Cardinal Newman’s Theory of Development of Doctrine and the Synod

Sunday, November 16, AD 2014



Back during Lent in 2010 I did a series looking at Cardinal Newman’s theory regarding the Development of Doctrine:


Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, among his many other services to the Church, clarified the concept of development of doctrine as opposed to corruptions of doctrine that occasionally fasten on the Church and are shed off by the Church over time.

Newman posited seven notes, I would call them tests, for determining whether something is a development of doctrine or a corruption.

1.  Preservation of Type

2.  Continuity of Principles

3.  Power of Assimilation

4.  Logical Sequence

5.  Anticipation of Its Future

6.  Conservative Action upon Its Past

7.  Chronic Vigour

Each of these notes are explained by Newman in detail.  The concepts aren’t simple either in theory or in application, at least to me, but Newman does a first rate job of explaining them. 

I posited that Newman’s seven tests could be used to look at various teachings of the Church to see if a particular teaching was a development of doctrine or a corruption that had crept temporarily into the Church.  Now Father Juan R. Velez has taken the seven tests and applied them to the giving of communion to people divorced and remarried whose first marriages have not been annulled by the Church:


Newman’s seven tests are as follows:

1. Preservation of the type or identity happens when a doctrine or belief retains its type from start to end. Newman gives as an example the external development of Christianity into the Roman Catholic Church. Throughout the ages it has maintained its identity as “a religious communion claiming divine commission,” a well organized and disciplined body” which faithful to its founder is considered as fanatical, superstitious and ignorant by its persecutors. The Church remains true to its type in the view of the world, and this unity of type serves as a guarantee of its development.

2. By continuity of principles, Newman explained: “A development, to be faithful, must retain both the doctrine and the principle with which it started.” He enumerates various Catholic principles such as: dogmas as irrevocable supernatural truths, the principle of faith, the sacramental principle derived from the doctrine of the Incarnation, the mystical interpretation of Scripture also derived from the doctrine of the Incarnation, and the principle of grace (325-326).

3. Assimilative Power refers to interpenetration of doctrines. “A living idea becomes many, yet remains one” (186). Newman referred to doctrines and rites, which were assimilated slowly and carefully and with much difficulty over time.

4. Logical Consequence does not refer to a syllogism, but to a gradual growth that, although unintentional, has a logical character, and an “evident naturalness” (191).

5. Anticipation of its future means that there are “early intimations of tendencies which afterwards are fully realized (…) in accordance with the original idea” (196).

6. Conservative Action requires new doctrines to protect earlier doctrines. In the words of St. Vincent quoted by Newman, it is profectus fidei non permutatio (progress in faith not its change into something else). He gives as an example devotion to St. Mary that, far from corrupting doctrine about Christ’s unique mediation, “subserves, illustrates, protects the doctrine of our Lord’s loving kindness and mediation” (202).

7. Lastly, chronic Vigor (or vigorous action from first to last) refers to the duration of ideas whereas something corrupt cannot be long standing.

Applying these tests, Newman came to believe that Catholic doctrine on Purgatory, original sin, devotion to the saints, prayer for the deceased is true doctrine. He was aware that there were disagreements between the hierarchy before a teaching was settled. He explained in support of the existence of doctrinal development:

I grant that there are ‘Bishops against Bishops in Church history, Fathers against Fathers, Fathers against themselves,’ for such differences in individual writers are consistent with, or rather are involved in the very idea of doctrinal development, and consequently are no real objection to it; the one essential question is whether the recognized organ of teaching, the Church herself, acting through Pope or Council as the oracle of heaven, has ever contradicted her own enunciations. If so, the hypothesis which I am advocating is at once shattered; but, till I have positive and distinct evidence of the fact, I am slow to give credence to the existence of so great an improbability. (120-121)

One example of true doctrinal development is the dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. We can verify this by applying to it the seven tests Newman described:

1. The Role of Mary is not changed; there is preservation of the type or identity.

2. Mary is honored because she is the Mother of God, which is a continuity of principle of the honor given to God.

3. Although Christians believed early on that the saints intercede in heaven for their brethren on earth, the belief in the Virgin Mary’s special intercession as the Mother of God grew among Christians.

4. It stands to reason that Christ would honor his mother. The dogma is a logical consequence of Christ’s teaching and example.

5. The Archangel announced to Mary her mission, and at the Visitation Elizabeth and Simeon praised her. In this, we see an anticipation of future honors given to her.

6. Celebrating this Marian privilege reminds us of Mary’s Role. Thus, the liturgy has a conservative action on its early beliefs and practices.

7. Chronic vigor or vitality can be observed in the celebration of Mary’s life and her union with Christ, which exerts new energy in the life of the faithful of all ages.

The question of Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics

Having examined Newman’s tests, we now examine if they apply to the doctrine that Communion for divorced and remarried persons is an authentic development. In other words, what would Cardinal Newman have said in his intervention at the Synod for Families?

First, however, we should reaffirm, as Pope John Paul II did in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, that divorced and remarried Catholics remain part of the Church. As members of the Church, they should be accepted and helped to live the faith. They should be encouraged to pray and to seek a path of reconciliation with God. Those who have a just cause should be helped to obtain a declaration of nullity of the previous bond and helped to receive the sacrament of marriage. All should be understood and supported with prayer and friendship.

It should also be mentioned that in the Church’s history there have been doctrinal developments in matters regarding marriage. A notable one is the doctrine on the canonical form of marriage. The Council of Trent mandated that a sacramental marriage should have as witness a qualified representative of the Church, normally the pastor of the parish church.

Although marriage situations vary, the following is an application of Newman’s tests to the general consideration of the proposed doctrine of Communion of divorced and remarried persons.

1. Acceptance of Communion for divorced and remarried persons does not preserve the type of marriage, which entails indissolubility. The type of marriage with Christ’s permanent love for the Church, his bride, is broken.

2. This new doctrine establishes a new principle, namely that in some cases marriage is dissoluble; marriage is not permanent. There is thus a discontinuity with earlier doctrine.

3. The proposed doctrine seems to assimilate the Christian practice of mercy and forgiveness, but it contradicts others such as justice with regard to the obligations that derive from the nature of marriage. It is doubtful that it can pass the test of assimilative power.

4. Communion in these circumstances does not follow the penitential practice present since the early Church by which a person in a state of sin must leave the situation of sin and follow a path of conversion before being reconciled to the Church, thus coming into Communion.

5. Christ’s teaching about the permanence of marriage and the sin of adultery does not anticipate in any way this new doctrine of divorce and remarriage, and less of Communion for those who are sadly in this situation.

6. Admission to Communion of divorced persons who have entered a second bond does not have a protective action on the practice of marriage in the Church. Instead of having a conservative action, it weakens marriage by removing one of the consequences to divorce and remarriage.

7. Newman would also argue that the proposed doctrine would not add vitality to the Christian reality of sacramental marriage. On the contrary, the practice of divorce and remarriage, and in some places of Communion for persons divorced and remarried, have become more accepted.

Given this analysis, it is very doubtful that the doctrine on Communion for divorced and remarried persons proposed by Cardinal Walter Kasper can be considered authentic development of doctrine. Fr. Juan José Perez Soba has pointed out the doctrinal errors of Cardinal Kasper’s position on the marriage bond (, March 25, 2014). It is in no way the doctrinal development that St. Vincent of Lérins and Blessed Cardinal Newman envisioned. At the Synod Newman would instead argue how Sacred Scripture and Church Tradition uphold the indissolubility of the marriage bond.

Furthermore, Newman would caution against haste in questions of possible doctrinal development: “The theology of the Church is not random combination of various opinions, but a diligent, patient working out of one doctrine from many materials. The conduct of Popes, Councils, Fathers, betokens the slow, painful, anxious taking up of new truths into an existing body of belief” (366).

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9 Responses to Cardinal Newman’s Theory of Development of Doctrine and the Synod

  • “It should also be mentioned that in the Church’s history there have been doctrinal developments in matters regarding marriage. A notable one is the doctrine on the canonical form of marriage. The Council of Trent mandated that a sacramental marriage should have as witness a qualified representative of the Church, normally the pastor of the parish church.”
    That was a matter of legislation, not doctrine. The only doctrinal statement was to declare clandestine marriages valid, when not rendered invalid by Church legislation.
    The decree takes its name from its first word, Tametsi (Although): “Although it is not to be doubted, that clandestine marriages, made with the free consent of the contracting parties, are valid and true marriages, so long as the Church has not rendered them invalid; and consequently, that those persons are justly to be condemned, as the holy Synod doth condemn them with anathema, who deny that such marriages are true and valid;”
    It then goes on to provide for the future (but only in those places where the decree is promulgated) that “Those who shall attempt to contract marriage otherwise than in the presence of the parish priest, or of some other priest by permission of the said parish priest, or of the Ordinary, and in the presence of two or three witnesses; the holy Synod renders such wholly incapable of thus contracting and declares such contracts invalid and null, as by the present decree It invalidates and annuls them..”
    The requirement of canonical form could be abolished tomorrow, without involving any change of doctrine. I believe it would be a very bad idea, but that is by the by.

  • What does it matter how well prepared those who wish to preserve Biblical marriage come prepared to the 2nd part of the Synod if the final report includes paragraphs supporting those who do not want to maintain Biblical marriage–with Pope Francis’ blessing? As you can tell, I am completely disgusted with the sham process that was the first Synod. 🙁

  • I don’t anyone to think that we should simply throw in the towel because of the evil, manipulative games taking place at high levels, I am just disgusted with those games. However, my encouragement is to “never, never, never give up!”

  • First, thank you F. Baron, as always for the breath of fresh air.
    Secondly, are we not including in the option the basic development alternatives that might arise in the process of declaring nullity?

  • Genesis 2: “And the rib which the Lord took from the man, He made into a woman, and brought her to him. Then the man said, “She is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called woman, for from man she has been taken.” For this reason a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife and the two become one flesh.” But only through the action of God.
    There cannot be a civil marriage without the action of God.
    The Catholic Church must tolerate the divorced and remarried. The divorced and remarried have excluded God. The Catholic Church cannot celebrate their condition.
    The Priest in Confession acts only in the person of Christ, in persona Christi, when the priest says the Absolution. To lay the responsibility for the determination of nullity on one person, the priest, is akin to a capital one crime court with no jury. The Church in her wisdom has created a tribunal of (three) canonists to determine the validity and the application of the Pauline Privilege to married and divorced people. Pope Francis is proposing to remove the three canonists and replace them with one priest in the confessional. A judicial fact is predicated on the testimony of two or more witnesses. Jesus said to test everything.

  • Don’t worry yourselves folks. Cardinal Dolan in his interview with Raymond Arroyo doesn’t know “what happened” and is not aware of any of this. Everything is just great in the Holy Roman Church. Kind of like our president. What?

  • This is awesome, Mr. McClarey. Thank you for posting it. 😀

  • Pingback: Issues Arising form the Synod on the Family -
  • Thank you Barbara! Cardinal Newman has been one of my mentors in looking at the history of the Church.

Cardinal Newman-Development of Doctrine-Seventh Note-Chronic Vigor

Sunday, April 18, AD 2010

The final installment in my series on the Seven Notes, I would call them tests, which Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman developed for determining whether some aspect of Church teaching is a development of doctrine or a corruption of doctrine.  We began with Note Six-Conservative Action Upon Its Past, and I would highly recommend that any one who has not read the first post in the series read it here before reading this post.  We then proceeded with an examination of the First Note-Preservation of Type here,  the Second Note-Continuity of Principles here , the Third Note-Power of Assimilation here , the Fourth Note-Logical Sequence here and the Fifth Note-Anticipation of Its Future here.  This post will deal with the Seventh and final note-Chronic Vigor.

Newman notes that a sign of a corruption of an idea is that it is relatively brief:

While ideas live in men’s minds, they are ever enlarging into fuller development: they will not be stationary in their corruption any more than before it; and dissolution is that further state to which corruption tends. Corruption cannot, therefore, be of long standing; and thus duration is another test of a faithful development.

Newman contends that heresies, the classic corruption of an idea, are always short:

The course of heresies is always short; it is an intermediate state between life and death, or what is like death; or, if it does not result in death, it is resolved into some new, perhaps opposite, course of error, which lays no claim to be connected with it. And in this way indeed, but in this way only, an heretical principle will continue in life many years, first running one way, then another.

Corruption of an idea is therefore distinguished from the development of an idea by its transitory character.

Newman on the Seventh Note:

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Cardinal Newman Development of Doctrine-Fifth Note-Anticipation of Its Future

Sunday, April 11, AD 2010

Continuing on with my series on the Seven Notes, I would call them tests, which Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman developed for determining whether some aspect of Church teaching is a development of doctrine or a corruption of doctrine.  We began with Note Six-Conservative Action Upon Its Past, and I would highly recommend that any one who has not read the first post in the series read it here before reading this post.  We then proceeded with an examination of the First Note-Preservation of Type here,  the Second Note-Continuity of Principles here , the Third Note-Power of Assimilation here and the Fourth Note-Logical Sequence here.  This post will deal with the Fifth Note-Anticipation of Its Future.

Newman contends that in the development of an idea we may see anticipations of future developments at any early stage in the history of an idea.  Such anticipations may serve as evidence, after such an anticipation of a development comes to fruition, that we are seeing a true development and not a corruption of the idea.  Newman demonstrates what he is talking about by noting stories of the lives of great men when an early event anticipates the later course that a life is to take.    

Nothing is more common, for instance, than accounts or legends of the anticipations, which great men have given in boyhood of the bent of their minds, as afterwards displayed in their history; so much so that the popular expectation has sometimes led to the invention of them. The child Cyrus mimics a despot’s power, and St. Athanasius is elected Bishop by his playfellows.

In the world of English politics Newman sees in the reign of James I an early use of patronage to influence political parties. 

In the reign of James the First, we have an observable anticipation of the system of influence in the management of political parties, which was developed by Sir R. Walpole a century afterwards. This attempt is traced by a living writer to the ingenuity of Lord Bacon. “He submitted to the King that there were expedients for more judiciously managing a House of Commons; … that much might be done by forethought towards filling the House with well-affected persons, winning or blinding the lawyers … and drawing the chief constituent bodies of the assembly, the country gentlemen, the merchants, the courtiers, to act for the King’s advantage; that it would be expedient to tender voluntarily certain graces and modifications of the King’s prerogative,” &c. The writer adds, “This circumstance, like several others in the present reign, is curious, as it shows the rise of a systematic parliamentary influence, which was one day to become the mainspring of government.”

Newman saw the Lutheranism of his time as sunk in heresy or infidelity.  He sees anticipations of this in the positions of Martin Luther.

Lutheranism has by this time become in most places almost simple heresy or infidelity; it has terminated, if it has even yet reached its limit, in a denial both of the Canon and the Creed, nay, of many principles of morals. Accordingly the question arises, whether these conclusions are in fairness to be connected with its original teaching or are a corruption. And it is no little aid towards its resolution to find that Luther himself at one time rejected the Apocalypse, called the Epistle of St. James “straminea,” condemned the word “Trinity,” fell into a kind of Eutychianism in his view of the Holy Eucharist, and in a particular case sanctioned bigamy. Calvinism, again, in various distinct countries, has become Socinianism, and Calvin himself seems to have denied our Lord’s Eternal Sonship and ridiculed the Nicene Creed.

Newman concludes by stating that a definite anticipation of a future development in an idea is evidence of a true development rather than a corruption.

Newman on the Fifth Note:

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One Response to Cardinal Newman Development of Doctrine-Fifth Note-Anticipation of Its Future

Cardinal Newman Development of Doctrine-First Note-Preservation of Type

Sunday, February 28, AD 2010

Continuing on with my series on the seven notes, I would call them tests, which Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman developed for determining whether some aspect of Church teaching is a development of doctrine or a corruption of doctrine.  We began with Note Six-Conservative Action Upon Its Past, and I would highly recommend that any one who has not read the first post in the series read it here before proceeding with this post.  We will now take the remaining notes in numerical order.  This post will deal with the First Note-Preservation of Type.

In regard to Preservation of Type, Cardinal Newman takes pains to point out that the idea underlying the doctrine remains of the same type while the external manifestations of the idea may change greatly.  His illustration from Roman history conveys his point well:

On the other hand, real perversions and corruptions are often not so unlike externally to the doctrine from which they come, as are changes which are consistent with it and true developments. When Rome changed from a Republic to an Empire, it was a real alteration of polity, or what may be called a corruption; yet in appearance the change was small. The old offices or functions of government remained: it was only that the Imperator, or Commander in Chief, concentrated them in his own person.  Augustus was Consul and Tribune, Supreme Pontiff and Censor, and the Imperial rule was, in the words of Gibbon, “an absolute monarchy disguised by the forms of a commonwealth.” On the other hand, when the dissimulation of Augustus was exchanged for the ostentation of Dioclesian, the real alteration of constitution was trivial, but the appearance of change was great. Instead of plain Consul, Censor, and Tribune, Dioclesian became Dominus or King, assumed the diadem, and threw around him the forms of a court.

In other words in determining  whether there has been the preservation of type in a development of doctrine we must look at the substance and ignore the form.  For example, in the Middle Ages laymen would often receive communion once a year out of great reverence for the body of Christ.  Now we are encouraged to be frequent communicants.  However, the underlying reverence that the Church commands for the body and blood of Christ remains the same.

Cardinal Newman concludes:

An idea then does not always bear about it the same external image; this circumstance, however, has no force to weaken the argument for its substantial identity, as drawn from its external sameness, when such sameness remains. On the contrary, for that very reason, unity of type becomes so much the surer guarantee of the healthiness and soundness of developments, when it is persistently preserved in spite of their number or importance.

Newman on the First Note:

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Cardinal Newman Development of Doctrine-Sixth Note-Conservative Action Upon its Past

Monday, February 22, AD 2010


Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, among his many other services to the Church, clarified the concept of development of doctrine as opposed to corruptions of doctrine that occasionally fasten on the Church and are shed off by the Church over time.

Newman posited seven notes, I would call them tests, for determining whether something is a development of doctrine or a corruption.

1.  Preservation of Type

2.  Continuity of Principles

3.  Power of Assimilation

4.  Logical Sequence

5.  Anticipation of Its Future

6.  Conservative Action upon Its Past

7.  Chronic Vigour

Each of these notes are explained by Newman in detail.  The concepts aren’t simple either in theory or in application, at least to me, but Newman does a first rate job of explaining them.  The note that has always fascinated me is number six, no doubt because I have always found history fascinating, and the history of the Church especially so.

Newman is quite clear that under the Sixth Note a Development of Doctrine does not reverse what has gone before:  

A true development, then, may be described as one which is conservative of the course of antecedent developments being really those antecedents and something besides them: it is an addition which illustrates, not obscures, corroborates, not corrects, the body of thought from which it proceeds; and this is its characteristic as contrasted with a corruption.

As developments which are preceded by definite indications have a fair presumption in their favour, so those which do but contradict and reverse the course of doctrine which has been developed before them, and out of which they spring, are certainly corrupt; for a corruption is a development in that very stage in which it ceases to illustrate, and begins to disturb, the acquisitions gained in its previous history.

Newman sums up the Sixth Note as follows:  

And thus a sixth test of a true development is that it is of a tendency conservative of what has gone before it.

We live in a time of massive change for the Church.  Change there has always been in the Church, but change on the scale since the calling of the Second Vatican Council is unprecedented.  Newman gives us an analytical tool in his theory of Development of Doctrine to try to discern what changes represent true developments of doctrine and what changes are mere corruptions fastened upon  the Church due to popular intellectual and political movements and prejudices of our time, or reactions to such movements and prejudices,   rather than organic developments from the past history of the Church. 

An example of an organic development of doctrine and what I think is a corruption will now be given.  An organic development is illustrated by Pius XII’s proclamation of the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary.  In Munificentissimus Deus Pius XII took pains to show how the doctrine had developed over the centuries.  An example of a corruption I think is the Syllabus of Errors of Pius IX.  Although a defense of the Syllabus can be mounted, and I have done so in the past, and there is much in the Syllabus that is still held by the Church,  it is also fairly obvious that Pio Nono was writing largely in reaction to intellectual and political trends in his time with which he was not in sympathy.  Pio Nono was deeply wedded to an intellectual and political world view that was dying before his eyes.  He sought to enlist the Church in support of what he cherished.  Time has demonstrated that, great Pope though he was, the attempt of Pius in the Syllabus of Errors to outline how the Church should deal with the modern world has proven transitory and a corruption that the Church today merely ignores.  Pope Benedict, before he became Pope, referred to Gaudium et Spes as a “counter-Syllabus”.  What new bedrock doctrines and teachings of the Church, which have made an appearance over the last few pontificates, will be totally ignored by popes a century or more hence, only time will reveal, although Newman and his Development of Doctrine analysis may give us hints. 

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32 Responses to Cardinal Newman Development of Doctrine-Sixth Note-Conservative Action Upon its Past

  • Could you please provide a passage, directly from Newman, that clearly and manifestly indicates that Newman thinks his seven notes are to be used in judging the teaching of Popes?

  • Cardinal Newman’s Essay applies his method to teachings pronounced by Church Councils and Popes. You may read his entire Essay on-line at the link below.

  • Certainly, Newman applies his principles to various Church teachings. Yet where has Newman ever indicated that we can use his seven notes to somehow distinguish true papal teachings from corrupt? I can find no example. Yet your post seems to imply that that was his intention. Do you have evidence? (The evidence I can find seems to point to the contrary. For example, at one point Newman says: “wherever the Pope has been renounced, decay and division have been the consequence”.)

  • The application of his test to the teachings of Councils and the Popes indicates that it was Newman’s intention to so use his Development of Doctrine analysis. That Newman found that none of the teachings of the Councils and the Popes that he examined were corruptions, does not mean that his analysis could not so find, but merely that what he examined he found to be organic developments.

    In regard to the Syllabus of Errors of Pius IX, in a letter Cardinal Newman chose his words quite carefully:

    “Here I am led to interpose a remark;—it is plain, then, that there are those near, or with access, to the Holy Father, who would, if they could, go much further in the way of assertion and command, than the divine Assistentia, which overshadows him, wills or permits; so that his acts and his words on doctrinal subjects must be carefully scrutinized and weighed, before we can be sure what really he has said. Utterances which must be received as coming from an Infallible Voice are not made every day, indeed they are very rare; and those which are by some persons affirmed or assumed to be such, do not always turn out what they are said to be; nay, even such as are really dogmatic must be read by definite rules and by traditional principles of interpretation, which are as cogent and unchangeable as the Pope’s own decisions themselves. What I have to say presently will illustrate this truth; meanwhile I use the circumstance which has led to my mentioning it, for another purpose here. When intelligence which we receive from Rome startles and pains us from its seemingly harsh or extreme character, let us learn to have some little faith and patience, and not take for granted that all that is reported is the truth. There are those who wish and try to carry measures and declare they have carried, when they have not carried them. How many strong things, for instance, have been reported with a sort of triumph on one side and with irritation and despondency on the other, of what the Vatican Council has done; whereas the very next year after it, Bishop Fessler, the Secretary General of the Council, brings out his work on “True and False Infallibility,” reducing what was said to be so monstrous to its true dimensions. When I see all this going on, those grand lines in the Greek Tragedy always rise on my lips—

    [Oupote tan Dios harmonian
    thnaton parexiasi boulai],—

    {281} and still more the consolation given us by a Divine Speaker that, though the swelling sea is so threatening to look at, yet there is One who rules it and says, “Hitherto shalt thou come and no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed!”

    But to return:—the Syllabus then has no dogmatic force; it addresses us, not in its separate portions, but as a whole, and is to be received from the Pope by an act of obedience, not of faith, that obedience being shown by having recourse to the original and authoritative documents, (Allocutions and the like,) to which it pointedly refers. Moreover, when we turn to those documents, which are authoritative, we find the Syllabus cannot even be called an echo of the Apostolic Voice; for, in matters in which wording is so important, it is not an exact transcript of the words of the Pope, in its account of the errors condemned,—just as is natural in what is professedly an index for reference.”

    The whole text of the letter may be read at the link below:

  • Donald: “The application of his test to the teachings of Councils and the Popes indicates that it was Newman’s intention to so use his Development of Doctrine analysis.”

    Newman asserts that the Catholic doctrine of Councils and Popes can develop in a legitimate way consistent with his seven notes. Nowhere at all does he says that his seven notes are a way of deciding whether that doctrine is true or corrupt. One does not necessarily follow from the other. You have asserted this, but still have provided nothing from Newman. All Newman’s examples of corrupt doctrine come from places other than Councils and Popes.

    In effect, Newman says “All teachings of the Councils and the Popes develop consistently with the seven notes.” You are claiming that what he really meant was “All true teachings of the Councils and the Popes develop consistently with the seven notes, and all such false teachings don’t”. Those are very different statements, and you have not provided any evidence that Newman ever meant the second.

    Reading what Newman says about the Syllabus of Errors of Pius IX shows that Newman is of the opinion that the Syllabus should be treated as a reference index to other teachings of Pius IX — which such teachings Newman says are to be treated as authoritative. So Newman considers that the Syllabus itself is simply not the kind of teaching that his seven notes are to be applied to, but that the things it points to are.

  • Applying the tests of the seven notes Paul would be a completely useless exercise by Cardinal Newman if the result was a forgone conclusion as to the teachings propounded by all councils and all popes. Newman was intellectually honest. If he had found a teaching of a council or a pope that failed the tests he would have said so.

    Cardinal Newman thought the Syllabus of Errors was a disaster, hence his careful language.

    The author of this post at a rad-trad site linked below contends that Newman was considered unorthodox by members of the heirarchy of his day.

    The author is correct in so much as Newman found himself out of sympathy with many of the actions of Pope Pius IX. He did hope that a new pope and a new council would alter some of the actions of Pius IX and alter what had been accomplished at Vatican I. Pius IX mistrusted Newman, largely based on what he was told by emissaries of Cardinal Manning who distrusted Newman and considered him unorthodox. It was the successor of Pius, Leo XIII who made Newman a cardinal. The author is incorrect in claiming that Newman was unorthodox in regard to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

  • Donald: “Applying the tests of the seven notes Paul would be a completely useless exercise by Cardinal Newman if the result was a forgone conclusion as to the teachings propounded by all councils and all popes.”

    The purpose of Newman’s writing on the development of doctrine was to demonstrate that while the Church’s teaching had definitely developed, it had never changed. Hence he carefully described what could legitimately constitute the development of doctrine, and so lays out his seven notes. His motive is given right in his introduction: “It would be the work of a life to apply the Theory of Developments so carefully to the writings of the Fathers, and to the history of controversies and councils, as thereby to vindicate the reasonableness of every decision of Rome..”

    Hence, following Newman, if some particular doctrine is carefully examined, and found to be a change of doctrine from what was taught earlier in the Church’s history — and not a development along the lines of Newman’s seven notes — it will also be found not to be a teaching of the Church. (The false teaching will not be found to be false teaching of a Council or Pope — it will be found never to have been taught by any Council or Pope.)

  • Your argument would be much more convincing Paul if Newman wasn’t on record as being privately opposed to many of the actions of the Pope, Pio Nono, who led the Church throughout most of his adult life. Newman thought that many of those actions were completely mistaken, something which subsequent actions by the Church since the death of Pius IX has partially endorsed.

    For example, we have this from number 78 of the Syllabus of errors:

    “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.”

    It is impossible to square that with current teaching of the Church on religious liberty. Both propositions cannot be true. One must be true and one a corruption. Newman gives us an analytical framework to address such contradictions.

  • If, as you claim, Newman was “privately opposed” to some actions, or thought them “completely mistaken”, then what does that have to do with Newman’s defence of the development of doctrine? I still see no evidence at all that Newman intended his seven notes ever to be used in judging authoritative Church teaching.

    As for the 78th error that you quote, we would have to see the original language of “Allocution ‘Acerbissimum,’ Sept. 27, 1852.” that is being referred to, before we could decide exactly what was being talked about. (It seems to be something that was in reaction to something that ‘New Granada’ had done. But what?) On the face of it, I would guess that it condemns the idea that Catholic governments should do nothing to select its immigrants based on religion. What would be the problem be with that?

    I find it considerably more likely that you (or I) should unwittingly read a single isolated sentence in a way at variance with the intention of the original author, than that the Church should make an error in its teaching.

  • I still see no evidence at all that Newman intended his seven notes ever to be used in judging authoritative Church teaching.

    At the risk of tautology, it seems to me that Newman was not intending his seven notes to judge authoritative Church teaching, but rather to judge whether something was in fact an authoritative Church teaching.

    In other words, it would seem an obvious assumption that for Newman to have advanced such notes in the first placed he assumed that within the set of “Church teaching” there must be some teaching with is authoritative and some which is not — and thus a necessity of discerning between the two.

  • DarwinCatholic: “At the risk of tautology, it seems to me that Newman was not intending his seven notes to judge authoritative Church teaching, but rather to judge whether something was in fact an authoritative Church teaching.

    I agree with that — having said something exactly along those lines a couple of comments of mine back.

    I think that Newman asserts the truth of these two propositions:

    P1: All developed Church doctrine will have developed consistently with Newman’s seven notes.
    P2: Heretical doctrine will (always? mostly?) be found to violate one or more of the seven notes.

    So, finding the seven notes is either (a) for a Catholic, an excellent way of demonstrating that some particular true doctrine has indeed developed, and not changed, or (b) for a non-Catholic, a potential way to discern that a particular proposed false teaching has in fact changed at some point in history.

    For a Catholic, I don’t think the seven notes are something particularly practical in discerning or judging whether something is true doctrine or not. They definitely might be — but perhaps not all that often. Take the case of the 78th error in that Syllabus, that Donald presents. I am quite sure that if (or when) we reconstruct the mid-19th century historical context of that reference, we shall find that Pius IX’s condemnation was accurate. But it’s all too easy to read it out of that context, and wrongly conclude that it is a change from today’s teaching.

    Applying those seven notes is sometimes hard. Whereas, as a Catholic, if I want to discern what the current Pope is authoritatively teaching, I have a much easier task — I can use google, and I’m done. I don’t have to apply the seven notes to decide if Benedict XVI’s teaching is true, nor should I. I discern his teaching, because it’s plainly there right in front of me. (Would it satisfy the seven notes, were I to examine it in that amount of detail? Definitely so! But I don’t do that to discern if it’s authoritative — since there are easier and more direct ways.)

    Which has more authority: what the Pope teaches, or the results of my personal application of the seven notes?

    DarwinCatholic: “In other words, it would seem an obvious assumption that for Newman to have advanced such notes in the first placed he assumed that within the set of “Church teaching” there must be some teaching with is authoritative and some which is not — and thus a necessity of discerning between the two.”

    Newman started his “Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine” a non-Catholic, and — logically — finished it as a Catholic. So such a discernment certainly worked for that non-Catholic. But for a Catholic, I think that the seven notes should serve a different purpose.

  • “I find it considerably more likely that you (or I) should unwittingly read a single isolated sentence in a way at variance with the intention of the original author, than that the Church should make an error in its teaching.”

    Paul, Pio Nono was expressing the traditional teaching of the Church against freedom of religion. Now the Church teaches that freedom of religion is a right. For example, in Mirari Vos, we have Pope Gregory XVI stating the following: “14. This shameful font of indifferentism gives rise to that absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone. It spreads ruin in sacred and civil affairs, though some repeat over and over again with the greatest impudence that some advantage accrues to religion from it. “But the death of the soul is worse than freedom of error,” as Augustine was wont to say.21 When all restraints are removed by which men are kept on the narrow path of truth, their nature, which is already inclined to evil, propels them to ruin. Then truly “the bottomless pit”22] is open from which John saw smoke ascending which obscured the sun, and out of which locusts flew forth to devastate the earth. Thence comes transformation of minds, corruption of youths, contempt of sacred things and holy laws–in other words, a pestilence more deadly to the state than any other. Experience shows, even from earliest times, that cities renowned for wealth, dominion, and glory perished as a result of this single evil, namely immoderate freedom of opinion, license of free speech, and desire for novelty.”

    Pio Nono in Quanta Cura quotes Pope Gregory:

    “For you well know, venerable brethren, that at this time men are found not a few who, applying to civil society the impious and absurd principle of “naturalism,” as they call it, dare to teach that “the best constitution of public society and (also) civil progress altogether require that human society be conducted and governed without regard being had to religion any more than if it did not exist; or, at least, without any distinction being made between the true religion and false ones.” And, against the doctrine of Scripture, of the Church, and of the Holy Fathers, they do not hesitate to assert that “that is the best condition of civil society, in which no duty is recognized, as attached to the civil power, of restraining by enacted penalties, offenders against the Catholic religion, except so far as public peace may require.” From which totally false idea of social government they do not fear to foster that erroneous opinion, most fatal in its effects on the Catholic Church and the salvation of souls, called by Our Predecessor, Gregory XVI, an “insanity,”2 viz., that “liberty of conscience and worship is each man’s personal right, which ought to be legally proclaimed and asserted in every rightly constituted society; and that a right resides in the citizens to an absolute liberty, which should be restrained by no authority whether ecclesiastical or civil, whereby they may be able openly and publicly to manifest and declare any of their ideas whatever, either by word of mouth, by the press, or in any other way.” But, while they rashly affirm this, they do not think and consider that they are preaching “liberty of perdition;”3 and that “if human arguments are always allowed free room for discussion, there will never be wanting men who will dare to resist truth, and to trust in the flowing speech of human wisdom; whereas we know, from the very teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, how carefully Christian faith and wisdom should avoid this most injurious babbling.””

    Freedom of religion as a right, and as taught by the Church today, would have struck Pio Nono and virtually all the Popes before him, at least to the time of Constantine, as the rankest of heresy. This is not my opinion, this is simply the historical record. For a Catholic who believes, as I do, that the Church cannot fall into error that presents a problem.

  • The late Avery Cardinal Dulles wrote on this problem here:

    Since I support religious freedom, I wish I could simply accept his argument. However, I believe on this point the bishops at Vatican II who opposed this change in regard to religious freedom have the better of the argument in regard to the history of the Church.

    Cardinal Dulles got to the heart of the issue with this paragraph:

    “If DH is compared with earlier official Catholic teaching, it represents an undeniable, even a dramatic, change. The question must therefore be asked: Was the Declaration a homogeneous development within the Catholic tradition, or was it a repudiation of previous Church doctrine?”

    He answers that it was a homogeneous development. He argues that the teaching of the nineteenth century Popes was not erroneous but was limited by the political and social horizons of their time. Of course this could be said about the current pope or any pope going back to Peter. He ends his essay as follows:

    “Over the past fifty years we have seen a strong and welcome development of the doctrine of religious freedom. Articulating the principles of the gospel in new situations, the Church has found a new voice. She speaks with a fresh awareness of the dignity and freedom that God wills for all human beings and with a deeper realization of the limited competence of civil governments. As the Church adapts her social teaching to changing political and social circumstances, she comes to a sharper perception of certain aspects and consequences of the gospel. The teaching of the nineteenth-century popes was not erroneous, but was limited by the political and social horizons of the time. In the words of DH, Vatican II brought forth from the Church’s treasury “new things in harmony with those that are old.” This process of development must continue as the Church faces the new problems and opportunities that arise in successive generations.”

    Try as I might, I find the essay ultimately unconvincing and an argument, which I am sure that Cardinal Dulles did not intend, for changing Church teaching to accomodate changing times.

  • Donald: “Pio Nono was expressing the traditional teaching of the Church against freedom of religion.”

    A piece of evidence that you proffered was that on September 27th 1852, Pius IX said something (exactly what, we don’t have before us) in response to some particular historical situation (and likewise, we don’t know what). And despite these significant unknowns, you are quite sure Pius IX is in contradiction to (say) Dignitatis Humanae.
    This doesn’t sound reasonable to me in the slightest.

    So it is a slight improvement that you refer to Mirari Vos, since we at least have the text before us. Though, since it was written in 1832, we still have the necessity of understanding something about the historical situation, in order to understand what Gregory XVI was responding to. But that hasn’t been interpreted by you either. Likewise for Quanta Cura.

    What exactly do the words “liberty of conscience” refer to? Does it mean that this is an absolute liberty — so that if your conscience says that you must chop off my head, I must allow you that liberty? Surely not. But, once it is admitted that such liberty is not absolute, then the limits of that liberty must be set out.

    And where are the limits? Dignitatis Humanae, when it declared that freedom of religion was a right (i.e. freedom from coercion), also indicated that the freedom was not an absolute, but that it had to be a freedom subject to the objective moral law. And that such freedom also had to be in harmony with the rights of all citizens. And in harmony with genuine public peace. And in harmony with a guardianship of public morality. All these limits come right out of Dignitatis Humanae.

    Whatever Mirari Vos was responding to, that problem had only to infringe on one of those conditions for Mirari Vos and Dignitatis Humanae to be in agreement. That hardly seems unlikely.

    Donald: “Try as I might, I find the essay ultimately unconvincing”

    I am finding extraordinarily difficult to respond to your position, since you are — for whatever reason — presenting particular quotes as those it were absolutely clear and unchallengeable as to what they mean, though you avoid any discussion of their context. And Cardinal Dulles long and detailed essay is simply described as “unconvincing”.

    Donald: “I find the essay ultimately unconvincing and an argument, which I am sure that Cardinal Dulles did not intend, for changing Church teaching to accomodate changing times.”

    I would guess that there are many people who have in mind some particular changes that they would like to see in Catholic teaching, and who are on that account unwilling to see that Catholic teaching may develop, but not change. Are you are one of them?

  • Paul, are you seriously attempting to contend that the Church was not opposed to freedom of religion for the vast majority of the history of the Church? I can understand your obvious strong desire to pretend that there is no contradiction between what the Church teaches in this area now and what the Church taught in the past but the historical record is clear on this point.

    The texts I could cite are endless. At random here is the 3rd canon of the Fourth Lateran Council:

    “CANON 3
    Text. We excommunicate and anathematize every heresy that raises against the holy, orthodox and Catholic faith which we have above explained; condemning all heretics under whatever names they may be known, for while they have different faces they are nevertheless bound to each other by their tails, since in all of them vanity is a common element. Those condemned, being handed over to the secular rulers of their bailiffs, let them be abandoned, to be punished with due justice, clerics being first degraded from their orders. As to the property of the condemned, if they are laymen, let it be confiscated; if clerics, let it be applied to the churches from which they received revenues. But those who are only suspected, due consideration being given to the nature of the suspicion and the character of the person, unless they prove their innocence by a proper defense, let them be anathematized and avoided by all 1-intil they have made suitable satisfaction; but if they have been under excommunication for one year, then let them be condemned as heretics. Secular authorities, whatever office they may hold, shall be admonished and induced and if necessary compelled by ecclesiastical censure, that as they wish to be esteemed and numbered among the faithful, so for the defense of the faith they ought publicly to take an oath that they will strive in good faith and to the best of their ability to exterminate in the territories subject to their jurisdiction all heretics pointed out by the Church; so that whenever anyone shall have assumed authority, whether spiritual or temporal, let him be bound to confirm this decree by oath. But if a temporal ruler, after having been requested and admonished by the Church, should neglect to cleanse his territory of this heretical foulness, let him be excommunicated by the metropolitan and the other bishops of the province. If he refuses to make satisfaction within a year, let the matter be made known to the supreme pontiff, that he may declare the ruler’s vassals absolved from their allegiance and may offer the territory to be ruled lay Catholics, who on the extermination of the heretics may possess it without hindrance and preserve it in the purity of faith; the right, however, of the chief ruler is to be respected as long as he offers no obstacle in this matter and permits freedom of action. The same law is to be observed in regard to those who have no chief rulers (that is, are independent). Catholics who have girded themselves with the cross for the extermination of the heretics, shall enjoy the indulgences and privileges granted to those who go in defense of the Holy Land.

    We decree that those who give credence to the teachings of the heretics, as well as those who receive, defend, and patronize them, are excommunicated; and we firmly declare that after any one of them has been branded with excommunication, if he has deliberately failed to make satisfaction within a year, let him incur ipso jure the stigma of infamy and let him not be admitted to public offices or deliberations, and let him not take part in the election of others to such offices or use his right to give testimony in a court of law. Let him also be intestable, that he may not have the free exercise of making a will, and let him be deprived of the right of inheritance. Let no one be urged to give an account to him in any matter, but let him be urged to give an account to others. If perchance he be a judge, let his decisions have no force, nor let any cause be brought to his attention. If he be an advocate, let his assistance by no means be sought. If a notary, let the instruments drawn up by him be considered worthless, for, the author being condemned, let them enjoy a similar fate. In all similar cases we command that the same be observed. If, however, he be a cleric, let him be deposed from every office and benefice, that the greater the fault the graver may be the punishment inflicted.

    If any refuse to avoid such after they have been ostracized by the Church, let them be excommunicated till they have made suitable satisfaction. Clerics shall not give the sacraments of the Church to such pestilential people, nor shall they presume to give them Christian burial, or to receive their alms or offerings; otherwise they shall be deprived of their office, to which they may not be restored without a special indult of the Apostolic See. Similarly, all regulars, on whom also this punishment may be imposed, let their privileges be nullified in that diocese in which they have presumed to perpetrate such excesses.”

    But since some, under “the appearance of godliness, but denying the power thereof,” as the Apostle says (II Tim. 3: 5), arrogate to themselves the authority to preach, as the same Apostle says: “How shall they preach unless they be sent?” (Rom. 10:15), all those prohibited or not sent, who, without the authority of the Apostolic See or of the Catholic bishop of the locality, shall presume to usurp the office of preaching either publicly or privately, shall be excommunicated and unless they amend, and the sooner the better, they shall be visited with a further suitable penalty. We add, moreover, that every archbishop or bishop should himself or through his archdeacon or some other suitable persons, twice or at least once a year make the rounds of his diocese in which report has it that heretics dwell, and there compel three or more men of good character or, if it should be deemed advisable, the entire neighborhood, to swear that if anyone know of the presence there of heretics or others holding secret assemblies, or differing from the common way of the faithful in faith and morals, they will make them known to the bishop. The latter shall then call together before him those accused, who, if they do not purge themselves of the matter of which they are accused, or if after the rejection of their error they lapse into their former wickedness, shall be canonically punished. But if any of them by damnable obstinacy should disapprove of the oath and should perchance be unwilling to swear, from this very fact let them be regarded as heretics.

    We wish, therefore, and in virtue of obedience strictly command, that to carry out these instructions effectively the bishops exercise throughout their dioceses a scrupulous vigilance if they wish to escape canonical punishment. If from sufficient evidence it is apparent that a bishop is negligent or remiss in cleansing his diocese of the ferment of heretical wickedness, let him be deposed from the episcopal office and let another, who will and can confound heretical depravity, be substituted.”

    Development of Doctrine Paul is one thing. Flat contradiction of previous doctrine is another. If the Church can do 180’s in one area of doctrine, why not in all areas of doctrine?

  • The late Father Richard Neuhaus, a supporter of Dignitatis Humanae, forthrightly addressed the problem of contradiction that I am referring to in an interview in 2003:

    “A third reason has to do with what Cardinal Newman called the development of doctrine. This is the only document of the Council that explicitly asserts an intention to develop doctrine: “[T]he council intends to develop the doctrine of recent popes on the inviolable rights of the human person and the constitutional order of society.” Development is the unfolding and making explicit what was implicit in prior teaching, but it understandably raises concerns about changes and even contradictions within the tradition.

    Which brings us to the fourth reason for controversy, namely, the acknowledgment that Catholics have not always been faithful to what we now understand to be the Church’s teaching.

    That point is handled delicately in the declaration: “Throughout the ages, the Church has kept safe and handed on the doctrine received from the Master and from the apostles. In the life of the People of God as it has made its pilgrim way through the vicissitudes of human history, there have at times appeared ways of acting which were less in accord with the spirit of the Gospel and even opposed to it. Nevertheless, the doctrine of the Church that no one is to be coerced into faith has always stood firm.”

    In the vicissitudes of history, the idea and practice of religious freedom is little more than 200 years old, and it was, more often than not, championed by forces in explicit opposition to the Catholic Church. The fierce anti-clericalism of the French Revolution of 1789 cast a long shadow over Catholic thinking.

    With the declaration on religious freedom, the Council drew on the dramatically different experience of the American Revolution of 1776, which is why the declaration is sometimes called the “American document” of the Council. For Council fathers whose minds were shaped more by 1789 than by 1776, it is understandable that the idea of religious freedom was viewed with considerable suspicion.

    It is worth noting also that the declaration’s acknowledgment that Church leaders in the past sometimes acted in ways opposed to the Gospel can be seen as a precursor to John Paul’s bold campaign for a “purification of memories,” which, of course, is still controversial in some quarters today.”

  • Donald: “Paul, are you seriously attempting to contend that the Church was not opposed to freedom of religion for the vast majority of the history of the Church?”

    Look at the careful wording of Dignitatis Humanae (DH):

    “This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.”

    DH defines religious freedom as immunity from coercion, within due limits. (I already indicated those due limits in my previous comment.)

    Then later DH says: “In the life of the People of God, as it has made its pilgrim way through the vicissitudes of human history, there has at times appeared a way of acting that was hardly in accord with the spirit of the Gospel or even opposed to it. Nevertheless, the doctrine of the Church that no one is to be coerced into faith has always stood firm.”

    So, yes, I believe that the Church has never taught against freedom of religion — and that’s exactly what DH says, as well.

    You give a long quote from the Fourth Lateran, but — yet again — miss out the necessary historical context. The heretics this canon was mainly aimed against were the Albigensians. One of their most notable teachings was that sexual intercourse was a sin. How can any society expect to continue if it does nothing to counter such a belief? Logically followed, that eliminates the human race. Another part of their teachings led to murder-suicide pacts (if a believer recovered from a sickness that initially was thought to be fatal). Allowing that is again outside the due limits of religious freedom.

    I don’t see the point of you providing the long quote from Neuhaus — he nowhere says that there was a contradiction, but only that concerns were raised about it.

  • Actually Paul, as the text indicates, the Canon was against all heresies and not just the Albigensians. The Church at the time also was attempting to crush the Waldensians in Northern Italy, along with many minor heresies. As for the Albigensians, your understanding of them is faulty. Ordinary members of the sect could reproduce freely. The “Perfect”, their clergy, among them were the only ones to abstain from sex. Of course it is hard for us to know precisely just what they taught since Simon de Montfort and his crusaders did a very effective job of exterminating most of them and the Dominicans burned almost all of their texts along with all of their leaders they could get their hands on. This is an aspect of the history of the Church that many modern Catholics would wish to forget, but it is part of our heritage as Catholics. To say, as DH does, that the Church never attempted to coerce belief is simply laughable. There were usually penalties assessed through most of the history of the Church for missing Mass, not paying tithes, failing to make the Easter duty, etc. Catholics fallen from the Faith who acted publicly to signify their heresy risked dreadful penalties, unless they recanted their heresy. Competing religions were smashed and made illegal wherever the Church held sway, except for a grudging tolerance extended to the Jews. Once again, this is not my opinion, it is simply the historical record. Vatican II accomplished many things, but rewriting the history of the Church is far beyond its purview.

    Now why did earlier Catholics act this way? Were they intolerant monsters? The vast majority no. They were convinced that they possessed the True Faith. They were not going to allow other religions to spread and drag the souls of men and women down to Hell. They believed this with every fibre of their being. As modern Catholics are repulsed by their actions, they would be repulsed at our doctrine of giving liberty to other religions and allowing religious error free reign to grow in power. DH is what most modern Catholics believe. To most of our predecessors in the Faith prior to the last century it would have been considered complete nonsense. I share the attitudes of modern Catholics as to freedom of religion, but as a matter of faith I am uncertain that we are right and our predecessors wrong.

  • Donald: “Actually Paul, as the text indicates, the Canon was against all heresies and not just the Albigensians.”

    I said it was mainly aimed at the Albigensians.

    Donald: “Ordinary members of the sect could reproduce freely. The “Perfect”, their clergy, among them were the only ones to abstain from sex.”

    “Albigensian” was not something of fixed meaning, Different regions did not necessarily have the same beliefs.

    I haven’t been able to figure out what you think ‘coercion’ actually refers to. The canon that you quote from the Fourth Lateran operates under two principles: (1) that a Catholic who becomes a heretic may be excommunicated, and that this may affect his relationship with other Catholics. I don’t seen any coercion in that. (2) that a heretic may also be punished by the secular authorities with (as the canon says) “due justice”. Again, I don’t see that as coercion. As I pointed out, the Albigensians promoted the idea of an ‘endura’, which was essentially a murder-suicide pact. So it can legitimately be said that their heresy was against the common good, and could properly be subject to secular punishment.

    And since I am defending the teaching of the various Popes and Councils, it does no good to point out all the various historical actions by Catholics that were coercion. I agree that there were plenty of them. I am looking for some authoritative Catholic teaching that coercion against another religion is good.

    Donald: “our doctrine of … allowing religious error free reign to grow in power.”

    Dignitatis Humanae certainly doesn’t teach that.

  • Paul, the seminal text in regard to the use of coercion as to religion was set forth by Saint Augustine in a letter which has been designated Epistle 93. This was settled Catholic doctrine until the day before yesterday in historical terms. You may read the full text at the link below:

    The Popes through the ages did speak out against forcible baptism of Jews, but even that rule was somewhat shaky as Pio Nono’s actions in the Levi-Mortara affair indicate.

  • The text from Augustine doesn’t demonstrate anything that goes against Dignitatis Humanae. At the time of the Donatists, the historical record shows that there were actions of great violence and disorder. Augustine thought it was right that the Donatists should be countered by appealing to the Emperor to restore peace by the use of force. That kind of use of force does not amount to the kind of coercion that is condemned by Dignitatis Humanae, which is careful to indicate that the freedom of religion is not absolute, but subject to due limits.

    As for the Levi-Mortara affair: since I am defending teaching, and not actions, you need to point to some relevant teaching text, for there to be something I can discuss.

  • I will ask anyone else reading this Paul to judge whether there is anyway in the world this passage from Saint Augustine’s letter can be interpreted to be in accord with DH:

    “I have therefore yielded to the evidence afforded by these instances which my colleagues have laid before me. For originally my opinion was, that no one should be coerced into the unity of Christ, that we must act only by words, fight only by arguments, and prevail by force of reason, lest we should have those whom we knew as avowed heretics feigning themselves to be Catholics. But this opinion of mine was overcome not by the words of those who controverted it, but by the conclusive instances to which they could point. For, in the first place, there was set over against my opinion my own town, which, although it was once wholly on the side of Donatus, was brought over to the Catholic unity by fear of the imperial edicts, but which we now see filled with such detestation of your ruinous perversity, that it would scarcely be believed that it had ever been involved in your error. There were so many others which were mentioned to me by name, that, from facts themselves, I was made to own that to this matter the word of Scripture might be understood as applying: Give opportunity to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser. Proverbs 9:9 For how many were already, as we assuredly know, willing to be Catholics, being moved by the indisputable plainness of truth, but daily putting off their avowal of this through fear of offending their own party! How many were bound, not by truth— for you never pretended to that as yours— but by the heavy chains of inveterate custom, so that in them was fulfilled the divine saying: A servant (who is hardened) will not be corrected by words; for though he understand, he will not answer! Proverbs 29:19 How many supposed the sect of Donatus to be the true Church, merely because ease had made them too listless, or conceited, or sluggish, to take pains to examine Catholic truth! How many would have entered earlier had not the calumnies of slanderers, who declared that we offered something else than we do upon the altar of God, shut them out! How many, believing that it mattered not to which party a Christian might belong, remained in the schism of Donatus only because they had been born in it, and no one was compelling them to forsake it and pass over into the Catholic Church!

    18. To all these classes of persons the dread of those laws in the promulgation of which kings serve the Lord in fear has been so useful, that now some say we were willing for this some time ago; but thanks be to God, who has given us occasion for doing it at once, and has cut off the hesitancy of procrastination! Others say: We already knew this to be true, but we were held prisoners by the force of old custom: thanks be to the Lord, who has broken these bonds asunder, and has brought us into the bond of peace! Others say: We knew not that the truth was here, and we had no wish to learn it; but fear made us become earnest to examine it when we became alarmed, lest, without any gain in things eternal, we should be smitten with loss in temporal things: thanks be to the Lord, who has by the stimulus of fear startled us from our negligence, that now being disquieted we might inquire into those things which, when at ease, we did not care to know! Others say: We were prevented from entering the Church by false reports, which we could not know to be false unless we entered it; and we would not enter unless we were compelled: thanks be to the Lord, who by His scourge took away our timid hesitation, and taught us to find out for ourselves how vain and absurd were the lies which rumour had spread abroad against His Church: by this we are persuaded that there is no truth in the accusations made by the authors of this heresy, since the more serious charges which their followers have invented are without foundation. Others say: We thought, indeed, that it mattered not in what communion we held the faith of Christ; but thanks to the Lord, who has gathered us in from a state of schism, and has taught us that it is fitting that the one God be worshipped in unity.

    19. Could I therefore maintain opposition to my colleagues, and by resisting them stand in the way of such conquests of the Lord, and prevent the sheep of Christ which were wandering on your mountains and hills— that is, on the swellings of your pride— from being gathered into the fold of peace, in which there is one flock and one Shepherd? John 10:16 Was it my duty to obstruct these measures, in order, forsooth, that you might not lose what you call your own, and might without fear rob Christ of what is His: that you might frame your testaments according to Roman law, and might by calumnious accusations break the Testament made with the sanction of Divine law to the fathers, in which it was written, In your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed: Genesis 26:4 that you might have freedom in your transactions in the way of buying and selling, and might be emboldened to divide and claim as your own that which Christ bought by giving Himself as its price: that any gift made over by one of you to another might remain unchallenged, and that the gift which the God of gods has bestowed upon His children, called from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof, might become invalid: that you might not be sent into exile from the land of your natural birth, and that you might labour to banish Christ from the kingdom bought with His blood, which extends from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth? Nay verily; let the kings of the earth serve Christ by making laws for Him and for His cause. Your predecessors exposed Cæcilianus and his companions to be punished by the kings of the earth for crimes with which they were falsely charged: let the lions now be turned to break in pieces the bones of the calumniators, and let no intercession for them be made by Daniel when he has been proved innocent, and set free from the den in which they meet their doom; Daniel 6:23-24 for he that prepares a pit for his neighbour shall himself most justly fall into it. Proverbs 26:27”

    I await your explanation Paul as to how this passage from the Summa of the Angelic Doctor is completely in accord with DH:

    “Article 3. Whether heretics ought to be tolerated?
    Objection 1. It seems that heretics ought to be tolerated. For the Apostle says (2 Timothy 2:24-25): “The servant of the Lord must not wrangle . . . with modesty admonishing them that resist the truth, if peradventure God may give them repentance to know the truth, and they may recover themselves from the snares of the devil.” Now if heretics are not tolerated but put to death, they lose the opportunity of repentance. Therefore it seems contrary to the Apostle’s command.

    Objection 2. Further, whatever is necessary in the Church should be tolerated. Now heresies are necessary in the Church, since the Apostle says (1 Corinthians 11:19): “There must be . . . heresies, that they . . . who are reproved, may be manifest among you.” Therefore it seems that heretics should be tolerated.

    Objection 3. Further, the Master commanded his servants (Matthew 13:30) to suffer the cockle “to grow until the harvest,” i.e. the end of the world, as a gloss explains it. Now holy men explain that the cockle denotes heretics. Therefore heretics should be tolerated.

    On the contrary, The Apostle says (Titus 3:10-11): “A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid: knowing that he, that is such an one, is subverted.”

    I answer that, With regard to heretics two points must be observed: one, on their own side; the other, on the side of the Church. On their own side there is the sin, whereby they deserve not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be severed from the world by death. For it is a much graver matter to corrupt the faith which quickens the soul, than to forge money, which supports temporal life. Wherefore if forgers of money and other evil-doers are forthwith condemned to death by the secular authority, much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death.

    On the part of the Church, however, there is mercy which looks to the conversion of the wanderer, wherefore she condemns not at once, but “after the first and second admonition,” as the Apostle directs: after that, if he is yet stubborn, the Church no longer hoping for his conversion, looks to the salvation of others, by excommunicating him and separating him from the Church, and furthermore delivers him to the secular tribunal to be exterminated thereby from the world by death. For Jerome commenting on Galatians 5:9, “A little leaven,” says: “Cut off the decayed flesh, expel the mangy sheep from the fold, lest the whole house, the whole paste, the whole body, the whole flock, burn, perish, rot, die. Arius was but one spark in Alexandria, but as that spark was not at once put out, the whole earth was laid waste by its flame.”

    Reply to Objection 1. This very modesty demands that the heretic should be admonished a first and second time: and if he be unwilling to retract, he must be reckoned as already “subverted,” as we may gather from the words of the Apostle quoted above.

    Reply to Objection 2. The profit that ensues from heresy is beside the intention of heretics, for it consists in the constancy of the faithful being put to the test, and “makes us shake off our sluggishness, and search the Scriptures more carefully,” as Augustine states (De Gen. cont. Manich. i, 1). What they really intend is the corruption of the faith, which is to inflict very great harm indeed. Consequently we should consider what they directly intend, and expel them, rather than what is beside their intention, and so, tolerate them.

    Reply to Objection 3. According to Decret. (xxiv, qu. iii, can. Notandum), “to be excommunicated is not to be uprooted.” A man is excommunicated, as the Apostle says (1 Corinthians 5:5) that his “spirit may be saved in the day of Our Lord.” Yet if heretics be altogether uprooted by death, this is not contrary to Our Lord’s command, which is to be understood as referring to the case when the cockle cannot be plucked up without plucking up the wheat, as we explained above (10, 8, ad 1), when treating of unbelievers in general.”

    In regard to Pio Nono he acted as he did because that was his interpretation as Pontiff of the Church laws governing baptism of Jews. He did not interpret a baptism of a Jewish infant without the parent’s consent as involving forcible baptism.

  • Donald, it’s very difficult to understand what your claims are. Are you making the claim that in the circumstances that Augustine found himself in (with great violence regularly being applied by the Donatists against Catholics), he nevertheless should not have appealed to the government of the time to repress this with force, and should have restricted Catholics to using only words against the Donatists? If so, both Augustine Dignitatis Humanae do not agree with you.

    (Had, for example, Augustine been faced with a non-violent and peaceful sect, posing no threat to the common good, and appealed to the government to suppress it, then he would have been using an illegitimate form of coercion — a form of coercion that Dignitatis Humanae teaches against. But that simply wasn’t the case.)

    Aquinas points out that the heretic is to be cut off from the flock, in order to protect the flock. In a Church context, that means excommunication — just as today. But at the time Aquinas was writing, the flock was not just a part of secular society — it was the bulk of secular society. How then to remove the heretic from secular society? Aquinas describes the most common solution that occurred to people during his historical times.

    (And I should point out that Augustine’s and Aquinas’ writings in all their details are not authoritative Church teaching, however generally reliable they may be.)

    More relevant to Dignitatis Humanae would be to look at how Aquinas thought other religions should be dealt with (at the time, that would be mainly Jews and Muslims). He was not in favor of forced baptism of Jews: “Injustice should be done to no man. Now it would be an injustice to Jews if their children were to be baptized against their will, since they would lose the rights of parental authority over their children as soon as these were Christians.” And elsewhere Aquinas quotes the Council of Toledo: “In regard to the Jews the holy synod commands that henceforth none of them be forced to believe; for such are not to be saved against their will, but willingly, that their righteousness may be without flaw.”

    Donald: “[Pius IX] did not interpret a baptism of a Jewish infant without the parent’s consent as involving forcible baptism.”

    On what grounds do you say that? The Jewish infant had been illegally baptized by a Christian servant girl, who had been illegally hired by a Jewish family. The laws were in existence to prevent the kind of thing that happened.

    (And I again point out that Piux IX actions do not form the basis for authoritative teachings. He made a prudential decision. There were cases at the end of World War II where Jewish children, who had been protected from the Nazis by being baptized and raised as Catholics, were later returned to their parents.)

  • “Donald, it’s very difficult to understand what your claims are.”

    What I have been plainly stating: that the Church was opposed to freedom of religion prior to DH, and that DH was a reversal of Church doctrine. You do not wish to admit this, and you will not admit this no matter how much evidence is presented to you. The historical record is clear as glass on this point. It is no service to the Church to pretend otherwise.

  • For example, I can’t tell if you think that Dignitatis Humane is true teaching. After all, that document says at one point: “…the doctrine of the Church that no one is to be coerced into faith has always stood firm”.

    Do you think that sentence is true or false? If you think it is true, I can’t understand your position at all. If you think it is false, then you would seem to be committed to the position that you will believe Church teaching when it seems reasonable to you, and disbelieve it otherwise.

  • I think the Church can’t teach error Paul, and that the Church has said True and False to the proposition that you cite from DH at different points in her history. That is precisely the problem.

    You can find numerous statements of Popes and Councils prior to DH that indicate that no one is to be coerced into being Catholic. On other hand you can also find numerous statements of Popes and Councils regarding the punishments to be meted out to heretics unless they recant their heresies. This obviously involves a large amount of coercion. Throughout most of the history of the Catholic Church post Constantine, no other religion was tolerated in Catholic areas except a grudging tolerance to the Jews. The only exceptions I can think of are the de facto tolerance extended to Muslims in the Crusader states, and temporary tolerance extended to Muslims in certain Christian kingdoms during the Reconquista in Spain. Not tolerating other religions usually involved a fair amount of coercion, all of it supported and commanded by the teachings of the Church at the time. Freedom of religion as set forth in DH is simply a concept foreign to the Catholic Church throughout most of her history.

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The Debate is about Authority

Tuesday, December 1, AD 2009

Witnessing the continued implosion of the Anglicans and the ELCA over matters of Christian morality, I am intrigued by the way present circumstances have inspired renewed consideration of tradition, authority and obedience.

As I wrote a few months ago (“On the troubles within the ELCA” American Catholic September 7, 2009): “What is interesting, at least from this Catholic perspective, is the extent to which the critics of recent decisions recognize the seeds of their present troubles woven into the very fabric of their tradition.”

In a recent post to First Things‘ “On the Square”, Rusty Reno described the crisis of those experiencing “the agony of mainline Protestantism” thus:

One either recommits oneself to the troubled world of mainline Protestantism with articulate criticisms, but also with a spirit of sacrifice, as he so powerfully evokes. Or one stumbles forward-who can see in advance by what uncertain steps?-and abandons oneself, not to “orthodoxy” or “true doctrine” or “good theology,” but to the tender care of Mother Church.

As Joe Carter (First Things) noted, as with the Anglicans, so a faction of Lutherans have chosen a third route — forming a new Lutheran church body separate from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Meanwhile, it appears that the homosexuality debate is fanning faculty and student protests at Calvin College — the furor instigated by a memo reminding faculty that they were bound to the confessional documents of the Christian Reformed Church:

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2 Responses to The Debate is about Authority

  • It has always been about authority. Seems the Protestant seeds planted 500 years ago are starting to mature and will eventually choke itself off. Not that there won’t be Protestant denominations with us unitl the end of time. They may even become the most numerous. But eventually they will not resemble anything like Christianity. Heck, some are already unrecognizable as Christian.

  • Unitarians come to mind. Latter Day Saints. Just two off the top of my head that barely resemble Christianity at all.

Catholic View of the Political Community (Part 2)

Monday, June 15, AD 2009

Here I continue with the slow build-up of an authentic Catholic worldview on the true nature of the Political Community- as outlined by the authoritative Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (Chapter 8). This second paragraph contains more of the Old Testament outlook on Kingship, with the earthly kings of Israel finding their deepest fulfillment in Christ the King. But there is more to be said about the political community and responsibilities of citizen(s) and ruler(s). We will see the development in the social doctrine as we go forward through the Compendium’s teachings. We cannot point to one specific epoch in the history of the Church and the Chosen People, and make final assertions about things- we must look closely at how the current doctrines of the Church have developed, so we can see the consistent core principles. Here goes with paragraph 378:

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