Ecumenical and Local Councils

Hello,

My name is Matthew, and this is my first post here on CAF. I’m a protestant (Baptist specifically–have mercy!) who has been considering the Catholic faith. I’ve been going through various apologetic issues, and feel like I have a pretty good grasp of Catholic theology and philosophy, but there is one area that is somewhat of a sticky point for me.

The watershed issue to which I am referring is this: “Have dogmas, doctrines, and morality in general of the Catholic church remained the same throughout history, or have they been changed?”

In my studies on this topic so far, I have come across accusations that the Church changed stances on issue in particular–slavery. Councils listed by the author that supported slavery were:

Council of Jena 517 (Of which I can find no reference in my searching)
Toledo IV 633

I’ve read what few articles of Toledo IV I can find, and it seems, on a cursory examination, to be somewhat against slavery at best, and ambivalent at worst.

Anyway, onto the main topic of my question. As far as I can tell, none of these councils are part of the main 21 ecumenical councils. I know something declared by an ecumenical council in which the bishops agree is infallible, but what about these local councils? My point being, even if a local council happened to support an immoral act, would it be infallible doctrine or dogma of the church?

I hope this question makes sense, and I apologize for any typos or mistakes; I am getting ready to leave for University classes and I wrote this in a great hurry.

Thanks,

Matthew

Only ecumenical councils as proclaimed by the ordinary magisterium and papal ex cathedra statements are infallible. Dogma has not changed nor will it ever. May I suggest a book called The sources of Catholic Dogma…its a great read if you like that sort of stuff. It will take you through the development of the creeds and many other topics…Ill warn you its dry!

Might help if I post the Author Henry Denzinger

I’m surprised more people haven’t jumped on this one. do you want me to take a crack at answering your issues with slavery?

Sorry for the delay, I just returned from University. I would definitely appreciate any insights you have to offer. Let me clarify my issue isn’t so much with slavery as to whether the church has ever made an doctrinal or dogmatic statement vis-a-vis slavery that was later changed. I wanted to bring out this specific example, because it seems many times this issue is broached, the Catholic apologetic seems rather circular.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Thanks,

Matthew

Fiddlermatt #1
I know something declared by an ecumenical council in which the bishops agree is infallible, but what about these local councils? My point being, even if a local council happened to support an immoral act, would it be infallible doctrine or dogma of the church?

What defines the infallibility of a definition on faith or morals of an Ecumenical Council is the final approval of the Pope, not the approval of the bishops, although agreement among the bishops is almost always a precursor, as some statements approved by bishops in an Ecumenical Council have been rejected by Popes.

As local bishops and local councils cannot define dogma or doctrine, infallibility does not arise in those cases.

eightydeuce82 #2
Only ecumenical councils as proclaimed by the ordinary magisterium and papal ex cathedra statements are infallible.

Definitions of doctrines in Ecumenical Councils are part of the Extraordinary Magisterium of the Church.

To be more precise, 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 at ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDFADTU.HTM

**Answer by David Gregson of EWTN 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.”

Vatican II, reiterated the teaching of Vatican I on papal infallibility, and its documents are readily available [from the EWTN Library (http://www.ewtn.com/vlibrary/search.asp, or the Vatican Library).

Dogma has not changed nor will it ever.

True. Doctrine may develop so that the meaning and the sense may be better understood.

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