Catholic doctrine versus catholic dogma

Is doctrine and dogma held by the Church as equals?

As far as I can tell (and I’m no expert), the main difference between the two words is that “doctrine” comes from a Latin word, while “dogma” is an actual Greek word.

It may be that “doctrine” refers to Catholic teachings in general, while “dogma” more often refers to one particular teaching, like the dogma of the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin.

Read Jimmy Akin on dogma and doctrine:

So that means if the Church holds as Doctrine that Mary is CoRedemptrix as a Catholic I would have to believe as Dogma? If I don’t, is it considered sin?

Hello Houseofsaul.

No. Things move out of doctrinal discussions into a dogma. Once it gets to be infallibly defined as dogma, you’re bound to accept it. If it is only in the discussion stage and remains a familiar teaching then you can accept or reject it. Titles of Mary are good examples. Go through her Litany. In it you will experience both doctrine and dogma. Think of it this way: dogma has more weight and you are correct, it would be a sin against faith to reject dogma. Doctrine can contained disciplines which do change from time to time. Some doctrine is binding, so not. One that gets folks hot under the collar is Mary as Mediatrix of Grace. It is okay to believe that Mary is a Mediatrix od Grace. The grey area is when the word “All” gets added to the title as in Mediatrix of All Graces. But for this example I think it shows how it rolls. Get it?


P.S. The Church would never hold anything as Dogma that isn’t part of our revealed truth. Nothing can be added to or taken away from the set Dogma we call our faith. It can be elaborated upon though and we grow in understanding all the time.

You may find Fr. Hardon’s definitions helpful, in his Modern Catholic Dictionary. Below are linked the entries from Catholic Culture’s online edition:



DaveBj #2
It may be that “doctrine” refers to Catholic teachings in general, while “dogma” more often refers to one particular teaching, like the dogma of the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin.
Glendab #5
Things move out of doctrinal discussions into a dogma.


It is vital to know that there is no “may be”, as the Church is always clear in Her teaching. Thus Vatican I (Pastor Aeternus, Chap 4, #9, an infallible dogma) is the basis for understanding infallibility in doctrine and dogma.

So the Pope’s ‘ex cathedra’ definitions may be either of revealed dogma, to be believed with divine faith, or of other truths necessary for guarding and expounding revealed truth. **Vatican Council II and the post-conciliar Magisterium have explicitly affirmed that both ecclesial and papal infallibility extend to the secondary doctrinal truths necessary for guarding and expounding revelation. ** Thus *Humanae Vitae *(Encyclical against contraception) and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (Apostolic Epistle on male only priesthood) contain infallible doctrinal definitions, to remove all doubt.

The CCC #88 (1997) clearly combines exactly with Pope John Paul’s Motu Proprio (= on his own authority) Apostolic Letter Ad Tuendam Fidem, 1998 (ATF), which requires the assent of divine and Catholic faith to believe (credenda sunt) dogmas (a category one truth) (Canon #750.1).

A category 2 truth requires the assent of ecclesial faith, as a secondary truth, “proposed definitively” (definitive proponuntur) to be “firmly embraced and held” (now Canon 750.2). In fact, the 1983 revision of Canon Law had replaced in #749.3 “dogmatically declared or defined” with “infallibly defined”, thus NOT expressing a limitation of infallibility to dogmas. ATF better enables Canon Law to apply to the understanding of infallibility including the Profession of Faith covering the two categories of infallible doctrine.

Vatican II, reiterated the teaching of Vatican I on papal infallibility, and its documents are readily available [from the EWTN Library ( or the Vatican Library] for anyone with the will to know what Christ’s Church is teaching, like most of the documents of Vatican I, and the papal documents before and since Vatican II. Anything worth doing, is worth doing well, and I would add if worth knowing, is worth knowing well. Two papal dogmas are infallible – The dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, and the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

The three levels of teaching are:
1) Dogma – infallible (Canon #750.1) to be believed with the assent of divine and Catholic faith.
2) Doctrine – infallible (Canon #750.2) requires the assent of ecclesial faith, to be “firmly embraced and held”.
3) Doctrine – non-definitive (non-infallible) and requires intellectual assent (“loyal submission of the will and intellect”, Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 25), not an assent of faith. [See the Explanatory Note on ATF by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith*]

Answer by David Gregson of EWTN to me on Nov-22-2002:
“You are correct in stating that the Pope exercises his charism of infallibility not only in **dogmatic definitions issued, ex cathedra, as divinely revealed (of which there have been only two), but also in doctrines definitively proposed by him, also ex cathedra, which would include canonizations (that they are in fact Saints, enjoying the Beatific Vision in heaven), moral teachings (such as contained in Humanae vitae), and other doctrines he has taught as necessarily connected with truths divinely revealed, such as that priestly ordination is reserved to men. Further details on levels of certainty with which the teachings of the Magisterium (either the Pope alone, or in company with his Bishops) may be found in Summary of Categories of Belief.”

Thanks Glenda

Hello Abu.

glendab #9
It moved, as I said from Doctrine to Dogma. Now you cannot doubt it without incurring sin

The denial or dissent from any doctrine is sinful if done with the knowledge of the truth of the doctrine and the required assent to that truth – so that statement implying that only a denial of dogma is sinful is lacking in credibility.

Modern Catholic Dictionary by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
. **Any truth taught by the Church as necessary for acceptance by the faithful. **The truth may be either formally revealed (as the Real Presence), or a theological conclusion (as the canonization of a saint), or part of the natural law (as the sinfulness of contraception). In any case, what makes it doctrine is that the Church authority teaches that it is to be believed. This teaching may be done either solemnly in ex cathedra pronouncements or ordinarily in the perennial exercise of the Church’s magisterium or teaching authority. Dogmas are those doctrines which the Church proposes for belief as formally revealed by God. (Etym. Latin doctrina, teaching.)

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