Every organization needs an authority to give it guidance, to deal with the day to day issues that come up. Without this authority, or without it being effective in its task, one of two possibilities is inevitable: the organization would cease to exist or it would slowly transform into something other than what it had been. Catholics believe that Christ intentionally gifted the Church with a strong and effective central authority as his representative on earth, namely Peter and the Apostles in one ecclesial communion. Further, we believe that Jesus and the Holy Spirit intend that this structure should continue in the Pope and the Bishops throughout history until the Second Coming. Church councils and documents provide the means by which this authority acts to ensure that our beliefs and practices are kept true to the Gospel. They also provide for the practical needs of the Church. The links below provide access to most of this body of material.

21 Ecumenical Councils (New Advent)
Papal Encyclicals Online
Vatican II(Catholic Information Network)
Vatican II(Vatican Site)

EWTN Libraries
Catholic Encyclopedia (search by letter or key word)

The Authority of Church Documents
An explanation of the different types of documents produced in the church, everything from “de fide” teaching to guidelines and more.

Authority & the Submission of Intellect
(Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, 1990)

Article numbers 15-18 and 23-24 illustrate the various degrees of teaching authority in the Church.



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