The weight of authority behind a teaching of the Papal Magisterium depends on the dogmatic history of the teaching and the intention of the Supreme Pontiff. Papal addresses and documents invariably contain teachings in several categories of authority. Some of these teachings will be “of the faith” (de fide), requiring the assent of Catholics by reason of the virtue of faith’s obligation to God revealing. Among such de fide teachings will be those which have been solemnly defined (such as the divinity of Christ or the Immaculate Conception of Mary), and those which, while they have not been solemnly defined, belong to the infallible ordinary Magisterium, having been taught “semper et ubique” (always and everywhere). Examples of the latter include the evil of certain sins, such as abortion or adultery, or the restriction of the priesthood to men.
Papal addresses and documents may also contain teachings which come from the common teaching of the Church, but which cannot yet be said to be de fide, and even new insights and explanations which manifest the mind of the Magisterium. Such authentic teaching has a presumption of correctness and deserves the reverence and submission of Catholics. By doing so peaceful communion in matters of the faith is maintained throughout the Church, properly gathered around the principle of unity in faith given by Christ to the Church, Peter and his successors. On this point the Second Vatican Council taught in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium,
This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme Magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking. [Lumen gentium 25]
Among the elements mentioned by the Council for determining the mind and intention of the Pontiff is the character of the document. Papal addresses and documents fall into certain recognized categories with levels of authority relative to each other. The following lists those categories from those with the highest weight to those with the least.