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Levels of Church Teaching

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Levels of Church Teaching

Post  Elisa on Thu Mar 03, 2011 2:02 am

I posted this link for Cowboy on the other thread.

I thought it might be helpful to post the whole thing seperately.

I'd go to the link because it is formatted clearly with color codes.

but if you can't link it, here it is. Note: When it says "my comments in blue" it is the priest talking, not me.


The levels of teaching are in Canon Law. I have categorized them below (how these are categorized various from author to author beyond the first three levels):

(My comments in blue)


[Level 1] Can. 750 §1 Those things are to be believed by divine and catholic faith which are contained in the word of God as it has been written or handed down by tradition, that is, in the single deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and which are at the same time proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn Magisterium of the Church, or by its ordinary and universal Magisterium, which is manifested by the common adherence of Christ's faithful under the guidance of the sacred Magisterium. All are therefore bound to shun any contrary doctrines.

Denying Level 1 teaching makes one a heretic and thereby automatically excommunicated.


the articles of faith of the Creed

the various Christological dogmas

the various Marian dogmas

the doctrine of the institution of the sacraments by Christ and their efficacy with regard to grace

the doctrine of the real and substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist

the sacrificial nature of the eucharistic celebration

the foundation of the Church by the will of Christ

the doctrine on the primacy and infallibility of the Roman Pontiff

the doctrine on the existence of original sin

the doctrine on the immortality of the spiritual soul

the immediate recompense after death

the absence of error in the inspired sacred texts

the doctrine on the grave immorality of direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being.


[Level 2] §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.

Denying Level 2 teaching makes one no longer in communion with the Church and thus they cannot receive communion. Doubt or Denial of Level 2 teaching is sort-of "heretic junior", it does not technically rise to the level of heresy, but it nevertheless has a similar consequence placing oneself out of communion with the Church (unable to receive the Sacrament).


a. historical necessity

the legitimacy of the election of the Supreme Pontiff

the celebration of an ecumenical council

the canonizations of saints (dogmatic facts)

the declaration of Pope Leo XIII in the Apostolic Letter Apostolicae Curae on the invalidity of Anglican ordinations ...

b. logical necessity

the doctrine on the primacy and infallibility of the Roman Pontiff prior to Vatican I's definition [The primacy of the Successor of Peter was always believed as a revealed fact, although until Vatican I the discussion remained open as to whether the conceptual elaboration of what is understood by the terms jurisdiction and infallibility was to be considered an intrinsic part of revelation or only a logical consequence. On the other hand, although its character as a divinely revealed truth was defined in the First Vatican Council, the doctrine on the infallibility and primacy of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff was already recognized as definitive in the period before the council. History clearly shows, therefore, that what was accepted into the consciousness of the Church was considered a true doctrine from the beginning, and was subsequently held to be definitive; however, only in the final stage - the definition of Vatican I - was it also accepted as a divinely revealed truth.]

the doctrine that priestly ordination is reserved only to men. ["The Supreme Pontiff, while not wishing to proceed to a dogmatic definition, intended to reaffirm that this doctrine is to be held definitively, since, founded on the written Word of God, constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium. As the prior example illustrates, this does not foreclose the possibility that, in the future, the consciousness of the Church might progress to the point where this teaching could be defined as a doctrine to be believed as divinely revealed."]

the doctrine on the illicitness of euthanasia (Evangelium Vitae) ["Confirming that euthanasia is 'a grave violation of the law of God,' the Pope declares that 'this doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church's Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium'. It could seem that there is only a logical element in the doctrine on euthanasia, since Scripture does not seem to be aware of the concept. In this case, however, the interrelationship between the orders of faith and reason becomes apparent: Scripture, in fact, clearly excludes every form of the kind of self-determination of human existence that is presupposed in the theory and practice of euthanasia."]

the teaching on the illicitness of prostitution

the teaching on the illicitness of fornication

Denial of Levels 3-5 below constitute varying levels of rebellion. The seriousness of the sin of rebellion differ with the situation and nature of the denial and the level of teaching.

AUTHORITATIVE TEACHING w/ assent of intellect & will

[Level 3] Can. 752 While the assent of faith is not required, a religious submission of intellect and will is to be given to any doctrine which either the Supreme Pontiff or the College of Bishops, exercising their authentic Magisterium, declare upon a matter of faith or morals, even though they do not intend to proclaim that doctrine by definitive act. Christ's faithful are therefore to ensure that they avoid whatever does not accord with that doctrine.

Level 3 teaching requires us to give the Church the benefit of the doubt similar to the legal concept of "beyond a reasonable doubt". If we are to question this level of teaching we must have sufficient evidence (not opinion) that beyond a reasonable doubt the Church is wrong.


All Church teachings on faith and morals not falling into Level 1 and Level 2 categories

teachings following from or leading to a better understanding of revelation

moral direction derived from such teachings as proposed by the Magisterium of the Church.

Papal Encyclicals not belonging to Level 1 or 2


[Level 4] Can. 753 Whether they teach individually, or in Episcopal Conferences, or gathered together in particular councils, Bishops in communion with the head and the members of the College, while not infallible in their teaching, are the authentic instructors and teachers of the faith for Christ's faithful entrusted to their care. The faithful are bound to adhere, with a religious submission of mind, to this authentic Magisterium of their Bishops.

Can. 754 All the Christian faithful are obliged to observe the constitutions and decrees which the legitimate authority of the Church issues in order to propose doctrine and proscribe erroneous opinions; this is especially true of the constitutions and decrees issued by the Roman Pontiff or the college of bishops.


Decisions by bishops on proscribing doctrinal error of a theologian

Decisions by bishops on a private revelation


[Level 5] Concerning disciplinary matters, the following canons show various other ways in which we are bound to obedience…

Canon 11: Merely ecclesiastical laws bind those baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it and who enjoy the sufficient use of reason and, unless the law expressly provides otherwise, have complete seven years of age.

Canon 12.1: All persons for whom universal laws were passed are bound by them everywhere.

Canon 205: Those baptized are fully in communion with the Catholic Church on this earth who are joined with Christ in its visible structure by the bonds of profession of faith, of the sacraments and of ecclesiastical governance.

Canon 209.1: The Christian faithful are bound by an obligation, even to their own patterns of activity, always to maintain communion with the Church.

Canon 209.2: They are to fulfill with great diligence the duties which they owe to the universal Church and to the particular church to which they belong according to the prescriptions of law.


Vatican approved Legislation by territorial conferences of bishops for their respective
territories (countries) such as the selection of Holy Days of Obligation to be observe in that territory.

Legislation by a bishop for his diocese such as whether "alter girls" will be allowed

Celibacy of Priests

The bottom line is that we are to listen the Pope and to our bishops on issues of faith and morals, whether they be issues of infallible dogma, definitive teaching, or authoritative teaching. We are also to respect decisions on issues of discipline.

In all things, whether infallible dogma, definitive teaching, authoritative teaching, or disciplinary law MUST be obeyed upon pain of sin

With this as background, now to your specific questions:

Levels 1 and 2 are issues that involve the Deposit of Faith. Doctrines in Level 1 and 2 cannot be invented and cannot be changed. No Pope can invent a new dogma or invent a new tenet of the Deposit of Faith. The Deposit of Faith was "deposited" in the treasury of the Church by Christ and the Apostles. That "deposit" can never be withdrawn and no new deposits can be made.

Thus, any Catholic who doubts or denies Level 1 teaching is in heresy, which is grave sin, and is automatically excommunicated.

Any Catholic who doubts or denies Level 2 teaching is no longer in Communion with the Church and thus may not receive the Sacraments.

A Catholic may disagree the teaching of Level 3 teaching only after giving the Church the benefit of the doubt (beyond a reasonable doubt test) and must not dissent against it unless there is compelling and demonstrable evidence (not opinion) that the Church may be wrong. Those who dissent improperly are guilty of sin.

A Catholic may disagree with Level 4 teaching if there is compelling evidence that the Church is wrong, but must still respect the decision and teaching of the Church. Those in dissent improperly are guilty of sin.

A Catholic may disagree with disciplinary issues but must respect and obey these laws.

In ALL LEVELS one must obey even on issues that are not infallible, even on issues of discipline. To rebel is to sin.

In addition, on issues where a Catholic may disagree such disagreement must be respectful and not in a "spirit of dissent".

The Precepts of the Church are required of all Catholics. Thus observing Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation and Laws on Fasting and Abstinence must be performed except in those situations where exemption is allowed upon pain of sin.

Receiving the Eucharist while there is still mortal sin on your soul is a sacrilege and yet another mortal sin. St. Paul in the Bible said that people where sick and even died by doing this (1 Cor. 11:27-30).

We are to attend Sunday Mass because Jesus and the Apostles taught that. This is reflected in the Scripture passage (Hebrews 10:25).

How the various manuscripts were approved as Scriptures was based largely on whether or not the teaching in the manuscript was consistent with Oral Tradition. The New Testament did not bring about the Church. The Church brought about the New Testament. The decision on what constituted the New Testament did not take place until the 4th Century and the final determination was not until the 16th Century.

The Christians of the first three centuries relied upon the Oral Tradition of the Church, NOT the New Testament which at the time did not exist as a definitive text like we have today.

See the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia for a detailed explanation of how the New Testament Canon was decided upon.

The reason the Catholic Church can make this decision as to what constitutes the Bible, how to interpret Scripture, make definitive definitions of doctrine, and make rules and laws for the faithful is all the same reason -- Christ gave the keys of the kingdom to Peter and his successors. (Matt 16:18-19) The "keys" is an ancient symbol of authority (Isa 22:20-22). This passage in Isaiah, by the way, is the proof that Jesus was making Peter the first Pope (father) of the Church.

Protestants do not have this authority and thus do not have the competence nor the charism to definitively interpret the Faith. It is because of this that the Protestant world is incessantly divided into groups with contradictory groups all saying they have the truth. God has given the charism to Peter and his successors, and to His bishops in union with the Pope, to interpret, define, and declare the faith. The Holy Spirit does not grant that charism to anyone else. It belongs solely to the Catholic Church according to Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

I hope this helps get your started.

God Bless,
Bro. Ignatius Mary


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Re: Levels of Church Teaching

Post  Lourdes on Thu Mar 03, 2011 1:35 pm

Elisa, I can't thank you enough for this. My only regret is that I cannot print it out. If I could, it would be that much easier for me to study it.


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Re: Levels of Church Teaching

Post  Lourdes on Thu Mar 03, 2011 1:40 pm

One more thing.

Has anyone checked this article to make certain that what the good Brother writes is, in fact, so?


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Re: Levels of Church Teaching

Post  Elisa on Fri Mar 04, 2011 3:24 am

You're very welcome, Lourdes.

The reason I've had this in my favorites links for several years now is because it does agree to everything I've read about the levels of authority and is orthodox Catholic teaching. I like this link because the format is so much easier to read and understand than some others.

Is there no way to hook your computer up to a printer? Is that why you can't copy it to a Word document/file and print that document?

Maybe you could copy it to the Word document and email it to yourself or someone you know who can print it out on another computer?

God bless you and your family always.

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Re: Levels of Church Teaching

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