Has the Catholic church changed its views on anything over time. Are there some things the a pope may have supported or advocated, or said was a sin, only for a subsequent pope to say something else? If this is the case, how do we know they have got it right this time?
The truth cannot change or be changed. Doctrines may be developed as time goes by but not changed. Developed means they are explained better as we understand them more.
You may be interested in reading the book Change in Official Catholic Moral Teaching by Charles E. Curran (see here).
Charles Curran is a dissident priest and has been formally censured by the Vatican for his heretical statements.
He is **not **a reliable source of Catholic teaching.
Technically, heresy is the failure to submit to the infallible teaching authority of the Church, whereas Curran got in trouble for his failure to submit to the non-infallible teaching authority of the Church.
This is true. However, his book can be of use by double checking all of his references to Church teaching yourself.
The Church’s teachings on contraception, homosexuality, and divorce and remarriage are most definitely infallible.
I wouldn’t use it to line a bird cage.
ALL the teachings (doctrines and disciplines) of the Catholic Church are summarised in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. We don’t need to read the book of a dissident priest to find the Church teachings.
Charles Curran denies the infallible teaching of the ordinary magisterium, he is a dissident.
Here is an extract from the Code of Canon law.
Can. 749 §1. By virtue of his office, the Supreme Pontiff possesses infallibility in teaching when as the supreme pastor and teacher of all the Christian faithful, who strengthens his brothers and sisters in the faith, he proclaims by definitive act that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held.
§2. The college of bishops also possesses infallibility in teaching when the bishops gathered together in an ecumenical council exercise the magisterium as teachers and judges of faith and morals who declare for the universal Church that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held definitively; or when dispersed throughout the world but preserving the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter and teaching authentically together with the Roman Pontiff matters of faith or morals, they agree that a particular proposition is to be held definitively.
Can. 750 §1. A person must believe with divine and Catholic faith all those things contained in the word of God, written or handed on, that is, in the one deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and at the same time proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn magisterium of the Church or by its ordinary and universal magisterium which is manifested by the common adherence of the Christian faithful under the leadership of the sacred magisterium; therefore all are bound to avoid any doctrines whatsoever contrary to them.
§2. Each and every thing which is proposed definitively by the magisterium of the Church concerning the doctrine of faith and morals, that is, each and every thing which is required to safeguard reverently and to expound faithfully the same deposit of faith, is also to be firm-ly embraced and retained; therefore, one who rejects those propositions which are to be held definitively is opposed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church.
Can. 751 Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.
Can. 752 Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it.
In regards to masturbation, the code of canon law (which an extract of I posted above) states one must submit to the church’s teaching on the matter:
This is the Church’s teaching:
2352 By *masturbation *is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. **"Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action."138 **“The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose.” For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of "the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved."139
Yes. The Church has dramatically changed its position on religious freedom.
In the Syllabus of Errors, Pope Pius IX condemned the following errors:
***77. In the present day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship. – Allocution “Nemo vestrum,” July 26, 1855. ***
78. Hence it has been wisely decided by law, in some Catholic countries, that persons coming to reside therein shall enjoy the public exercise of their own peculiar worship. – Allocution “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852.
The Second Vatican Council explicitly embraced these errors which the Syllabus had condemned:
Provided the just demands of public order are observed, religious communities rightfully claim freedom in order that they may govern themselves according to their own norms, honor the Supreme Being in public worship, assist their members in the practice of the religious life, strengthen them by instruction, and promote institutions in which they may join together for the purpose of ordering their own lives in accordance with their religious principles…Religious communities also have the right not to be hindered in their public teaching and witness to their faith, whether by the spoken or by the written word. - Excerpt from Dignitatis Humanae
Neither of these documents is infallible, but Dignitatis Humanae was clearly a dramatic break from the previous Catholic teaching on religious freedom.