doctors, and Saints ...

... realizing too that while these great men and women led extraordinary lives, they are not protected by infallibility either, and often taught on matters that the Church would not solemnly define until years or centuries later, and in some cases, may even have appeared to err greatly in matters that were already defined.

Since the Ordinary Magisterium, Fathers, Doctors and Saints are able to and have erred, the faithful should, when deciding whether or not to adhere to one of their teachings, always cross-reference the higher authorities of Church, the dogmas, to make sure that it does not contradict them.

  • Pope Benedict XIV, Apostolica Constitutio, (# 6), June 26, 1749:

    "The Church’s judgment is preferable even to that of a Doctor renowned for his holiness and teaching."

    This is especially important, since the devil has means at his disposal, whereby he might make his own doctrines appear to have come from the friends of God.

  • Revelations of St. Birgitta of Sweden, Book 2, Chapter 14 (on the words of God, spoken through His saints):

    "My enemy's second method is to use deception in order to make my gold look like clay. For this reason, when any of my words are being transcribed, the transcriber should bring two trusty witnesses or one man of proven conscience to certify that he has examined the document. Only then may it be transmitted to whomever he wants, in order not to come uncertified into the hands of enemies who could add something false, which could lead to the words of truth being denigrated among simple folk."

  • Welcome. I have edited this answer to use the site's formatting tools (headers) rater than bold for headers, and to use the markdown tools for bullets to break out each citation you included. Please review the edit to make sure that it flows as your originally intended it to. That's a thorough answer. Thanks for participating, and we hope that you'll do so more in the future. Commented Jan 29, 2017 at 18:24
  • Dogma1

Dogmas are revealed truths which have been formally defined or proposed by the Church. For example, the Vatican Council (opened on 8 December, 1869) defined Papal Infallibility as

"a divinely revealed dogma" when "the Roman Pontiff speaks ex cathedra [...]".

Please note that the dogmas of the Church are immutable. [cf. Dogma | New Advent].

  • Doctrine2

“Doctrine” simply means “teaching”. Thus when children are preparing to receive their first Holy Communion, a book such as A Catechism3 of Christian Doctrine - (going by the New Advent article, this = A Teaching of Christian Teaching) - may be utilized. [cf. Christian Doctrine | New Advent].

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Pope St. John Paul II [the Great], in his Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum on the Publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, wrote:

3. The Doctrinal Value of the Text
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved 25 June last and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church's faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium. I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion. May it serve the renewal to which the Holy Spirit ceaselessly calls the Church of God, the Body of Christ, on her pilgrimage to the undiminished light of the Kingdom!

  • To answer Infallible statement and Infallible papal teaching an understanding is required on

Infalliblity (cf. Infallibity | New advent)

In general, exemption or immunity from liability to error or failure; in particular in theological usage, the supernatural prerogative by which the Church of Christ is, by a special Divine assistance, preserved from liability to error in her definitive dogmatic teaching regarding matters of faith and morals.

Thus in the Church, an infallible statement is a statement regarding faith and morals that has been preserved from liability to error.

And an infallible papal teaching is a papal teaching in faith and morals that has been preserved from liability to error.

  • To answer Statement made ex cathedra an understanding is required on

Ex Cathedra (cf. Ex Cathedra | New Advent)

Literally "from the chair", a theological term which signifies authoritative teaching and is more particularly applied to the definitions given by the Roman pontiff.

Therefore statements made ex cathedra are those made "from the chair".

  • Definitively proposed doctrine (= definitively proposed "teaching") means a proposed doctrine/teaching that is to be firmly accepted and held by all the Church's faithful, i.e., they are binding on all the faithful. For example,

In his Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone, Pope St. John Paul II [the Great] wrote:

this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.

cf. Ad Tuendam Fidem - John Paul II - Apostolic Letter Motu Propio (18 May 1998):

Canon 750 of the Code of Canon Law

§ 2. Furthermore, each and everything set forth definitively by the Magisterium of the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals must be firmly accepted and held; namely, those things required for the holy keeping and faithful exposition of the deposit of faith; therefore, anyone who rejects propositions which are to be held definitively sets himself against the teaching of the Catholic Church.

  • Authoritative statement

cf. CCC 892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a "definitive manner," they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful "are to adhere to it with religious assent"LG 25. which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.

My understanding is that this is a statement by one in authority, in this case, statements by Bishops in communion with the Pope, when they make such a statement in the course of their ordinary teaching of the faithful. The faithful are to adhere to such a statement with religious assent.

Are any of these the same? No as shown above.

Are all infallible statements papal teachings? No they are not. Infallible papal teachings are part and a subset of the infallible teaching of the Church.

Are all doctrines dogmas? No. Dogmas when taught are doctrines or again, doctrine contains (teaches) dogma, and doctrines which are revealed truths become dogmas when they are formally defined or proposed by the Church, and thereafter taught as [part of the] doctrine.

What exactly are the differences between these? See above.

Please see also: Profession of Faith | CDF. Please read the section: "Doctrinal Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the Professio fidei".

1. dogma (n.) c.1600 (in plural dogmata), from Latin dogma "philosophical tenet," from Greek dogma (genitive dogmatos) "opinion, tenet," literally "that which one thinks is true," from dokein "to seem good, think" (see decent). Treated in 17c.-18c. as a Greek word in English.
2. doctrine (n.) late 14c., from Old French doctrine (12c.) "teaching, doctrine," and directly from Latin doctrina "teaching, body of teachings, learning," from doctor "teacher" (see doctor (n.)).
3. catechism (n.) c.1500, "instruction in Christian principles," also "elementary question-and-answer book of religious instruction," from French catéchisme (14c.) and directly from Church Latin catechismus "book of instruction," from Greek katekhismos, from katekhizein "to teach orally" (see catechize). Related: Catechismal.


Ex Cathedra – Latin for “from the Chair.” This refers to when a pope speaks infallibly from the Chair of St. Peter when he has fulfilled the conditions for an infallible pronouncement. It is heresy and mortal sin to deny an ex cathedra pronouncement of a pope, which is irreformable (unchangeable), since it constitutes the dogma that Christ revealed to the Church.

Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council I, 1870, Session 4, Chap. 4:

“…the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra [from the Chair of Peter], that is, when carrying out the duty of the pastor and teacher of all Christians in accord with his supreme apostolic authority he explains a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, through the divine assistance promised him in blessed Peter, operates with that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer wished that His Church be instructed in defining doctrine on faith and morals; and so such definitions of the Roman Pontiff from himself, but not from the consensus of the Church, are unalterable.”

Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, B. Herder Book. Co., Thirtieth Edition, 1957, no. 1839.

Divine Revelation/Dogma – Jesus Christ’s truth is the teaching of Divine Revelation. The Catholic Church teaches that the two sources of Divine Revelation are Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition; their true content is set forth by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Divine Revelation ended with the death of the last apostle. Dogma is unchangeable. When a pope defines a dogma, he doesn’t make a dogma true from that point forward, but rather solemnly declares without erring that which has always been true since the death of the last apostle. Dogmas are to be believed as the Church has “once declared them,” without any recession from that meaning to a “deeper understanding.”

Pope Pius IX, First Vatican Council, Sess. 3, Chap. 2 on Revelation, 1870, ex cathedra:

“Hence, also, that understanding of its sacred dogmas must be perpetually retained, which Holy Mother Church has once declared; and there must never be a recession from that meaning under the specious name of a deeper understanding.”

Pope Pius IX, First Vatican Council, Session 3, Chap. 4, Canon 3:

"If anyone says that it is possible that at some time, given the advancement of knowledge, a sense may be assigned to the dogmas propounded by the church which is Glossary of Terms and Principles different from that which the Church has understood and understands: let him be anathema."

More info

  • All points not tackled.
    – user13992
    Commented Nov 19, 2014 at 7:22

What is the difference between a dogma, a doctrine, an infallible statement, an ex cathedra statement, etc.?

There is some amount of overlap in the definitions, but for a concise Catholic definition the following should suffice:


Doctrine taught by the Church to be believed by all the faithful as part of divine revelation. All dogmas, therefore, are formally revealed truths and promulgated as such by the Church. they are revealed either in Scripture or tradition, either explicitly (as the Incarnation) or implicitly (as the Assumption). Moreover, their acceptance by the faithful must be proposed as necessary for salvation. They may be taught by the Church in a solemn manner, as with the definition of the Immaculate Conception, or in an ordinary way, as with the constant teaching on the malice of taking innocent human life. (Etym. Latin dogma; from Greek dogma, declaration, decree.)


Any truth taught by the Church as necessary for acceptance by the faithful. The truth may be either formally revealed (as the Real Presence), or a theological conclusion (as the canonization of a saint), or part of the natural law (as the sinfulness of contraception). In any case, what makes it doctrine is that the Church authority teaches that it is to be believed. this teaching may be done either solemnly in ex cathedra pronouncements or ordinarily in the perennial exercise of the Church's magisterium or teaching authority. Dogmas are those doctrines which the Church proposes for belief as formally revealed by God. (Etym. Latin doctrina, teaching.)

For infallible statements certain conditions must be maintained!


Freedom from error in teaching the universal Church in matters of faith or morals. As defined by the First Vatican Council, "The Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra—that is, when in discharge of the office of pastor and teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, by the divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals; and therefore such definitions are irreformable of themselves, and not in virtue of consent of the Church" (Denzinger 3074).

The bearer of the infallibility is every lawful Pope as successor of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles. But the Pope alone is infallible, not others to whom he delegates a part of his teaching authority, for example, the Roman congregations.

The object of his infallibility is his teaching of faith and morals. This means especially revealed doctrine like the Incarnation. But it also includes any nonrevealed teaching that is in any way connected with revelation.

The condition of the infallibility is that the Pope speaks ex cathedra. For this is required that: 1. he have the intention of declaring something unchangeably true; and 2. he speak as shepherd and teacher of all the faithful with the full weight of his apostolic authority, and not merely as a private theologian or even merely for the people of Rome or some particular segment of the Church of God.

The source of the infallibility is the supernatural assistance of the Holy Spirit, who protects the supreme teacher of the Church from error and therefore from misleading the people of God.

As a result, the ex cathedra pronouncements of the Pope are unchangeable "of themselves," that is, not because others in the Church either first instructed the Pope or agree to what he says. (Etym. Latin in-, not + fallibilis; from fallere, to deceive: infallibilis, not able to deceive, or err.)

Ex Cathedra

The term commonly applied to the special and explicit exercise of papal infallibility. When the Pope speaks from the chair (cathedra) of authority, as visible head of all Christians, his teaching is not dependent on the consent of the Church and is irreformable. (Etym. Latin ex cathedra, from the chair.)


A papal document treating of matters related to the general welfare of the Church, sent by the Pope to the bishops. Used especially in modern times to express the mind of the Pope to the people. Although of themselves not infallible documents, encyclicals may (and generally do) contain pronouncements on faith and morals that are de facto infallible because they express the ordinary teaching of the Church. In any case, the faithful are to give the papal encyclicals their interior assent and external respect as statements of the Vicar of Christ. (Etym. Latin encyclicus; Greek enkyklios, circular, general.)

An encyclical epistle is like an encyclical letter but addressed to part of the Church, that is, to the bishops and faithful of a particular area. Its contents may be doctrinal, moral, or disciplinary matters of universal significance, but may also commemorate some historical event or treat of conditions in a certain country or locality.

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