Can Church Doctrine Ever Change?

There is this idea in many Catholic circles that “the holy teaching of Mother Church has always taught what it does and it will never change.” It is this idea that angers people when they encounter the Second Vatican Council, Popes John Paul II and Francis’ approach to the death penalty, or any adjustment to the public expression of faith.

“CHURCH TEACHING HAS NEVER CHANGED AND CAN’T CHANGE THESE PEOPLE ARE HERETICS AND PROTESTANTS TRYING TO RUIN THE CHURCH THEY DON’T KNOW JESUS OR RESPECT TRADITION THEY JUST WANT TO BE MORE LIKE THE WORLD AND…”

Welcome to the comment section of the Breaking in the Habit YouTube channel…

While there is definitely a sense of continuity in the teaching of the Church, that teachings are not dependent on the culture of the world but rather come from God and so are firmly rooted in Scripture and Tradition, the idea that the teaching of the Church never changes is simply not true. It changes in at least three ways.

  1. Teachings that are not explicitly explained in Scripture can develop into dogmas after many centuries of prayer and reflection.
  2. Dogmas can develop and be articulated in different ways over time.
  3. Doctrines and disciplines of the Church can change direction completely.

Before watching this video, it might be helpful to brush up on the different levels of the Church’s teaching authority, found in the video below, as this is critically important to the distinctions I make in today’s video.

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