When has disagreement furthered the development of doctrine without being deemed heretical?


*]In what areas may a person differ with the Church without being heretical?
*]In areas where differences with Church teaching are considered heretical, what is the range of Church response short of declaring an opinion anathema?
*]What are some examples from history of differences furthering the ‘development’ of Church doctrine short of being declared anathema?[/LIST]
I ask these questions because some non-Catholics are under the impression that the Church tyrannically suppresses all differences of opinion and that Her motives for doing so are to maintain power. Obviously I don’t agree with this error. What history can people bring to this misperception?


Which area of Church doctrine is involved in this understanding?


Me tell you? You made a statement in answer to a question about Catholic doctrine. To better understand your reply, I asked you which Catholic doctrine was involved. If there is no Catholic doctrine involved, then why did you make your statement in response to a question about Catholic doctrine?


I’m still not comprehending. Doctrines are concerned with faith and morals. How is any statement about which material body orbits which other material body concerned with faith and morals?


Tsusuki: You are off topic. There are other threads on Galileo. The topic of this thread is:

When has disagreement furthered the development of doctrine** without** being deemed heretical?

Did you note the word without?

This is not a thread on heresies. It is not a thread on Galileo. I am hoping we can return to the discussion now. Thank you.

[quote=tsuzuki]To answer the original poster, if you want to differ from the Church without being labeled a heretic in a way that will stick, then science would seem to be the best way.

The thread is not about science. The thread is about the development of doctrine.


I can agree with that. There is no need for the Church to be involved with science as such. The Galileo affairs should have taught us that. And yet, at the time, those who supported Gallileo’s theory were also Catholics, even clerics!


Eleven posts pruned as being completely off topic.

“When has disagreement furthered the development of doctrine without being deemed heretical?”

Stay on topic please.


The word heretic is misused to mean anyone teaching something that the Church disagrees with.
To be a heretic you’ve got to be formally told that your teachigns are against Catholic dogma, you’ve got to have the intellectual capacity to appreciate the waring, and you’ve got to willfully ignore it. Hence the word means “to choose”.

A good example is contraception. The church teaches that Catholics may not use contraception. However this is not a dogma. It is perfectly acceptable to say “I disagree with the current teaching”, as long as you don’t disobey it or encourage others to disobey it.
Whilst it is completely obvious that the secular position that contraception is an unproblematic technical fix to the problem of unwanted pregnancy is very wrong, the Church hasn’t in fact shored up why it is wrong. Contraception has led to divorce, illegitimacy, sexual diseases, and a wave of dysfunctions like pornography and homosexuality, but it is not entirely clear why this is the case, nor whether contraception is the underlying factor or merely a contributor.

Another example would be liberation theology. Some liberation theolgians have been too Marxist, however the majority have remained within the church. Romero, who was criticised for being too sympathetic to them, is now in the process of canonisation.

Another related example would be the poverty of St Francis. The Pope was initially very sceptical, and in fact forced him to tone it down. But the Franciscans have made a huge contribution to the life of the Church, though admittedly they are not quite the itinerant and destitute wandering preachers their founder envisaged.


The Thomists and the Molinists differeon the action of God’s grace. That difference has spurred development in that area and neither is a heresy!


Hi Ani,

You don’t disagree with “the Church”. But there can be different opinions within the Churcĥ. For example, in Thomas Aquinas’ time, the whole Church believed in the sinlessness of Mary. Some thought she was free from original sin from conception; others thought that she was freed immediately after conception. St. Thomas believed the latter. The discussions brought about the consensus that is today the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

In matters of discipline, one must obey, but there can be some respectful disagreement. For example priestly celibacy.



To follow up on what Verbum wrote: Occasionally the practice of Catholics has gone ahead of what was strictly speaking part of the “teaching.” Some Marian devotions are examples, such as in the history of the Rosary, and also the Immaculate Conception, as Verbum already mentioned.


Hiya folks. Thank you for your posts so far. I am wondering if you could expand somewhat and tell the stories.

The reason I am asking is that on a neighbouring blog it occurred to me that many – not all – Reformers believe that disagreement is not permitted in the Catholic Church, particularly on doctrinal matters.

So I got to thinking: that can’t be! What about St Francis of Assisi? Even look at some of the stories from Scripture itself! The woman with the issue of blood. The good Samaritan. I’ll stop there and let you think about it.

Thing is that disagreement doesn’t have to end up being heresy. Or do you ‘disagree’? :wink:

Anyway, I think hearing these stories might help our visiting Reformers and even some of us. Thank you.


Here’s one story: Who do you think of when you think of the “quintessential” Catholic thinker? Aquinas, right? But after his death, for three or four decades he was considered a heretic by many within the CC hierarchy, and declared to be one by some. After people had about 50 years to digest what he wrote and think about it, he was canonized. His incorporation of Aristotle into Christian thought definitely took Church thinking into a “further development.”


In 1990, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released its “Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian.”

I’m not sure where to find this online (possibly the Vatican web site would have it by now), but it might provide a good “lens” through which to view this topic…



Cool Uncle cp! You know I remember how Aristotle made it into the Church. But maybe other folks do not. And if they do not then they will have no notion of what an earthshaking that advent was. Please tell that story too?

:bounce: :bounce: :bounce:


Here ya go Jim!



[LEFT]We’re all going to read this aren’t we? Otherwise Uncle cp won’t tell us any more stories.[/LEFT]

[LEFT]:smiley: [/LEFT]


It’s time for Uncle cp’s nap. Bye for now.
:sleep: :sleep: :sleep:


This is for Uncle cp when he wakes up :coffeeread: :

…The main problem is whether the Catholic Church through dialogue with other churches can be open to criticism and change with regard to their binding tradition (dogmas). Here the Protestant churches and the Catholic Church have different convictions.

While the Protestant tradition speaks of the ‘ecclesia semper reformanda’Lumen gentium speaks of the… “ecclesia semper purificanda”
The Joint Declaration on Justification is a good example of growth in the deepening of the understanding of truth. In the Joint Declaration Catholics did not give up the Council of Trent and Lutherans did not give up their Confessional Writings… The Joint Declaration was not the victory of the one over the other; it was the victory of truth through a deeper understanding of the gospel and of both our traditions… link



Wake up, Uncle cp! :bigyikes:


Well, hi again. Let’s see now, kiddies—we were talking about Aquinas and Aristotle. Aristotle had some basic ideas that seemed quite hostile to religion (examples: the soul passes away with the body; God cannot hear or answer prayer, and has no regard for humans at all; the universe was not created; etc.), while Plato’s intelligible world of the ideal forms seemed much more hospitable to the idea of God, the afterlife, and so on. So for several hundred years of Christianity, Plato’s ideas were considered pro-Christian, while Aristotle was more or less considered an enemy of Christianity by many. Many of Augustine’s ideas, for instance, were quite Platonic or neo-Platonic.

Around the time of the Crusades, after translations of Aristotle began to make it back into the Christian Europe, many of his ideas were still viewed with suspicion. Aquinas saw their potential; for example, the soul-body hylomorphic union validated the spiritual capacities of the flesh (which is quite Christian----God becoming flesh and so on). So he re-interpreted and significantly adapted many of Aristotle’s ideas. Late in his life and even a few decades after his death, Aquinas was therefore also viewed with suspicion; many of the CC’s prelates openly called him a heretic. Eventually, in the century after his death, he was canonized after his teachings were closely examined.

Some people (Francis Schaeffer, for example) think Christianity took a massively wrong turn with Aquinas. However, I think he put the faith on precisely the path it needed—it was in a real danger of becoming a spiritualized “angelism” and neglecting God’s sanctifying presence in the physical world.

So here’s an example of disagreement furthering the development of Christian doctrine.

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