ON THE HIERARCHICAL STRUCTURE OF THE CHURCH
AND IN PARTICULAR ON THE EPISCOPATE
18. For the nurturing and constant growth of the People of God, Christ the Lord instituted in His Church a variety of ministries, which work for the good of the whole body. For those ministers, who are endowed with sacred power, serve their brethren, so that all who are of the People of God, and therefore enjoy a true Christian dignity, working toward a common goal freely and in an orderly way, may arrive at salvation.
This Sacred Council, following closely in the footsteps of the First Vatican Council, with that Council teaches and declares that Jesus Christ, the eternal Shepherd, established His holy Church, having sent forth the apostles as He Himself had been sent by the Father;(136) and He willed that their successors, namely the bishops, should be shepherds in His Church even to the consummation of the world. And in order that the episcopate itself might be one and undivided, He placed Blessed Peter over the other apostles, and instituted in him a permanent and visible source and foundation of unity of faith and communion.(1*) And all this teaching about the institution, the perpetuity, the meaning and reason for the sacred primacy of the Roman Pontiff and of his infallible magisterium, this Sacred Council again proposes to be firmly believed by all the faithful. Continuing in that same undertaking, this Council is resolved to declare and proclaim before all men the doctrine concerning bishops, the successors of the apostles, who together with the successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ,(2*) the visible Head of the whole Church, govern the house of the living God.
136 Jn. 20:21
(1) Cfr. Conc. Vat. I, Sess. IV, Const. Dogm. Pastor aeternus. Denz. 1821 (3050 s.).
(2) Cfr. Conc. Flor., Decretum pro Graecis: Denz. 694 (1307) et Conc. Vat. I, ib.: Denz. 1826 (3059)
This paragraph introduces the chapter on the hierarchical structure of the Church and of the episcopate.
It is the faith of the Church that Christ founded the Church and that He intended the Church to have a hierarchical structure, with the Apostles as the leaders of the Church and St. Peter as leader of the Apostles. The bishops of the Church are the successors of the Apostles, and possess in their office the same ministry of governing, sanctifying, and teaching once held by the Apostles for their respective dioceses. As well, the Bishop of Rome, the pope, is the true successor of St. Peter and possesses in his office the same ministry of governing, sanctifying, and teaching, as well as the ministry of the keys for the universal Church, given to St. Peter by Jesus Himself.
It is the faith of the Church that the magisterium, that is, the living teaching authority of the Church embodied in the pope and the bishops in union with him are graced with the charism of infallibility when teaching with the full authority of the magisterium on matters of faith and morals. It is also the faith of the Church that the pope, individually, possesses the charism of infallibility when he teaches with the full authority of his office on matters of faith and morals. This charism of infallibility is a gift to the Catholic faithful, because by it we can know with confidence the will of God for His people, rather than being subject to the uncertainty of searching, often unsuccessfully, for this snatch of truth or that snatch.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.