Implications of evolving church doctrines

i would like to start a thread here dedicated to discussing the implications of the fact that the catholic church changes its positions on certain issues, like evolution and birth control, slowly over time.

what might this fact imply about conservativism versus liberalism in the catholic (and, for that matter, other) churches? does it imply that liberalism is the way of the future, or are things more complicated than that? also, does the catholic church change positions so slowly because the pope and other top catholics have not heard what scientists and other academics and experts have concluded at any particular time in history, or because the masses of catholics around the world need to be indoctrinated into new scientific and other beliefs carefully? if the latter, why? etc…

thank you for participating in this thread, if you do.

yours truly
jonathan “whitecrayon”

There is a good book I read it long ago that said that every person and every society has got a conservative and forward-looking (I hate the term “liberal”) side.

Every plant has got the roots firmly grounded to the soil so that the brances may go as high as possible to tatch the sun. It is good, both for the leaves and for the roots.

For answer, I’ve put the relevant scripture into larger font size

[LEFT] Jesus promised: “When the Advocate comes, whom I shall send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father, He will be my witness. And you too will be my witnesses.” [John 15: 26-27] “When He comes, He will show the world how wrong it was, about sin…and about judgement” and “about who was in the right: proved by my going to the Father…proved by the prince of this world already being condemned.”

[/LEFT]
Jesus promised, “I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you now. But when the Spirit comes He will lead you to the complete truth…All He tells you will be taken from what is mine.”

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but indeed…to the ends of the earth.” [John 16:8-9, 12-13, 15]
[LEFT] Before His ascension, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always, yes even to the end of time.” [Matthew 28:17-20]

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.Matthew 16:17-20
[/LEFT]

Can you cite some examples? For instance, the church has always taught that birth control is intrinsically evil. Is there an example of where church didn’t teach that, or is looking to attempt to change that teaching now?

thanks to someone who posted above for the beautiful quote pasted below. i am a liberal, well-educated christian who does not belong to any particular denomination, but who, by the way, finds catholicism to be the holiest and most serious of the christian denominations, and the quote helps me appreciate conservatism in all of its a little bit better. i suppose the branches of liberal thought would not be around without the roots of conservative traditions and practices. thanks again.

“every plant has got the roots firmly grounded to the soil so that the branches may go as high as possible to catch the sun.”

No it is not a fact! Along with fermat I wish proof of your ascertion.

I have a problem with the use of “evolving” doctrines in the title and then the assertion of “changing positions” in the opening paragraph here. You may not intend it, but these two terms/phrases can mean very different things.
I think Trishie has provided a good Scriptural basis for the evolution of doctrine.
Christ provided a Church through which He makes known what He desires that we know.
As St Paul says:
Eph 3:8-12
8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; 10 that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose which he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and confidence of access through our faith in him

what might this fact imply about conservatism versus liberalism in the catholic (and, for that matter, other) churches? does it imply that liberalism is the way of the future, or are things more complicated than that?

Labels are notoriously inaccurate in most cases so it is best to avoid them. Labeling things as “conservative” or “liberal” only serves to place them in boxes and prevents the proper melding of various viewpoints into a deeper understanding of God’s Truth.

also, does the catholic church change positions so slowly because the pope and other top catholics have not heard what scientists and other academics and experts have concluded at any particular time in history, or because the masses of catholics around the world need to be indoctrinated into new scientific and other beliefs carefully? if the latter, why? etc…

The “top Catholics” as you call them (whoever that includes) are highly educated and quite fully aware of trends in science, sociology and other disciplines. Church teaching evolves over time for many reasons. Mostly because any evolution in teaching stems from a preexisting Truth and it is only when a further revealing or deeper understanding is needed for the peace and the growth of the Church that the Church will issue a refined teaching.

Peace
James

The Church now allows NFP, whereas it would arguably not have been acceptable to early Christians.

That’s not really a change, though. Even the earliest Christians would have accepted abstinence. NFP is just shorter periods of abstinence with science behind the decision - science that wasn’t available to the early Christians. It’s more a matter of applying available knowledge to the existing doctrine.

Same with the teaching on homosexuality. The older teaching lacked the knowledge of psychology that we have today. Homosexuality was seen only in terms of acts and those acts were considered voluntary perversions.

I don’t know actually that it is clear that earlier Christians would have approved of the use of NFP. What you are reflecting here is a very modern understanding. Many Fathers wrote that sex appart from procreative purposes was sinful. That would imply that NFP could only be used to concieve.

I followed that recent thread and I understand the idea. However, following that rationale, you would claim that IF the early Christians knew more about human biology and fertility, they would have prohibited sex at any time outside of the fertile periods. When you read the writings that refer to the marital debt, that would have been a major departure from what was being taught.

I must rebuke you for your use of “indoctrinated” in relation to the catechesis of the faithful. Your vocabulary is saying two different things: evolution / development of doctrine can occur, but it never means a reversal of previously held belief.

I ask you to prove with ecclesial sources that the Catholic Church has changed its stance on the theory of evolution and the use of birth control.

You’ll find that throughout history, many of the brightest minds in science have also been ordained clergy loyal to Holy Mother Church. The Church is not behind-the-times in science.

As to your request, the implication of Jesus promising us the Holy Spirit to lead the Church into all truth is that you need a living body with authority to guide the faithful.
Peace,
Phil

Yes that would be the logic. And in fact Augustine did say just that to the Manicheans who tried to use periodic abstinence to prevent conception.

Marital debt is a slightly different issue, but it was accepted that when conception really wasn’t an option, total abstinence was allowed. I think the assumption was that under such circumstances it would be a mutual decision. If it wasn’t, the sins would be disobedience to the marital debt, and lack of love for one’s spouse.

to all: i am not catholic, so when i started this thread, i did not really know much about the official vatican position on birth control and evolution. however, i have read that the vatican has accepted evolution as sound science, and i believe the vatican has stopped condemning birth control. if my original post at the top of this thread implied something that is not substantiated, then i apologize. my error was in ignorance.

whitecrayon

The Catholic Church has an overall positive view of evolution, though since it is a scientific theory it doesn’t go so far as to proclaim it is the truth. Some Catholics believe it, others don’t. But they do still object to artificial birth control, though they now allow natural family planning.

Individual Catholics are free to believe in evolution or not, inasmuch as God may have used natural processes, such as natural selection, to shape or fashion the physical world. They are not free to believe that we “evolved” souls, as God created our souls.

It’s interesting that from the earliest Judaeo-Christian writings, God is described as “creator and shaper” of the universe. The word for “create” is used instead of “shape” or “fashion” in Genesis in three specific cases: the creation of the universe, the creation of life, and the creation of the soul. All three instances are the ones which we have difficulty in explaining using non-teleological causes.

No Problem.

I will admit that we can become a bit defensive and testy as we will often get folks coming by specifically to argue. If I or anyone else came off as uncharitable, please accept our apology.

It’s great to have someone come by ask a question and be open and accepting of the answer(s).

Peace
James

Whitecrayon, #1, 15
the implications of the fact that the catholic church changes its positions on certain issues, like evolution and birth control, slowly over time.
i have read that the vatican has accepted evolution as sound science, and i believe the vatican has stopped condemning birth control.

Bluegoat, #9
The Church now allows NFP, whereas it would arguably not have been acceptable to early Christians.

Doctrine can develop and always without contradiction. The Church does not have mere “positions” which fluctuate.

As has been pointed out correctly, She does not teach that “evolution is sound science”.

Contraception has been infallibly condemned as a grave sin since Pius XI’s Casti Connubii in 1930.
NBR which uses abstinence was allowed first, by request:
The first time Rome spoke on the matter was as long ago as 1853, Pope Pius IX, when the Sacred Penitentiary answered a dubium (a formal request for an official clarification) submitted by the Bishop of Amiens, France. He asked, “Should those spouses be reprehended who make use of marriage only on those days when (in the opinion of some doctors) conception is impossible?”
The reply was, “After mature examination, we have decided that such spouses should not be disturbed [or disquieted], provided they do nothing that impedes generation.” (Non esse inquietandos illos de quibus in precibus, dummodo nihil agant per quod conceptio impediatur”).
[cmri.org/03-nfp.htm]](http://www.cmri.org/03-nfp.htm])

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