Many Catholics know all this, but they often misunderstand papal authority in yet other ways. Some think that a Catholic is obliged to accept the teaching of a pope only when that teaching is put forward by him as infallible. That too is not the case. Contrary to this “minimalist” view, there is much that Catholics have to assent to even though it is not put forward as infallible. Others think that a Catholic is obliged to agree more or less with every view or decision of a pope regarding matters of theology, philosophy, politics, etc. even when it is not put forward as infallible. And that too is not the case. Contrary to this “maximalist” view, there is much to which a Catholic need give only respectful consideration, but not necessarily assent. As always, Catholic doctrine is balanced, a mean between extremes -- in this case, between these minimalist and maximalist extremes. But it is also nuanced, and to understand it we need to make some distinctions that are too often ignored.
UPDATE: The esteemed Dr. Edward Peters, canon lawyer extraordinaire, kindly comments on my article at his blog. He argues that, contrary to what I implied in my post, John Paul II’s Ordinatio Sacerdotalis did indeed constitute an exercise of the extraordinary Magisterium. He makes a strong case.