Summary of Categories of Belief in 'Professio fidei'

Author: Colin B. Donovan, STL

Summary of Categories of Belief in Professio fidei

[All quotes are from, and all paraphrases based upon, the Doctrinal Commentary
of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.]

I. Divinely Revealed
Doctrines contained in the Word of God, written or handed down, and defined with a solemn judgment of the Church as divinely revealed truths by any of the following:
   a) the Roman Pontiff speaking ex cathedra
   b) the College of Bishops gathered in council
   c) infallibly proposed by the ordinary and universal Magisterium

ASSENT REQUIRED These doctrines require of all members of the faithful the assent of theological faith, based on the authority of the Word of God (de fide credendi). Whoever obstinately places them in doubt or denies them falls under the censure of heresy, as indicated by the respective canons of the Oriental and Latin Codes of Canon Law.

·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.

II. Definitively Proposed
Doctrines definitively proposed by the Church on faith and morals which are necessary for faithfully keeping and expounding the deposit of faith, even if they have not been proposed by the Magisterium of the Church as formally revealed. They can be defined by:
   a) the Roman Pontiff speaking ex cathedra
   b) the College of Bishops gathered in council
   c) taught infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the
          Church as sententia definitive tenenda.

Such doctrines are joined to Divinely Revealed truths by a. historical relationship or b. logical connection. Even though they are not proposed as formally revealed they could, by dogmatic development, one day be declared to be revealed.

ASSENT REQUIRED These doctrines require firm and definitive assent based on theological faith in the Holy Spirit's assistance to the Church's Magisterium and on the Catholic doctrine of the infallibility of the Magisterium in these matters. Whoever denies these truths would be in a position of rejecting a truth of Catholic doctrine and would therefore no longer be in full communion with the Catholic Church. There is no difference with respect to the full and irrevocable consent which must be given to teachings set forth as I. divinely revealed and II. those proposed as to be definitively held.

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 infalliblility 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

III. Authentic Ordinary Magisterium
Teachings presented as true, or at least as sure, even if they have not been defined with a solemn judgment or proposed as definitive by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, whether of the Pope or of the College of Bishops.

ASSENT REQUIRED  Religious submission of will and intellect.

·teachings set forth by the "authentic ordinary Magisterium in a non-definitive way, which require degrees of adherence differentiated according to the mind and the will manifested; this is shown especially by the nature of the documents, by the frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or by the tenor of the verbal expression" (Vatican II, Lumen gentium 25)

I. & II. Defining and Non-Defining Acts
The Magisterium teaches doctrine to be I. divinely revealed, or II. to be held definitively, by acts which are either defining or non-defining.

·Defining Acts teach infallibly by solemn papal definitions ex cathedra and actions of an Ecumenicam Council

·Non-Defining Acts teach infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Bishops dispersed throughout the world who are in communion with the Successor of Peter. Such doctrine can be confirmed or reaffirmed by the Roman Pontiff, even without recourse to a solemn definition, by declaring explicitly that it belongs to the teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium as a truth that is I. divinely revealed  or II. of Catholic doctrine.  "Consequently, when there has not been a judgment on a doctrine in the solemn form of a definition, but this doctrine, belonging to the inheritance of the depositum fidei, is taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, which necessarily includes the Pope, such a doctrine is to be understood as having been set forth infallibly. The declaration of confirmation or reaffirmation by the Roman Pontiff in this case is not a new dogmatic definition, but a formal attestation of a truth already possessed and infallibly transmitted by the Church."