So, this is a question I have been struggling with for a while now. I understand easily enough the concept of Extraordinary Magisterium, that exercised by the Church through the Council of Bishops together with the Pope, or the Pope just by himself, producing infallible statements. Identifying instances of this is of course easy.

There is also General, or Universal, Magisterium, which is the non-ceremonial, produced in a general context, infallible authority of the Church. The problem here is, I have not been able to research any credible means of identifying which statements are given under such authority, and which are simply the opinions of priests, Bishops, etc.

Both as an educated and practicing Catholic, this is a serious matter to attend to: it is too easy to abuse what the Church teaches utilizing this (currently to me) nebulous concept. The best resource I have found is this article, but besides its complexity, it still does not adequately answer the question of identifying general infallible Magisterium.

So what do you guys think? Do any of you have insight into this issue? All answers will be appreciated.

  • You may be referring to the Deposit of Faith, when you say General or Universal Magisterium. I may be wrong about this, but not everything is laid out on paper so to speak, as infallible.
    – Marc
    Apr 5, 2017 at 0:04
  • Welcome to Christianity.SE. For a quick overview, please take the Site Tour. If you could be a little more specific on exactly what you want to know, that would be helpful. As it is now, your question is open to general speculation and opinion, which isn't what this site is for. See: What topics can I ask about here? What you've asked isn't off-topic. It's just a little unclear exactly what you want to know. Apr 5, 2017 at 2:43
  • 3
    What the O.P. is referring to is, I believe, the “ordinary and universal Magisterium”—i.e., the organ that proposes for belief things never defined solemnly by an ecumenical council or pope, but are still to be definitively held. The persons who exercise it are the bishops in communion with the Bishop of Rome. Apr 5, 2017 at 8:51

1 Answer 1


I believe that the OP means: Identifying Ordinary and Universal Magisterium of the Catholic Church. I can understand some confusion on this topic as the terms in use are in no way constant and even are somewhat changeable. The Church has yet to update its' canonical language on this subject.

The term ‘ordinary magisterium’ was first used by Pius IX in the letter Tuas libenter addressed to the archbishop of Munich and Freising on 21 December 1863.

Earlier that year, a meeting of Catholic theologians had taken place in Munich. The pope had been told that in the course of that meeting the opinion had been expressed that Catholic theologians were bound to hold only those truths of faith which had been solemnly declared.

Pius IX replied that “it must not be limited to those things which have been defined by the express decrees of councils or of the Roman Pontiffs and of this Apostolic See, but must also be extended to those things which are handed on by the ordinary magisterium of the whole church dispersed throughout the world as divinely revealed, and therefore are held by the universal and constant consensus of Catholic theologians to pertain to the faith.”

Pius IX to Vatican II

The teaching of Pius IX on ordinary magisterium was later incorporated in the documents of Vatican I, in particular the dogmatic constitution Dei Filius: “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.”

It was understood that the addition of ‘universal’ to ‘ordinary magisterium’ was meant to relate the phrase to the teaching of the whole episcopate with the pope, and not the teaching of the pope alone.

Further clarifications

When the Code of Canon Law was promulgated in 1983, the ordinary and universal magisterium was dealt with in canons 749 and 750, but without the inclusion of the broader understanding of the ordinary universal magisterium by Vatican II.

In other words, the canonical language had not been updated yet. - “What is the ‘ordinary magisterium’? A brief history of a disputed idea

The article may be of some help: What Are Extraordinary Magisterium and Ordinary Magisterium?

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