How did the church determine official dogma/doctrine?

I’m curious as to how the church determines dogma and doctrine. Do they get their answers through prayer? Do they get it by reading the Bible? I’m just curious :slight_smile:

Jesus taught his apostles. He told them to teach the whole world all that he had taught. He established his Church to ensure that his teachings were handed on down through the ages.

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Proposals are made and committees make up documents for approval from them and discussions. Votes are taken from the participating bishops. For Vatican 1, for example Dei Filius was adopted unanimously.

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The Lord gave the power of binding and loosing to the Apostles. They used it at the first council in Jerusalem, as recorded in Acts 15. That gives you a pretty good idea.

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There is also an aspect that was manifest most profoundly in the creation of Marian dogmas such as the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption and that is the Sensus Fidelium. That translates to the Sense of the Faithful. When a Holy devotion grows organically among the faithful and is discerned as a belief that inspires deep Christian charity, the Church makes it a requirement of Catholic belief.

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There is a tripod, Scripture, Sacred Tradition, Magisterium. They are not independent but rather, like one teacher relying on two closely related texts.

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Since dogma is truth revealed by God, it must be found in Scripture and Tradition, at least implicitly (ie as a necessary consequence of things explicitly in Scripture and Tradition). The Church can’t add to revealed truth, which ended with the death of the last Apostle.

When there is some question as to whether a proposition is found in Scripture or Tradition or not, the Church uses various means to get to the right answer, but always in unity with the successor of St. Peter. Here’s how the First Vatican Council and St. Francis de Sales summed it up respectively:

First Vatican Council, Pastor Aeternus:

  1. The Roman pontiffs, too, as the circumstances of the time or the state of affairs suggested, sometimes by summoning ecumenical councils or consulting the opinion of the Churches scattered throughout the world, sometimes by special synods, sometimes by taking advantage of other useful means afforded by divine providence, defined as doctrines to be held those things which, by God’s help, they knew to be in keeping with Sacred Scripture and the apostolic traditions.

St. Francis de Sales, Catholic Controversy

But the great Cardinal of Toledo remarks most appositely on this place that it is not said he shall carry the Church into all truth, but he shall lead; to show that though the Holy Spirit enlightens the Church, he wills at the same that she should use the diligence which is required for keeping the true way, as the Apostles did, who, having to give an answer to an important question, debated, comparing the Holy Scriptures together; and when they had diligently done this they concluded by the: It hath seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us; that is, the Holy Spirit has enlightened us and we have walked, he has guided us and we have followed him, up to this truth. The ordinary means must be employed to discover the truth, and yet in this must be acknowledged the drawing and presence of the Holy Spirit. Thus is the Christian flock led,-by the Holy Spirit but under the charge and guidance of its Pastor, who however does not walk at hazard, but according to necessity convokes the other pastors, either partially or universally, carefully regards the track of his predecessors, considers the Urim and Thummim of the Word of God, enters before his God by his prayers and invocations, and, having thus diligently sought out the true way, boldly puts himself on his voyage and courageously sets sail.

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