Evolving Doctrine


It has always been my understanding the doctrine cannot evolve. Pope Pius X said

I entirely reject the heretical misrepresentation that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another different from the one which the Church held previously.

But in this article ewtn.com/library/DOCTRINE/RELLIB.TXT
the priest said

Since the council intends to evolve, it did not mean to
contradict. The Church has long evolved various teachings without

Can you help me understand. Thank you.


Good question. . .

First, when in doubt, it is usually more profitable to seek instruction from an official document (Catechism, Canon Law, Encyclicals, etc.) than from an article or random quotation, even without questioning the legitimacy of the two sources you provided. Perhaps Pius X’s quotation is from such a source, but without the full context, the meaning is hard to discern.

Determining an official and authoritative source is the first step.

Then, one must determine the meaning of the words being considered. Here, the quotation from Pope Pius X refers to “dogma.” It seems, although I have not read the article you cite, that the priest from EWTN’s article is referring to “doctrine.” Dogma and Doctrine, while related, are distinctive terms in regards to Catholic Theology.

Two sources may help you in understanding the distinction:

Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma


Cardinal Newman’s The Development of Christian Doctrine


Perhaps it is because you are failing to differentiate **doctrine **from dogma. In the quotes you provided, Pius is speaking about dogmas, while the commentator of the article you linked (if you look at the whole document) is talking about doctrine.

**DOCTRINE. **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.)

Catholic Pocket Dictionary


You might also note that in the Pope Pius X quote it says dogmas cannot evolve and change from one meaning to another. That is true of Doctine and/or Dogma. Even though Doctrine can develop, it can never change in meaning…it is merely being understood more fully.


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