In World Over - 2013-12-12 | EWTN - video start at 20:15/55:51 - Cardinal Raymond Burke, the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, says, referencing the Pope Francis himself, that the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium [Joy of the Gospel], paraphrasing, "is a number of reflections that the Pope does not intend to be part of the Papal Magesterium."

Please see Pope St. John Paul II [the Great]. Noting that it seems that the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium is not to be considered as part of Papal Magesterium, the question is what is the weight of authority behind a teaching of the Papal Magisterium? From the list, is there a way to rank say interviews, books, through to Apostolic Constitutions? What would be the ranking criteria? Which of these are not binding on the next Pontiff in that he can reform them?

  • The link "Pope St. John Paul II [the Great]" is no longer valid. I hesitate to attempt an answer when I don't know what "list" you are referring to.
    – King David
    Mar 14, 2015 at 21:07

1 Answer 1


Ecumenical Councils are the top of the list, simply because the whole of the Church gets together to promulgate doctrine. These doctrines are signed by the Pope at the end of the Council, and are binding. Some of the doctrines are administrative in nature, and can be modified, changed, added to, or removed. Others, which deal with faith or morals, are eternally binding. An example of this would be in the Council of Trent, where the Catholic Church defined the books of the Bible explicitly (they had done so in the past, but they chose to reiterate it because Luther was removing books), faith vs works, etc., in response to the Protestant Reformation. Those decisions are binding and infallible.

Encyclicals are next on the list, because they deal with specific matters of faith. An example of this would be Humanae Vitae, the encyclical which banned birth control from use in the Catholic Church. Again, that teaching is binding. When the correct wording is used, they also become infallible, such as Ineffabilis Deus, which defined infallibly the Immaculate Conception:

Wherefore, in humility and fasting, we unceasingly offered our private prayers as well as the public prayers of the Church to God the Father through his Son, that he would deign to direct and strengthen our mind by the power of the Holy Spirit. In like manner did we implore the help of the entire heavenly host as we ardently invoked the Paraclete. Accordingly, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for the honor of the Holy and undivided Trinity, for the glory and adornment of the Virgin Mother of God, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith, and for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own: "We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful."[29]

Hence, if anyone shall dare -- which God forbid! -- to think otherwise than as has been defined by us, let him know and understand that he is condemned by his own judgment; that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the Church; and that, furthermore, by his own action he incurs the penalties established by law if he should are to express in words or writing or by any other outward means the errors he think in his heart.

The bold would be what makes it infallible. Another Pope could not undo this doctrine, as it is an infallible statement on a matter of faith. Note too that it is binding on ALL the Church as well, as stated in the last paragraph of the quote.

An Apostolic Exhortation is more of a letter of encouragement. It too teaches, but they tend not to impose a whole lot on the faithful. Rather, they are written to encourage holiness and growth as a Christian.


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