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.