Contrary to what some may think about the Church’s role as teacher, she does not act within a hermeneutic of power, rather a hermeneutic of love. To imagine that she is a dominating institution bent on control is immature, as Avery Cardinal Dulles explains, “The rejection of authority…is scarcely a sign of adulthood. Rather, it is a mark of adolescence. In practically all affairs of daily living, mature persons rely upon authority in the sense that they depend on the advice of experienced and knowledgeable persons.” As teacher and mother, the Church proclaims “to men what they truly are and [reminds] them of what they should be before God” (CCC2036). The Magisterium serves to form an individual’s conscience, not to suppress it.
She teaches out of duty and obligation, but also as a response to the rights of persons. Each member of the Christian faithful has the right to a proper education and formation of conscience, from the spiritual treasury of the Church, in order to enrich their lives in the hopes of securing salvation (CIC213). The ministry of catechesis develops maturity in the human person and helps him or her approach the mystery of salvation with love (CIC217). The Christian faithful are responsible, as they are ultimately responsible for their own individual salvation, to following the teachings of sacred pastors, who are the proper leaders of the Church (CIC212, §1). The communication of this teaching, however, does not flow in only one direction. The faithful “have a right…even a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church” (CIC212, §3). This right also extends to making their opinions known to other members of the Christian faithful, provided they maintain reverence towards pastors and “the common good and the dignity of persons.” The Magisterium should not be considered as something “apart” from the community of the faithful. “Those who teach cannot and should not teach save what they have learned themselves, those [teachers] have been chosen from among the faithful and they…are obliged to believe what they propose to the faith of others.”