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Regarding the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, the U.S. Cardinal Burke said:

The "magisterium" is a somewhat recent theological term, and what it refers to is the duty of the Church to teach, safeguard and promote the truths of the faith as they’ve been handed down in the Tradition. So whether you say that it's magisterium or not, if it's not in agreement with what the Church has always taught and practiced, then it can’t be magisterium, even if you say that it is.

It is my understanding that the term Magisterium refers to the Teaching Authority of the Catholic Church.

Could someone, perhaps, fill in some of the details as to what Cardinal Burke means by "a somewhat recent theological term"; i.e., when, where, and why was this term introduced to be used (as a substitute?) for the "Teaching Authority"? Should the former term be be preferred over the latter?

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Etymology of the Term "Magisterium" in the Catholic Church?

Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, has a very simple definition of the modern term of Magisterium.

Magisterium

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.)

Wikipedia etymological definition runs as follows:

Etymology

The word "magisterium" is derived from Latin magister, which means "teacher" in ecclesiastical Latin. (It originally had a more general meaning, and could designate president, chief, director, superintendent, etc., and was only rarely a tutor or instructor of youth.) The noun magisterium refers to the office of a magister. Thus the relationship between magister and magisterium is the same as the relationship in English between "president" and "presidency".

Since the time of Pope Pius XII, the word "magisterium" has also been used to refer to the persons who hold this office.

However a true etymological definition requires a longer explication and some historical background!

Etymology of Magisterium

Known in Latin as magisterium, determined by the suffix -ium, attributing action and result, incorporated to the word magister, which refers to master, being interpreted as the authority or position of greater influence as a director who guides the way, linked to the adverb magis, being interpreted as more, with reference in the Indo-European *meg-, for greater. It is considered to be the highest role that an individual can hold and carry out based on the knowledge acquired, wielding itself as a figure entirely opposite to the minister, visible in Latin as minister from the adverb minus, for less, whose origin included servants or subordinates of ancient Rome, to later evolve towards the idea of dedicating their lives to God (documenting the duty and role of the father in 1300), as well as to a cause or to society as a whole.

In ancient times, when Aristotle was quoted, it was concluded with the phrase “magister dixit”, which translates to “said the master”. On a religious level, about the teachings given in the Roman Catholic Church, it is established as such in the middle of the 19th century, during the period of Pope Pius IX.

With respect to the lexical family, it is possible to point out magnitude (expressed in the Latin magnitūdo), majesty (in the Latin maiestas), magnate (observed in the Latin magnātes), magnanine (from the Latin magnanĭmus), magistral (declared in the Latin magistrālis), or magnum (appreciated in the Latin magnum).

With respect to the lexical family, we can observe magnitude (expressed in the Latin magnitūdo), majesty (in the Latin maiestas), magnate (observed in the Latin magnātes), magnanine (about the Latin magnanĭmus), magistral (declared in the Latin magistrālis), or magnum (appreciated in the Latin magnum).

As for the lexical family, we can observe magnitude (expressed in the Latin magnitūdo), majesty (maiestas in Latin), magnate (observed in Latin as magnātes), magnanimous (from the Latin magnanĭmus), magistral (seen in Latin as magistrālis), or magnum (appreciated in Latin as magnum).

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  • Thank you for your answer. Based on what you have written and Cardinal Burke's assertion that the term Magisterium is fairly recent (in the Catholic Church, I presume), might we assume that the term started to become used in the Church around the time of Pope Bl. Pius XII, or is there evidence of earlier use?
    – DDS
    Aug 8, 2023 at 0:41
  • @jean-marie It seems to have been in use around the time of Blessed Pope Pius IX of the 19th century.
    – Ken Graham
    Aug 8, 2023 at 3:58
  • Thank you again.
    – DDS
    Aug 8, 2023 at 12:50

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