Hauerwas's point, in his characteristic swashbuckling style, is simply one that the great moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre made in more detail in his 1990 Gifford Lectures, Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry: Encyclopaedia, Genealogy, and Tradition, particularly the chapter on Augustine's emphasis on the teacher-student relationship as that of an apprentice of one under authority: the student must surrender to and trust the teacher's intent and ability to lead him to the truth, and only after the teacher has done so, shaping the student's capacity for reason and truth through virtue, will the student develop the ability to be an "independent reasoner."
The Church has taught in different ways, but most obviously and authoritatively in ecumenical councils, two of which, of course, gave us their eponymous creed. For the Christian East, such a council remains the place for doctrinal statements, and any statements outside such a council have usually been rejected on those grounds alone. This, of course, is the major objection some in the East have to the filioque and to modern Marian doctrines taught by the Latin Church. (On more strictly theological, rather than methodological, grounds, the filioque today is seen by all responsible theologians, East and West, as no longer church-dividing. As for the Theotokos, as I have argued elsewhere, Orthodox theology--at least in Bulgakov's hands--can and does accept the notion of an immaculate conception; the Assumption likewise poses no serious problems--apart, that is, from it being defined by one man, the pope of Rome, on his own initiative outside an ecumenical council.)
More recently, in the modern Catholic Church, the notion of "magisterium" has developed in the last two centuries, an idea whose history Yves Congar so helpfully traced out in a number of articles and discusses also at point in his wonderful diaries. This Magisterium has an unenviable task to play, especially if you consider the ecumenical implications. On the one hand, many in the Christian East regard the heterodoxy taught in too many Catholic institutions to be an enormous scandal; but on the other hand, they also regard a strongly centralized papacy, capable of intervening anywhere in the world, as a great scandal, too ("scandal" in the original Pauline sense of σκάνδαλον: cf. I Cor. 1:23, inter alia.). Still, for all that, most recent Orthodox commentators whom I have read have said that the worst scandal, for them, is indeed the lack of coherent orthodoxy in Catholic theology: the widespread confusion caused in part by shoddy catechesis, the willful dissension and open heresy, and the failure to hold people to account.
About this book the publisher tells us:
Catholicism has always recognized the need for a normative doctrinal teaching authority. Yet the character, scope, and exercise of that authority, what has come to be called the magisterium, has changed significantly over two millennia. This book gathers contributions from leading Catholic scholars in considering new factors that must be taken into account as we consider the church's official teaching authority in today’s postmodern context.
Noted experts in their fields cover many intriguing topics here, including the investigation of theologians that has occurred in recent years, canonical perspectives on such investigations, the role that women religious have played in these issues, the place of the media when problems arise, and possible future ways forward.
The book concludes with “The Elizabeth Johnson Dossier,” a selection of documents essential to understanding the case of Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, whose work was recently the subject of severe criticism by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Contributors include Bradford Hinze, James Coriden, Colleen Mallon, Ormond Rush, Gerard Mannion, Anthony Godzieba, Vincent Miller, Richard Gaillardetz, and Elizabeth Johnson.