What is the best piece of evidence Catholics have that Jesus started a Petrine ministry with Peter that follows succession?

Bonus question: Who succeeded Peter?

  • You should normally limit yourself to one question per post. One could incorporate the Petrine ministry of the pope to the main question well enough. However the more diverse subsets can make an answer very laboursome.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 2:51

1 Answer 1


What are the arguments for the Teaching Magisterium of the Church?

First of all, what is the Magisterium of the Church?



The Church's teaching authority, vested in the bishops, as successors of the Apostles, under the Roman Pontiff, as successor of St. Peter. Also vested in the Pope, as Vicar of Christ and visible head of the Catholic Church. (Etym. Latin magister, master.)

Ordinary Magisterium


The teaching office of the hierarchy under the Pope, exercised normally, that is, through the regular means of instructing the faithful. These means are all the usual channels of communication, whether written, spoken, or practical. When the ordinary magisterium is also universal, that is, collectively intended for all the faithful, it is also infallible.

Extraordinary Magisterium


The Church's teaching office exercised in a solemn way, as in formal declarations of the Pope or of ecumenical councils of bishops approved by the Pope. When the extraordinary magisterium takes the form of papal definitions or conciliar decisions binding on the consciences of all the faithful in matters of faith and morals, it is infallible.

The Church needs an official organ of teaching and this we call the Magisterium.

Tradition and Living Magisterium

The word tradition (Greek paradosis) in the ecclesiastical sense, which is the only one in which it is used here, refers sometimes to the thing (doctrine, account, or custom) transmitted from one generation to another; sometimes to the organ or mode of the transmission (kerigma ekklisiastikon, predicatio ecclesiastica).

In the first sense it is an old tradition that Jesus Christ was born on 25 December, in the second sense tradition relates that on the road to Calvary a pious woman wiped the face of Jesus. In theological language, which in many circumstances has become current, there is still greater precision and this in countless directions. At first there was question only of traditions claiming a Divine origin, but subsequently there arose questions of oral as distinct from written tradition, in the sense that a given doctrine or institution is not directly dependent on Holy Scripture as its source but only on the oral teaching of Christ or the Apostles. Finally with regard to the organ of tradition it must be an official organ, a magisterium, or teaching authority.

Now in this respect there are several points of controversy between Catholics and every body of Protestants. Is all revealed truth consigned to Holy Scripture? or can it, must it, be admitted that Christ gave to His Apostles to be transmitted to His Church, that the Apostles received either from the very lips of Jesus or from inspiration or Revelation, Divine instructions which they transmitted to the Church and which were not committed to the inspired writings? Must it be admitted that Christ instituted His Church as the official and authentic organ to transmit and explain in virtue of Divine authority the Revelation made to men? The Protestant principle is: The Bible and nothing but the Bible; the Bible, according to them, is the sole theological source; there are no revealed truths save the truths contained in the Bible; according to them the Bible is the sole rule of faith: by it and by it alone should all dogmatic questions be solved; it is the only binding authority. Catholics, on the other hand, hold that there may be, that there is in fact, and that there must of necessity be certain revealed truths apart from those contained in the Bible; they hold furthermore that Jesus Christ has established in fact, and that to adapt the means to the end He should have established, a living organ as much to transmit Scripture and written Revelation as to place revealed truth within reach of everyone always and everywhere. Such are in this respect the two main points of controversy between Catholics and so-called orthodox Protestants (as distinguished from liberal Protestants, who admit neither supernatural Revelation nor the authority of the Bible). The other differences are connected with these or follow from them, as also the differences between different Protestant sects--according as they are more or less faithful to the Protestant principle, they recede from or approach the Catholic position.

Between Catholics and the Christian sects of the East there are not the same fundamental differences, since both sides admit the Divine institution and Divine authority of the Church with the more or less living and explicit sense of its infallibility and indefectibility and its other teaching prerogatives, but there are contentions concerning the bearers of the authority, the organic unity of the teaching body, the infallibility of the pope, and the existence and nature of dogmatic development in the transmission of revealed truth. Nevertheless the theology of tradition does not consist altogether in controversy and discussions with adversaries. Many questions arise in this respect for every Catholic who wishes to give an exact account of his belief and the principles he professes: What is the precise relation between oral tradition and the revealed truths in the Bible and that between the living magisterium and the inspired Scriptures? May new truths enter the current of tradition, and what is the part of the magisterium with regard to revelations which God may yet make? How is this official magisterium organized, and how is it to recognize a Divine tradition or revealed truth? What is its proper rôle with regard to tradition? Where and how are revealed truths preserved and transmitted? What befalls the deposit of tradition in its transmission through the ages? These and similar questions are treated elsewhere in the CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA, but here we must separate and group all that has reference to tradition and to the living magisterium inasmuch as it is the organ of preservation and transmission of traditional and revealed truth.

The following are the points to be treated:

I. The existence of Divine traditions not contained in Holy Scripture, and the Divine institution of the living magisterium to defend and transmit revealed truth and the prerogative of this magisterium;

II. The relation of Scripture to the living magisterium, and of the living magisterium to Scripture;

III. The proper mode of existence of revealed truth in the mind of the Church and the way to recognize this truth;

IV. The organization and exercise of the living magisterium; its precise rôle in the defence and transmission of revealed truth; its limits, and modes of action;

V. The identity of revealed truth in the varieties of formulas, systematization, and dogmatic development; the identity of faith in the Church and through the variations of theology.

A full treatment of these questions would require a lengthy development; here only a brief outline can be given, the reader being referred to special works for a fuller explanation.

Divine traditions not contained in Holy Scripture; institution of the living magisterium; its prerogatives:

The prerogatives of this teaching authority are made sufficiently clear by the texts and they are to a certain extent implied in the very institution. The Church, according to St. Paul's Epistle to Timothy, is the pillar and ground of truth; the Apostles and consequently their successors have the right to impose their doctrine; whosoever refuses to believe them shall be condemned, whosoever rejects anything is shipwrecked in the Faith. This authority is therefore infallible. And this infallibility is guaranteed implicitly but directly by the promise of the Saviour: "Behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world." Briefly the Church continues Christ in its mission to teach as in its mission to sanctify; its power is the same as that which He received from His Father and, as He came full of truth no less than of grace, the Church is likewise an institution of truth as it is an institution of grace. This doctrine was intended to be spread throughout the world despite so many obstacles of every kind, and the accomplishment of the task required miracles. So did Christ give to his Apostles the miraculous power which guaranteed their teaching. As He Himself confirmed His words by His works He wished that they also should present with their doctrine unexceptionable motives for credibility. Their miracles were the Divine seals of their mission and their Apostolate. The Divine seal has always been stamped on the teaching authority. It is not necessary that every missionary should work miracles, the Church herself is an ever-living miracle, bearing always on her brow the unexceptionable witness that God is with her.

The relation of Scripture to the living magisterium, and of the living magisterium to Scripture:

This relation is the same as that between the Gospel and the Apostolic preaching. Christ made use of the Bible, He appealed to it as to an irrefragable authority, He explained and interpreted it and furnished the key to it, with it he shed light on His own doctrine and mission. The Apostles did in like manner when they spoke to the Jews. Both sides had access to the Scriptures in a text admitted by all, both recognized in them a Divine authority, as in the very word of God. This was also the way of the faithful in their studies and discussions; but with pagans and unbelievers it was necessary to begin with presenting the Bible and guaranteeing its authority — the Christian doctrine concerning the Bible had to be explained to the faithful themselves, and the guarantee of this doctrine demonstrated. The Bible had been committed to the care of the living magisterium. It was the Church's part to guard the Bible, to present it to the faithful in authorized editions or accurate translations, it was for her to make known the nature and value of the Divine Book by declaring what she knew regarding its inspiration and inerrancy, it was for her to supply the key by explaining why and how it had been inspired, how it contained Revelation, how the proper object of that Revelation was not purely human instruction but a religious and moral doctrine with a view to our supernatural destiny and the means to attain it, how, the Old Testament being a preparation and annunciation of the Messias and the new dispensation, there might be found beneath the husk of the letter typical meanings, figures, and prophecies. It was for the Church in consequence to determine the authentic canon, to specify the special rules and conditions for interpretation, to pronounce in case of doubt as to the exact sense of a given book or text, and even when necessary to safeguard the historical, prophetical, or apologetic value of a given text or passage, to pronounce in certain questions of authenticity, chronology, exegesis, or translation, either to reject an opinion compromising the authority of the book or the veracity of its doctrine or to maintain a given body of revealed truth contained in a given text. It was above all for the Church to circulate the Divine Book by minting its doctrine, adapting and explaining it, by offering it and drawing from it nourishment wherewith to nourish souls, briefly by supplementing the book, making use of it, and assisting others to make use of it. This is the debt of Scripture to the living magisterium.

On the other hand the living magisterium owes much to Scripture. There it finds the word of God, new-blown so to speak, as it was expressed under Divine agency by the inspired author; while oral tradition, although faithfully transmitting revealed truth with the Divine assistance, nevertheless transmits it only in human formulas. Scripture gives us beyond doubt to a certain extent a human expression of the truth which it presents, since this truth is developed in and by a human brain acting in a human manner, but also to a certain extent Divine, since this human development takes place wholly under the action of God. So also with due proportion it may be said of the inspired word what Christ said of His: It is spirit and life. In a sense differing from the Protestant sense which sometimes goes so far as to deify the Bible, but, in a true sense, we admit that God speaks to us in the Bible more directly than in oral teaching. The latter, moreover, ever faithful to the recommendations which St. Paul made to his disciple Timothy, does not fail to have recourse to Biblical sources for its instruction and to draw thence the heavenly doctrine, to take thence with the doctrine a sure, ever-young, and ever-living expression of this doctrine, one more adequate than any other despite the inevitable inadaptability of human formulas to divine realities In the hands of masters Scripture may become a sharp defensive and offensive weapon against error and heresy. When a controversy arises recourse is had first to the Bible. Frequently when decisive texts are found masters wield them skilfully and in such a way as to demonstrate their irresistible force. If none are found of the necessary clearness the assistance of Scripture is not thereby abandoned. Guided by the clear sense of the living and luminous truth, which it bears within itself, by its likeness to faith defended at need against error by the Divine assistance, the living magisterium strives, explains, argues, and occasionally subtilizes in order to bring forward texts which, if they lack an independent and absolute value, have an ad hominem force, or value, through the authority of the authentic interpreter, whose very thought, if it is not, or is not clearly, in Scripture, nevertheless stands forth with a distinctness or new clearness in this manipulation of Scripture, by this contact with it.

The proper mode of existence of revealed truth in the mind of the Church and the way to recognize this truth:

There is a formula current in Christian teaching (and the formula is borrowed from St. Paul himself) that traditional truth was confided to the Church as a deposit which it would guard and faithfully transmit as it had received it without adding to it or taking anything away. This formula expresses very well one of the aspects of tradition and one of the principal rôles of the living magisterium. But this idea of a deposit should not make us lose sight of the true manner in which traditional truth lives and is transmitted in the Church. This deposit in fact is not an inanimate thing passed from hand to hand; it is not, properly speaking, an assemblage of doctrines and institutions consigned to books or other monuments. Books and monuments of every kind are a means, an organ of transmission, they are not, properly speaking, the tradition itself. To better understand the latter it must be represented as a current of life and truth coming from God through Christ and through the Apostles to the last of the faithful who repeats his creed and learns his catechism. This conception of tradition is not always clear to all at the first glance. It must be reached, however, if we wish to form a clear and exact idea. We can endeavour to explain it to ourselves in the following manner: We are all conscious of an assemblage of ideas or opinions living in our mind and forming part of the very life of our mind, sometimes they find their clear expression, again we find ourselves without the exact formula wherewith to express them to ourselves or to others an idea is in search as it were of its expression, sometimes it even acts in us and leads us to actions without our having as yet the reflective consciousness of it. Something similar may be said of the ideas or opinions which live, as it were, and stir the social sentiment of a people, a family, or any other well-characterized group to form what is called the spirit of the day, the spirit of a family, or the spirit of a people.

The organization and exercise of the living magisterium; its precise rôle in the defence and transmission of revealed truth--its limits and modes of action:

Closer study of the living magisterium will enable us to better understand the splendid organism created by God and gradually developed that it might preserve, transmit, and bring within the reach of all revealed truth, ever the same, but adapted to every variety of time, circumstances, and environment. Properly speaking, this magisterium is a teaching authority; it not only presents the truth, but it has the right to impose it, since its power is the very power given by God to Christ and by Christ to His Church. This authority is called the teaching Church. The teaching Church is essentially composed of the episcopal body, which continues here below the work and mission of the Apostolic College. It was indeed in the form of a college or social body that Christ grouped His Apostles and it is likewise as a social body that the episcopate exercises its mission to teach. Doctrinal infallibility has been guaranteed to the episcopal body and to the head of that body as it was guaranteed to the Apostles, with this difference, however, between the Apostles and the bishops that each Apostle was personally infallible (in virtue of his extraordinary mission as founder and the plenitude of the Holy Ghost received on Pentecost by the Twelve and later communicated to St. Paul as to the Twelve), whereas only the body of bishops is infallible and each bishop is not so, save in proportion as he teaches in communion and concert with the entire episcopal body.

At the head of this episcopal body is the supreme authority of the Roman pontiff, the successor of St. Peter in his primacy as he is his successor in his see. As supreme authority in the teaching body, which is infallible, he himself is infallible. The episcopal body is infallible also, but only in union with its head, from whom moreover it may not separate, since to do so would be to separate from the foundation on which the Church is built. The authority of the pope may be exercised without the co-operation of the bishops, and this even in infallible decisions which both bishops and faithful are bound to receive with the same submission. The authority of the bishops may be exercised in two ways; now each bishop teaches the flock confided to him, again the bishops assemble in council to draw up together and pass doctrinal or disciplinary decrees. When all the bishops of the Catholic world (this totality is to be understood as morally speaking; it suffices for the whole Church to be represented) are thus assembled in council the council is called oecumenical. The doctrinal decrees of an oecumenical council, once they are approved by the pope, are infallible as are the ex cathedra definitions of the sovereign pontiff. Although the bishops, taken individually, are not infallible their teaching participates in the infallibility of the Church according as they teach in concert and in union with the episcopal body, that is according as they express not their personal ideas, but the very thought of the Church.

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