Thursday, February 24, 2011

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DOCTRINE AND DOGMA AND THEIR DEVELOPMENT



In a nutshell, all dogma is clearly and infallibly defined doctrine. In the process of being defined a dogma, either by an ecumenical council in union with the pope or by a pope alone, there can well be the development of doctrine.Papal infallibility is one such case defined at the First Vatican Council! However, no new doctrine can develop as the last "revelation" occurred with the death of the last apostle.

All doctrine and consequently all dogma flows from Scripture and Tradition. Nothing new can be added, only clarified and developed.

For example, the dogma of the Real Presence of Christ has been believed since the time of Christ and the Last Supper. However, the explanation of this dogma developed over the years. The Council of Trent defines Transubstantiation which is a philosophical hermeneutic to explain a "Mystery" which is not just a doctrine but a dogma--the Real Presence of Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Most Holy Eucharist. Transubstantiation was a new "metaphysical" way to approach this teaching, but the teaching is not new it is ancient.

Let's look at Limbo. Loosely speaking we can say it is a doctrine, but not very coherent and never defined by the Church as a dogma. It appears it never will be. But could it be? Yes, but there would have to be a great development of theology to formulate a doctrine that is coherent and shows that it was believed by the Church since the founding of the Church. Will that occur. I doubt it, but it could.

Now let's look at moral doctrine. There is not one case that I am aware of where moral doctrine has been defined as dogma. I stand corrected if anyone can point that out to me. What is defined dogma is papal and magisterial authority (both ordinary and extraordinary) in the areas of faith and morals.

Thus there is only social doctrine, but no social dogma.The circumstances may change but the principles don't. Thus doctrine can use ancient principles of Catholic moral teaching that go back to Scripture and Tradition and the early Church. But none of the specifics of morality are dogma.

What are the unchanging principles of the Church's teaching on morality applied to any number of circumstances? Natural Law, which cannot change, Scripture and Tradition.

Even Canon Law has elements of Divine Law that cannot change or be changed by the Church. But there are other purely human laws in canon law that can change. But what won't change it the Church's authority (meaning the magisterium, pope and bishops in union with him) to legislate canon law, the bind and loose, as it were.

I hope this clarifies the debate on doctrine and dogma. When new situations in morality occur the Church must use Scripture, Tradition, Natural Law and magisterial authority to apply these three legs of the stool of moral teaching to the new or developing situation.

Is Humane Vitae a dogma, and therefore infallible? No! It is a well development moral doctrine on the subject. The Holy Father did indeed use defined dogma (Scripture, Tradition, Natural Law and his own personal magisterium and the wider magisterium and authority) to write this encyclical. It cannot be disregarded by someone who calls themselves a practicing Catholic.

24 comments:

pinanv525 said...

Thank you, Fr. That was most helpful and to the point.

Petit Chou said...

"Thus there is only social doctrine, but no social dogma."

The foundational principle of the Church's Social Doctrine is the inherent dignity of the human person. That all persons have this inherent dignity is dogma, no?

Frajm said...

Well, that points out the conundrum. Sometimes it is difficult to tell what is doctrine only and what is dogma. Normally dogma must be defined in an ecumenical council or by the pope. I would say that the doctrine of the "inherent dignity of the human" person is high doctrine that boarders on dogma, but I'm not sure it has been solemnly defined as such. If not, it should be. But of course, the Church has no need to define the 10 commandments as dogma, does she? But many of the 10 Commandments do have caveats, don't they? Thou shalt not kill! (except in self defense and just war, so much for the inherent dignity of the unjust aggressor!). But even just war is just a theory, not really a coherent doctrine is it?

Templar said...

Well then, what new Dogma was defined by the 2nd Vatican Council?

Petit Chou said...

And, if doctrine does not change, why are Catechisms, which are collections of the Church's doctrine, revised?

Frajm said...

You'd have to tell me what doctrines have changed, meaning the essence of the teaching, not the development of the teaching. Papal infallibility is implicit since the early church and through the gospels, but it wasn't solemnly defined until Vatican I. Was there some intrinsic change or just development?

Anonymous said...

This seems ex-cathedra to me:

"Given such unanimity in the doctrinal and disciplinary tradition of the Church, Paul VI was able to declare that this tradition is unchanged and unchangeable. 72 Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops-who on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrine-I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church's Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium."

JPII - Evangelium Vitae

Frajm said...

There were no new doctrines or dogmas at the Second Vatican Council. However, various existing doctrines and some that had been long neglected were developed in light of the circumstances of the Church and the world in the late 1950's and very early 1960's. This would be another example of Catholic principles set to new and emerging circumstances. Even the changes in the Mass, whether you like them or not, have antecedents in the early Church's celebration of the Mass.Dialogue with other religions, other Christian communions and even with the atheistic world or secular world too must be built on theology or "doctrine" that already existed but was not employed. As a result of the Protestant reformation, the church had been in a very defensive mode, but 400 years after the fact, the Second Vatican Council set not a new set of principles and defined a bit better that Protestants were a part of the Church but not in full communion. That would have been new.

Frajm said...

To anonymous on Pope John Paul, yes, this would seem be infallible and ex-cathedra (I'd have to ask someone more expert on this if this falls in the same category of the Immaculate Conception being dogmatically defined by Pope Pius X and the Assumption by Pope Pius XII. Pope John Paul makes this very specific--abortion for the direct killing of an infant.
The door though is still open to "indirect" abortion, taking chemo-therapy or some other life saving drug to treat another life-threatening illness where the intention is to heal the mom,not kill the baby, but killing the baby might happen indirectly or cause a spontaneous abortion.
Yet, no one seems to add this to the list of Pope alone infallible decrees; so I need help on this one.

Huldrych said...

A doctrine of dialogue with other Christian denominations and/or non-Christian religions prior to Vat 2? I'd be interested in this! Can you give a reference?

pinanv525 said...

This has become a very good discussion. I like listening to Priests discuss this stuff.

Frajm said...

Huldrich, I can't give you references only biblical passages such as when the apostles and their helpers went to pagan lands with the Gospel and dialogued with them. I think too there were efforts after the Great Schism at dialogue to overcome it, with some orthodox returning to the full communion of the Church which then became known as Eastern Rites. So precedent in dialoguing with the world and schismatics, was in the "tradition" with a little "t" of the Church even in New Testament Times.

Huldrych said...

I might suggest that if we find instances of dialogue in the Sacred Scriptures, this qualifies as Tradition, not merely tradition, no?

R. E. Ality said...

Frajm, thank you. Without taking upon yourself any mantle of infallibility, you have clearly and modestly set us straight. Mr. Chou should yield; there's no shame in admitting to error and then moving on! I even made a mistake once - gee, what year was that again? Just kidding.

On the question of the infallibility of Humanae Vitae, my past reading convinced me that it is an infallible teaching. The best article I had read on it appeared in Homiletic and Pastoral Review quite some time ago. I can't remember the author or title of the article. I was convinced pretty much from the outset, perhaps by a sensus fidelium.

Petit Chou said...

One admits error when one has erred. Fr. AJM and I have basically offered the same conclusion; to wit, Truth/Dogma remains the same. Doctrine, the explication of the Truth/Dogma, develops.

If doctrine did not develop, no new Catechism, which is a compendium of the Church's doctrine, would be written. The fact that new catechisms are written makes it clear that doctrine evolves.

pinanv525 said...

The fact that new catechisms are written does not prove that doctrine evolves. That is a non sequitur. It may mean merely that language and grammar evolve. There could be a dozen other reasons.

Petit Chou said...

Pin - so the exact same topics are covered in the Catechism of the Council of Trent, the Baltimore Catechism (whatever edition), and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. And the only differences are grammar and punctuation.

Riiiiiiight

pinanv525 said...

I was merely questioning the logic of your statement.

R. E. Ality said...

In another of these blog threads, you used Rerum Novarum as an example, saying that prior thereto, there were two pears on the table and that after it, there were three pears. The doctrine(s) – the two pears – pre-existed the encyclical. The appreciation, explication or application thereof, a/k/a “development,” in light of current circumstances did not create a third pear.

Isn’t it similar to a woman enhancing her appearance by use of makeup, hairstyling and clothing ? She is still the same woman. There has been no evolution, but she would no doubt add new pictures of herself to the family album.

Petit Chou said...

No, makeup does not produce something new. As you say, the same woman is present under the cosmetics.

Leo did not simply add color to a teaching that already existed. He gave us teaching (doctrine) that was new, as the new situation, in his judgment, demanded.

The new doctrine was based on the Truth that was already part of the Church's patrimony - the dignity of the human person and the responsibilities we all have to the Common Good.

Jenny said...

Ah, "Huldrych"--a rose by any other name...

R. E. Ality said...

Mr. Chou, Hmmmmmm, even though a new family album (“catechism”) has evolved to include the “new woman?” Frajm is trained in theology (with theology being an aid to the Church, rather than as a parallel Magisterium), so I happily defer to his analysis. No new woman – no third pear. Some quotes from Frajm’s explanation of “development of doctrine.”
“However, no new doctrine can develop as the last "revelation" occurred with the death of the last apostle.”
“All doctrine and consequently all dogma flow from Scripture and Tradition. Nothing new can be added, only clarified and developed.”
“What are the unchanging principles of the Church's teaching on morality applied to any number of circumstances? Natural Law, which cannot change, Scripture and Tradition.” (The NAB has been accepted in some quarters as an acceptable exception to unchanging Scripture)
“I hope this clarifies the debate on doctrine and dogma. When new situations in morality occur the Church must use Scripture, Tradition, Natural Law and magisterial authority to apply these three legs of the stool of moral teaching to the new or developing situation.”
Current bioethical circumstances provide a good example where a new encyclical is in order. I submit that encyclical, like any other encyclical on faith and morals can be written entirely using divine revelation, the already existing principles of the three-legged stool. The secular scientific terms are of course new based on the “development of scientific tools– new tools/processes to be sure, in a manner similar to the tools/processes created by the industrial revolution. Of necessity, it will include an evolution, but only in the secular order.
My layman’s take on the difference between your and Frajm’s comments on this subject includes this perception: Your approach is susceptible to the mischief of adding to or detracting from Magisterial principles, whether intended or unintentional, whereas Frajm’s approach is firmly wedded to orthodoxy, to the Magisterium.
Frajm, if I am wallowing in ignorance and/or stubbornness, please set me straight.

Petit Chou said...

I think Fr AJM and I are actually saying the same thing. Doctrine, which I understand to be the body of teachings of a given group, in this case our Church, does change and evolve over time. Witness the number of new catechisms produced through the centuries.

The Revealed Truth upon which the doctrine is based and which the doctrine seeks to explain, does not change.

Anonymous said...

Chou would make a great liberal Justice on the Supreme Court. Even when faced with clearly contrdictory statements of his and Frajm, he maintains they are saying the same thing. Are we then left to parsing the penumbrae?