Dogma - Must We Believe?


I’ve been chatting with some folks on another forum whose name rhymes with reliefnet. The discussion has to do with dogma and whether dissenting from a dogma by a Catholic amounts to grave matter. Most of the folks over there fall to the far (faaaaaaaaaaar) left of the scale so as you can image I’ve taken a beating for my position that a Catholic must believe the dogmas.

What say you?

God Bless,


We must believe Dogmas.


Yes, me must accept the dogmas. I’ve found out that a lot of people on that site are “Cafeteria Catholics”.


Isn’t the whole definition of a dogma that it’s a non-negotiable belief?


If we don’t we are just "eating at the same buffet / cafeteria"
as all the others that call themselves “Catholic” and only go to Mass like a CEO…

CEO= Christmas
One other sunday



Here’s a follow up.

What term do you apply to someone who say’s they’re Catholic but deny some of the dogmas?



Could it be the h word?


Dogmas must be believed. To be Catholic is to believe ***ALL ***of the dogmas of the Church.


Can someone believe in a dogma but not fully embrace it? Does that make any since? Is there someone who understands my question who can rephrase it betteR?


Was is Sheen who said “a thousand difficulties doesn’t equal one doubt?” Something like that.



Dogma is infallibly defined doctrine. To deny it is to deny the infallibility of either the pope or an ecumenical council - the denial of which is itself heresy - and denying the dogma itself, which is yet more heresy:

CCC 2089: “…Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same…”


Are you suggesting you don’t deny anything ever taught by Ecumenical council? what about Nice and constantinople 754 and 787 contradicting each other on the use of images???
Where would your allegiance fall.


There are no contradictions in infallible documents.

Many people claim there are contradictions in the Bible, and on the surface, to the novice, those claims would seem to be correct. But, we know they are not.

Any seeming contradiction in infallible documents evaporates upon closer scrutiny.

Would you specify the exact paragraphs from the documents you are referring to?



(Harnack. History of Dogma, Vol. V., p. 325 [Eng. Tr.].)
The clergy obeyed when the decrees were published; but resistance was offered in the ranks of the monks. Many took to flight, some became martyrs. The imperial police stormed the churches, and destroyed those images and pictures that had not been secured. The iconoclastic zeal by no means sprang from enthusiasm for divine service in spirit and in truth. The Emperor now also directly attacked the monks; he meant to extirpate the hated order, and to overthrow the throne of Peter. We see how the idea of an absolute military state rose powerfully in Constantinople; how it strove to establish itself by brute force. The Emperor, according to trustworthy evidence, made the inhabitants of the city swear
that they would henceforth worship no image, and give up all intercourse with monks. Cloisters were turned into arsenals and barracks, relics were hurled into the sea, and the monks, as far as possible, secularized. And the politically far-seeing Emperor, at the same time entered into correspondence with France (Synod of Gentilly, A.D. 767), and sought to win Pepin. History seemed to have suffered a violent rupture, a new era was dawning which should supersede the history of the Church.
But the Church was too powerful, and the Emperor was not even master of Oriental Christendom, but only of part of it. The orthodox Patriarchs of the East (under the rule of Islam) declared against the iconoclastic movement, and a Church without monks or pictures, in schism with the other orthodox Churches, was a nonentity. A spiritual reformer was wanting. Thus the great reaction set in after the death of the Emperor (A.D. 775), the ablest ruler Constantinople had seen for a long time. This is not the place to describe how it was inaugurated and cautiously carried out by the skilful policy of the Empress Irene; cautiously, for a generation had already grown up that was accustomed to the cultus without images. An important part was played by the miracles performed by the re-emerging relics and pictures. But the lower classes had always been really favourable to them; only the army and the not inconsiderable number of bishops who were of the school of Constantine had to be carefully handled.

Tarasius, the new Patriarch of Constantinople and a supporter of images, succeeded, after overcoming much difficulty, and especially distrust in Rome and the East, after also removing the excited army, in bringing together a General Council of about 350 bishops at Nicaea, A.D. 787, which reversed the decrees of A.D. 754. The proceedings of the seven sittings are of great value, because very important patristic passages have been preserved in them which otherwise would have perished; for at this synod also the discussions turned chiefly on the Fathers. The decision (oros) restored orthodoxy and finally settled it.


The use of images is disciplinary; therefore, we follow the ruling of whichever of the two is the most recent. :slight_smile:


No. I want precise paragraphs from the actual conciliar documents, not referrences to this Harnack fellow’s book


So what a link to a Jesuit university (fordham university) is insufficient for you?


When I checked out New Advent, using the Iconoclast and the Ecumenical Council subheadings, it said that the earlier council was General, the later Ecumenical. Thus:

The Second Council of Nicaea: Seventh Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church, (was) held in 787. (For an account of the controversies which occasioned this council and the circumstances in which it was convoked, see ICONOCLASM, Sections I and II.) The 787 council was Ecumenical.

Source: New Advent.

The first council in 754 was general. Thus:

In 754 Constantine, taking up his father’s original idea summoned a great synod at Constantinople that was to count as the Seventh General Council. About 340 bishops attended; as the See of Constantinople was vacant by the death of Anastasius, Theodosius of Ephesus and Pastilias of Perge presided. Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem refused to send legates, since it was clear that the bishops were summoned merely to carry out the emperor’s commands. The event showed that the patriarchs had judged rightly.

Source: New Advent.

General and ecumenical councils differ.

Taking territorial extension for a basis, seven kinds of synods are distinguished.

Ecumenical Councils are those to which the bishops, and others entitled to vote, are convoked from the whole world (oikoumene) under the presidency of the pope or his legates, and the decrees of which, having received papal confirmation, bind all Christians. A council, Ecumenical in its convocation, may fail to secure the approbation of the whole Church or of the pope, and thus not rank in authority with Ecumenical councils. Such was the case with the Robber Synod of 449 (Latrocinium Ephesinum), the Synod of Pisa in 1409, and in part with the Councils of Constance and Basle.
The second rank is held by the general synods of the East or of the West, composed of but one-half of the episcopate. The Synod Of Constantinople (381) was originally only an Eastern general synod, at which were present the four patriarchs of the East (viz. of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem), with many metropolitans and bishops. It ranks as Ecumenical because its decrees were ultimately received in the West also.
Patriarchal, national, and primatial councils represent a whole patriarchate, a whole nation, or the several provinces subject to a primate. Of such councils we have frequent examples in Latin Africa, where the metropolitan and ordinary bishops used to meet under the Primate of Carthage, in Spain, under the Primate of Toledo, and in earlier times in Syria, under the Metropolitan – later Patriarch – of Antioch.
Provincial councils bring together the suffragan bishops of the metropolitan of an ecclesiastical province and other dignitaries entitled to participate.
Diocesan synods consist of the clergy of the diocese and are presided over by the bishop or the vicar-general.
A peculiar kind of council used to be held at Constantinople, it consisted of bishops from any part of the world who happened to be at the time in that imperial city. Hence the name synodoi enoemousai “visitors’ synods”.
Lastly there have been mixed synods, in which both civil and ecclesiastical dignitaries met to settle secular as well as ecclesiastical matters. They were frequent at the beginning of the Middle Ages in France, Germany, Spain, and Italy. In England even abbesses were occasionally present at such mixed councils. Sometimes, not always, the clergy and laity voted in separate chambers.
Although it is in the nature of councils to represent either the whole or part of the Church organism yet we find many councils simply consisting of a number of bishops brought together from different countries for some special purpose, regardless of any territorial or hierarchical connection. They were most frequent in the fourth century, when the metropolitan and patriarchal circumscriptions were still imperfect, and questions of faith and discipline manifold. Not a few of them, summoned by emperors or bishops in opposition to the lawful authorities (such as that of Antioch in 341), were positively irregular, and acted for evil rather than good. Councils of this kind may be compared to the meetings of bishops of our own times; decrees passed in them had no binding power on any but the subjects of the bishops present, they were important manifestations of the sensus ecclesiae (mind of the Church) rather than judicial or legislative bodies. But precisely as expressing the mind of the Church they often acquired a far-reaching influence due, either to their internal soundness, or to the authority of their framers, or to both.

Source: New Advent.

In reading your quote, it appears that the author wrongly applied the term of General to the Ecumenical Council. (Myfavoritemartin quote, with his emphasis:

in bringing together a General Council of about 350 bishops at Nicaea, A.D. 787, which reversed the decrees of A.D. 754.

However, according to New Advent, the AD 787 council was ecumenical:

Seventh Ecumenical Council: Nicaea II (787)
The Second Council of Nicaea was convoked by Emperor Constantine VI and his mother Irene, under Pope Adrian I, and was presided over by the legates of Pope Adrian; it regulated the veneration of holy images. Between 300 and 367 bishops assisted.

Source: New Advent.

It is extremely important to note that if the book’s author made such as easily identifiable error in claiming an Ecumenical Council merely a General one, it does tend to cast his scholarship into doubt. This is not a MINOR error and it is not something which is difficult to find as an error.


Please do explain the difference between general and ecumenical.


I’d like to know where the actual documents are too!



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