What is changeable: doctrine, practices, etc


#1

Can someone please tell me, or direct me to a source with info about: which things the church has the authority to change and which it does not.

Ex: the church can change its practice of celibate priests but it cannot ordain women.

How does the church know which practices etc. are changeable and which are not? And, what criteria is used to determine such things?

Thank You.


#2

I look forward to seeing a response here. Most importantly, I look forward to an answer on the question of how one can known which can be changed.


#3

From the catechism:

*Apostolic Tradition and ecclesial traditions

83 The Tradition here in question comes from the apostles and hands on what they received from Jesus’ teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy Spirit. The first generation of Christians did not yet have a written New Testament, and the New Testament itself demonstrates the process of living Tradition.

Tradition is to be distinguished from the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical or devotional traditions, born in the local churches over time. These are the particular forms, adapted to different places and times, in which the great Tradition is expressed. In the light of Tradition, these traditions can be retained, modified or even abandoned under the guidance of the Church’s Magisterium.*

Disciplinary, devotional, and liturgical traditions can be found in the various canons of law and rubric books. That would be your criteria-- where they are found among church documents and their purpose. Celibacy, your example, is found in the Church canons-- church law. Reading those canons it is clear that celibacy is a discipline not a doctrine.


#4

Hi Joy,

The Church cannot change on questions of doctrine and morals. You cite priestly celibacy and women’s ordination as if they were similar questions. They are vastly different. Celibacy does not affect the validity of the sacrament of orders whereas the sex of the person affects the validity of the sacrament. From the the beginning the Church has ordained both married and unmarried men, whereas it has never ordained women. Just as you cannot baptize with orange juice, so you cannot ordain women. In other words, there is no evidence that the matter of the sacrament can be other than males. Just as water signifies cleansing, so, perhaps, the male signifies Christ. The Church does not have the authority to change a decision that comes from apostolic times and, presumably, from Christ himself.

So you see, whether something can change or not depends on what has been handed down to us from apostolic times. Not sentiment or fashion.

We must however note that the teaching on doctrine or morals can evolve, become more explicit. For example, the Church has held from the beginning that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was sinless, but the idea of her Immaculate Conception is something that was the fruit of reflection over many centuries.

Verbum


#5

I realize they are different, but I used those as examples of things that can change and things that cannot be changed.

So you see, whether something can change or not depends on what has been handed down to us from apostolic times. Not sentiment or fashion.

What about traditions that were handed down from apostolic times? Are they changeable?


#6

Thank you. I’m not sure I understand all of that though :o . I guess, more to the point, I would like to know how the church determines what apostolic practices or teachings can be changed (if any). (Maybe this is the answer and I just don’t understand it?) I know there wasn’t a NT in the early church like we have today, but the early church either had the apostles themselves or had their writings, of which (as I understand it) there were copies in the various churches as they were held to be inspired writings. If there was no question as to what the apostles taught and practiced, then how did the future church decide which of those could be changed?


#7

Tradition is to be distinguished from the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical or devotional traditions

, born in the local churches over time. These are the particular forms, adapted to different places and times, in which the great Tradition is expressed.
Ok, perhaps meaning culture? So, then, how does the church decide which of those traditions are adaptable to different places and times?

Thanks.*


#8

Nothing that the Apostles taught regarding faith and morals can change-- that is the Deposit Of Faith.

The liturgy, disciplines such as fasting/abstaining from meat, rules about dress and liturgical functions, feast days, holy days, etc, are NOT part of the deposit of faith-- as the Catechism says disciplines, liturgy, devotions.

Perhaps you are asking how to tell what’s what-- I don’t know how to answer that other than the Church tells us which is which. Doctrines are taught through the ecumenical councils, creeds, and authoritative documents of the Church. Disciplines are found elsewhere-- canon law, litrugical documents, devotional practices that grew organically from the laity (like the Rosary).


#9

Ok, thank you. But is EVERYTHING the apostles taught part of the deposit of faith and unchangeable? For instance: Paul taught that women shouldn’t speak in church.

Thanks.


#10

No. The Church differentiates Tradition and tradition.

That is an oversimplification of what Paul taught.

Women do not *teach * or *preach *“in church” meaning via the Homily. Only a priest or deacon-- one with Holy Orders-- teaches in this manner. Nor do women teach authoritatively in the realm of the Magesterium. That is bound up in the meaning of Apostle/Bishop and their designees the priests. They hold the teaching office of the Church. That is doctrine.

That does not mean women cannot or do not “teach” in other ways-- outside the liturgy and outside the teaching office of the Church-- the Bible is full of examples of women disciples. Women can pass on the faith to children in CCD, teach classes at universities.

One must distinguish between the common term “teacher” and the “teaching office” of the Church which defines doctrine.

The Church is the authoritative intepreter of Scripture and you can find Church teaching on this subject-- and how to rightly interpet Paul’s writings-- in the Catechism and in numerous church documents on the role of the clergy and the laity.


#11

Is that what the apostles did?

Paul said to “hold fast to the traditions”, yet it is no longer taught or encouraged that women today cover their heads.


#12

Yes, that’s exactly what the Apostles did. For example, when the question of whether or not Christians must also be Jews and practice Jewish Law, the Apostles met in Council (Acts chapter 15) and determined what was doctrinal and what was not.

He was speaking of Sacred Tradition, which carries the sam authority of Sacred Scripture

Because that is not Sacred Tradition but rather is cultural tradition (small “t”).


#13

Practices are changable in so far as the change does not alter the presented belief.

For instance the belief in the necessity of Baptism for infants to remove Original sin. The Church would never change the law requiring that infants be Baptized as soon as possible after birth to holding Infant Baptisms only once a year or at the age of reason. The practice would not match the belief.


#14

It can be argued that this never changed officially, only in practice. I agree that it shouldn’t have changed. Unfortunately it has fallen out of practice with many women. Go to a TLM and you’ll probably see most of the women covering their heads. I have been to several Orthodox Churches, and have seen no one cover their heads there either. Unfortunately modernism and liberalism have seeped in here.


#15

Yes, if they are disciplinary in nature, not intending to be immutable. For example, eating the meat of strangled animals. (cf. Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25).

According to St. Augustine:

  	 				For, allowing that the apostles did on that occasion **require Christians to abstain from the blood of animals, and not to eat of things strangled**, they seem to me to have consulted the time in choosing an easy observance that could not be burdensome to any one, and which the Gentiles might have in common with the Israelities, for the sake of the Cornerstone, who makes both one in Himself; while at the same time they would be reminded how the Church of all nations was prefigured by the ark of Noah, when God gave this command,--a type which began to be fulfilled in the time of the apostles by the accession of the Gentiles to the faith. But since the close of that period during which the two walls of the circumcision and the uncircumcision, although united in the Cornerstone, still retained some distinctive peculiarities, and **now that the Church has become so entirely Gentile that none who are Outwardly Israelites are to be found in it, no Christian feels bound to abstain from thrushes or small birds because their blood has not been poured out, or from hares because they are killed by a stroke on the neck without shedding their blood. **(*Reply to Faustus the Manichaean*, Bk XXXII, 13)

#16

I’ve never been to a TLM. There is only 1 Orthodox church w/in a reasonable distance from me and I see that few if any women there cover.

Regarding:

the teaching on doctrine or morals can evolve, become more explicit. For example, the Church has held from the beginning that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was sinless, but the idea of her Immaculate Conception is something that was the fruit of reflection over many centuries.

How does the church know that the evolution of a teaching on doctrine or morals is actually truth? What criteria does it use to determine its evolution is not merely man-made? And are we bound, as Catholics, to believe in those doctrines and morals that have been expounded upon? (Like Mary as co-redemptrix for instance)

Thanks


#17

I’m guessing the answer to that is, yes we are bound, when I consider the immaculate conception of Mary. That is not explicitly in scripture but is something that evolved over time, and, as far as I can remember, we are bound to believe it.


#18

However, I know of many cases in which a baby is refused baptism b/c the parents are not regular mass-attendees. That seems to be contrary to the belief. If a baby is born with o.s. it shouldn’t matter what the parents do afterward. The baby’s soul is at stake and the church practice to turn them away based on the parents’ faithfulness seems to make the belief that baptism is an initiation-into-the-church/dedication-to-christian-upbringing more of the issue behind baptism than removing o.s.

I should say that I don’t know that THE Catholic Church has taught that this should be done, but this is how it is done where I live.


#19

Since the apostles and their successors were given the power to “bind and loose,” the Church has always understood that there are some aspects of ecclesial life that are not immutable, while also clear that some teachings are eternal and immutable.

The “how” of determining the mutable from the immutable involves Catholic Dogmatic Theology. Like any field of study, there are levels of certainty of various propositions. In physical science, the highest levels of certainty are called the “laws” of science, (e.g. the law of gravity). Some things are believed to be true with absolute certainty, some with various other levels of certainty based upon a reasonable discernment of the evidence, and some are considered doubtful matters because we simply lack clear evidence.

In Catholic Dogmatic Theology, the living Magisterium discerns that which was taught and handed on to her from the 1st century “deposit of faith” and judges what level of theological certainty exists for various ecclesial teachings.

De fide (“of faith”) teachings “to be believed” (Lat “credenda”) are always immutable, understood to be taught infallibly by the Church, and demand the assent of faith. Obstinate denial or doubt results in heresy, a grave sin against the virtue of faith.

De fide (“of faith”) teachings “to be held” (Lat “tenenda”) are always immutable, understood to be taught infallibly by the Church, and demand the assent of faith. However, they are not formally taught by the Church as “divinely revealed” (but may be so defined later, after much prayerful contemplation of Scripture and Tradition). Obstinate denial or doubt of de fide tenenda is contrary to ecclesial unity or in military terms “good order and conduct,” which is a grave sin against charity and results in lack of “full communion” with the Catholic Church.

Sententia Certa (“certain doctrine”) is held to be binding upon the faithful so long as the magisterium holds it binding by law. However, doctrine that is not deemed by the magisterium as manifestly de fide is not immutable. Doctrines demand the “religious assent” of the faithful. Obstinate refusal to give religious submission is a grave sin which is censurable under canon law. Some doctrinal affirmations of the Church may be binding for a time, but loosed another time, as their may be an admixture of error within such doctrine, which over time becomes more magisterially clarified through prayerful contemplation of the deposit of faith. I really can’t think of doctrine that was binding but later loosed excepting perhaps the doctrine regarding the immovable earth back in Galileo’s day, but there’s some uncertainty as to whether that was an exercise of magisterial authority or judicial (disciplinary) authority. Nonetheless, sententia certa is not, theologically speaking, immutable in the eyes of the Church, but the weight of tradition gives it ecclesial certainty sufficient to bind the faithful toward religious assent.

Theological speculation and/or “common teaching” (sententia communis) are both part of “free opinion” which has no binding quality by canon law.

There are other levels or “theological notes” within Catholic Dogmatic theology, but the above is a broad breakdown.

Lastly, ecclesial discipline is infallible in the indirect and negative sense. That is, while not immutable, the general discipline of the universal Church can never be considered harmful or dangerous to the faithful. Pius VI condemned the contrary proposition. Nonetheless, such discipline may not always be prudent or “fitting” for contemporary times, so disciplinary norms are always changeable by lawful ecclesial authorities, depending upon the contemporary circumstances.

The three “D’s” are binding upon all Catholics: Dogma, Doctrine and Discipline. Only de fide tenenda and de fide credenda are infallible and immutable.

For an introduction to Catholic Dogmatic Theology, see here:
Introduction to Catholic dogmatic theology

For a non-exhaustive listing of the de fide dogmas and certain doctrines of Catholicism, see here:
Catholic Dogmas and Doctrine


#20

Thanks for all that, Dave. Looking through those now…


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