I’m discussing religious liberty with someone at the moment, and they say that the Church has changed her teaching on religious liberty from Pius IX’s Quanta Cura and Syllabus Errorum to the Second Vatican Council’s declarations on religious liberty, with particular reference to something Pope Benedict said.
Therefore, the lady argues, the Church has changed her doctrine and can do so in the future.
My position is that the Church has never changed her doctrines or dogmas and cannot do so by the very nature of the matter. My argument is that religious liberty and the state’s relation to it is not a matter of faith and morals. I based it on a paragraph from a publication of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome:
Pope Benedict concluded his exemplification of the “hermeneutic of reform” with the doctrine of religious freedom with a concise statement: “The Second Vatican Council, with its new definition of the relations between the Church’s faith and certain basic elements of modern thought, reelaborated or corrected some decisions made in the past.” This correction does not imply a discontinuity at the level of Catholic doctrine on faith and morals—the competency of the authentic magisterium and possessed of infallibility, even as ordinary magisterium. The Pope thus spoke here only of an “apparent discontinuity,” since, in rejecting an outdated teaching on the state, the Church “has recovered and deepened its true nature and identity. The Church was and is, both before and after the council, the same Church: one, holy, Catholic and apostolic, making its pilgrim way through time.”
In short: the teaching of Vatican II on religious freedom does not imply a new dogmatic orientation, but it does take on a new orientation for the Church’s social doctrine—specifically, a correction of its teaching on the mission and function of the state. The Council gave the same immutable principles a new application in a new historical setting.There is no timeless dogmatic Catholic doctrine on the state—nor can there be—with the exception of those principles that are rooted in the apos- tolic Tradition and in Sacred Scripture.
The lady responded in these words:
“Do you really believe you can claim that a statement about the free choice of one’s religion (or the right to distance oneself from it) is not doctrine? That is ludicrous. The Church of the 19th century was not primarily concerned with the understanding of the state, rather it feared that by abandoning the one true Religion (extra Ecclesiam nulla salus) many souls would be lost, which is why they were not to be granted the related freedoms.”
Now, my question is thus: Is it a matter of faith and morals? Has the Church truly changed this “doctrine”? If she has, this seriously shakes my faith in the Church.