I think I first came across Dr. Fastiggi’s work after Mike Lewis told me he was a defender of Pope Francis when Amoris Laetitia came out. Then I realized he teaches at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, which is the local seminary used by my diocese. Since then I’ve emailed him a number of times with random theological questions or requests to review articles I’ve written. Dr. Fastiggi has been an invaluable resource for me.
During one of our conversations a few years ago he recommended an excellent book, Magisterium: Teacher and Guardian of the Faith by Cardinal Avery Dulles. That’s what we discussed in our interview. We talked about what faithfulness to the Church looks like if someone sincerely disagrees with a teaching. And towards the end I brought up the Church’s legacy of supporting slavery. (See Christopher Kellerman, SJ’s alternate take in America.)
In 1455, Pope Nicholas V promulgated a papal bull, Romanus Pontifex, saying that King Alfonso of Portugal could subdue any pagan peoples he came across and “reduce their persons to perpetual slavery.” But in 1965, Gaudium et Spes called slavery an insult to human dignity and John Paul II later taught that it was intrinsically evil.
So I asked Dr. Fastiggi: Was the Magisterium of Nicholas V in error? If so, then couldn’t any pope theoretically teach error? How can a Catholic trust magisterial teaching to be assisted by the Holy Spirit if the Magisterium has made such huge errors in the past?
It was great speaking with Dr. Fastiggi. He has an encyclopedic mind for Church documents and is one of the most humble guys I’ve ever met. This conversation is more academically dense than what’s usually on the podcast, but I hope it’s valuable for you!
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This week, Paul and Dominic talk with Dr. Robert Fastiggi about the Magisterium. We discuss what the Magisterium is and how it works. More specifically, we talk about if Catholics can ever disagree with Church teaching and, if Catholic teaching has been wrong in the past, then can’t it be wrong now?
Robert Fastiggi (A.B. Dartmouth; M.A. Ph.D. Fordham) holds the Bishop M. Kevin Britt Chair of Dogmatic Theology and Christology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, MI where he has taught since 1999. He previously taught at St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX (1985–1999). He was the co-editor of the English translation of the 43rd edition of Denzinger-Hünermann, Compendium of Creeds, Definitions, and Declarations on Matters of Faith and Morals (Ignatius Press, 2012) and the executive editor of the 2009–2013 supplements to the New Catholic Encyclopedia. He also revised and updated the English translation of Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma for Baronius Press (2018). He is a council member of the Mariological Society of America and a member of PAMI, the Pontifical Marian Academy International (Pontificia Academia Mariana Internationalis). Dr. Fastiggi and his wife, Kathy, have been married for 38 years. They are the parents of three children: Mary, Anthony, and Clare.
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Paul Fahey lives in Michigan with his wife and four kids. For the past eight years, he has worked as a professional catechist. He has an undergraduate degree in Theology and is currently working toward a Masters Degree in Pastoral Counseling. He is a retreat leader, catechist formator, writer, and a co-founder of Where Peter Is. He is also the founder and co-host of the Pope Francis Generation podcast. His long-term goal is to provide pastoral counseling for Catholics who have been spiritually abused, counseling for Catholic ministers, and counseling education so that ministers are more equipped to help others in their ministry.