Can the Church Teachings Change?

Just earlier today I was talking to an Anglican who guaranteed me that within the next 50-100 years there will be a Pope who allows women priests. I said there won’t be (if the Church is the truth Church of God). But was I right? Once the Church has defined something infallibly, can it be changed?

She said she’d go away and find cases where the Church has defined something and then later changed its position…

Please just ask if you wish to know more details! I’l also be interested in hearing your general thoughts on this. :slight_smile:


The Church’s teachings can not and will not ever change.

Its understandable why your friends believes what she said. First as an Anglican that’s exactly what they experience all the time - changes to “truth”. Of course real truth doesn’t change, but the Anglican Church does all the time to suit its members. Also, she probably only thinks she knows the Catholic Church. She will probably later bring up something like changes in the way we do Confession (from liturgical to individual auricular) , or that we used to be unable to cremate the dead, or the “doctrine” of the Limbo, or most likely the celibate priesthood. Her confusion is that none of these are doctrines or dogma. They are all simply practices, descriptions or disciplines that do change and have nothing to do with permanence of Gods truth. Other Church doctrines did evolve over time as the Holy Spirit found it time to reveal. But nothing was reversed or completely redefined. She wont be able to find any such doctrine or dogma. But lets see what she comes up with.

Church doctrine has never, and cannot, be changed. Only Church disciplines can be changed. So, for example, they could change Priestly celebacy because that is a discipline. Faith and Morals are doctrine and cannot change so there cannot never be women priests.

Where can infallibly defined doctrines be found? Is it only in councils of the Church? Only in documents coming out of these councils?

I would see her bet and “raise her”…bet her that if she keeps looking for that data about “changed Church teachings”…she will be a Catholic within 5 years!

Lastly, I collected a bet (a great steak dinner with fine wine in a 5-star Steakhouse) on married priests (Latin Rite), women’s ordination and divorce/re-marriage… made 30 yrs ago…between myself and a Protestant fellow Marine…who is now a retired Captain, U.S.Navy… a retired priest-chaplain…who served Sailors and Marines for 25 years. (No…I had no qualms about taking his money…a bet is a bet among Marines!).

Your friend is on “hallowed ground” while in pursuit of…The Truth…:…not something but Somebody…a Person…Our Lord Jesus Christ." (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI).

John 14:6
Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSV-CE)

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.

Pax Christi

The doctrines of the Church have been the same since its founding. They will never change.

Note that the members of the organization Roman Catholic Womenpriests are not valid priests, since this sacrament cannot be conferred validly upon women.

It doesn’t have to come from a council. Only the Pope can declare something infallible. The Pope might call a council to address an issue before making a decision, but he doesn’t have to.

Thanks. :slight_smile: But then how can I learn what stuff through the ages has or has not been infallible?

I don’t quite understand what you are asking.

Well, are, say, all the documents coming out of Vatican II infallible? If so, what are the marks to tell me or my Anglican friend that it is infallible? (My understanding is that the College of Bishops with the Pope at their head make infallible statements, apart from the ex cathedra stuff.), in particular heading #8 “Infallibility of General Councils” and heading #12 “Is a council above a pope?”

:hmmm: I would make a search here at CAF or the or at the Vatican.

Keyword = Catholic Dogmas. :thumbsup:

Peace :thumbsup:

Thanks. :slight_smile:

So, looking at this:

For the Constitutions it says “promulgated” by the pope. Are these ones just like encyclicals?

Decelerations and Decrees sound more infallibleish! :wink: And they have “proclaimed” rather than promulgated. Am I thinking along the right lines?

This is true, but somewhere along the line you must define something as being either a discipline or doctrine. (This constitutes part of that teaching btw.) So the question then becomes whether a doctrine can be changed to a discpline or vice versa. Or is the discipline based on some doctrine, such as perhaps doing penance on Fridays? The whole issue is not as simple as it seems.

No. Since it’s coming up next week (the 15th) and it’s a Holy Day (regardless of weekday) anyway, one of the infallible documents was the declaration that Mary went to heaven.

Yes, but something that has already been declared a doctrine cannot be changed to a discipline later on. And things that have already been declared doctrine are, I think, what the OP is asking about.

The Pope must approve the canons declared by the ecumenical councils. Without his approval, the canons are not infallible. :slight_smile:

That’s what I thought too. It’s difficult to tell from some documents what exactly those doctrines are. For example, there are some Trent documents marked as doctrines but arguably some of the items within those session have been relegated to disciplines. They shouldn’t have been so relegated but I don’t make the rules.


But this becomes tricky when multiple Popes span the council, such as Vatican II. Pope John did not sign or refused to sign off on any of the Vatican II documents. But nevertheless the signed documents by even one Pope are binding, at least until a Pope, perhaps himself, decides to not enforce some of the provisions.

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