The Purpose of the Vatican's Documents

Okay, I knew that I should have started a thread before asking this question (Hence, the former thread became closed).

I see a lot of documents and encyclicals given by the Vatican. From a standpoint of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, what purpose do these documents do? Do they add another authority, or merely present truths already found in Sacred Tradition and Scripture?

CrucisLucia #1
I see a lot of documents and encyclicals given by the Vatican. From a standpoint of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, what purpose do these documents do? Do they add another authority, or merely present truths already found in Sacred Tradition and Scripture?

The writers of Sacred Scripture could not foresee what disputes or immoral actions would occur after it was defined as the Word of God by the Church – euthanasia, IVF, cloning, for instance.

Often a dogma or doctrine is infallibly defined after the need is identified through a dispute over what should be believed (faith – the Trinity) or how we should act (morals – contraception).

In Mysterium Ecclesiae, (CDF, 1973, #5): “For this reason also it often happens that ancient dogmatic formulas and others closely connected with them remain living and fruitful in the habitual usage of the Church, but with suitable expository and explanatory additions that maintain and clarify their original meaning. In addition, it has sometimes happened that in this habitual usage of the Church certain of these formulas gave way to new expressions which, proposed and approved by the Sacred Magisterium, presented more clearly or more completely the same meaning.” This was seen in John XXIII”s opening address of Vatican II, using the words of St Vincent of Lerins, and Vatican I – “with the same meaning and the same sense.”

In his book, Sources of Renewal Karol Cardinal Wojtyla (St John Paul II) wrote: “Vatican II, which, while preserving its pastoral character and mindful of the purpose for which it was called, profoundly developed the doctrine of faith and thus provided a basis for its enrichment." (Ibid, p 39).

No “alteration” takes place in dogma or doctrine if that means “correction”, but development may take place. Christ’s Catholic Church teaches that doctrine develops, and this means the understanding by the Church develops, without contradiction, as Pope John XXIII so clearly enunciated at Vatican II:
“The greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council is this, that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously…it is necessary that this certain and unchangeable doctrine, to which the obedience of Faith must be given, be studied thoroughly and explained in the way for which our times are calling. One thing is the deposit of Faith which consists of the truth contained in sacred doctrine, another thing is the manner of presentation, always however with the same meaning and the same sense.” [Pope John XXIII in his opening address to the Council Fathers at Vatican II, *Creed and Catechetics, Msgr E Kevane p 60, 221-222]. The Pope here uses the very words of Vatican I, which in turn came from St Vincent of Lerins.

The purpose of Papal documents is the salvation of souls.

The Church itself exists so that you and I might go to Heaven and be with Jesus.

-Tim-

Papal documents do not add to the deposit of faith (scripture and tradition). However, they do authoritatively interpret Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and provide authoritative guidance on Christian morality and faith.

It can be a tricky, though. Not every document is an infallible statement, though we are still expected to acknowledge and respect Church authority on the matter as our mother. Some documents are for specific circumstances and shouldn’t be understood more broadly, too.

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