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Ratzinger assistant denies Pope is authoritarian

Unlike popes who reigned before the 20th century, Pope John Paul II does not simply invoke his authority when teaching about faith and morals, but offers multiple arguments to explain his position, according to the undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

US Dominican Fr Augustine Di Noia said Pope John Paul "has been extremely reluctant to say, 'Believe this because I say it,' but rather offers arguments."

Speaking last week about the "ecclesial vocation of the theologian," Fr Di Noia said changes in the way theologians work and in the way their work is perceived by the Catholic faithful have led to changes in the way the magisterium - the church's teaching authority - is exercised.

For centuries, he said, the pope and bishops rarely invoked the magisterium. When they did, they issued very brief statements aimed at settling disputes or setting boundaries for theological discussions, which already had been widely explored by theologians.

The change, he said, can be seen in Pope John Paul's 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae ("The Gospel of Life"). The encyclical is one of the longest ever written by a pope, "yet its doctrinal core is brief," Fr Di Noia said.

Catholic News Service

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
The Word from Rome - John Allen (National Catholic Reporter)

12 May 2003