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…”

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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.

Understanding Atonement Theology

We all know that Jesus died for our sins. It is a central teaching of the Bible and everyone who considers themselves Christian accepts this.

But how? Have you ever stopped to wonder what actually causes this? I mean, really. We say it so often, but what does it actually mean?

Over the years, many theologians have come up with answers to this question and the Catholic Church has never officially adopted one. We are left to wade in the deep water of the mystery of Christ, taking what we can from the truth and piecing it together.

Is the Novus Ordo Even Valid?

There is a certain segment of the Catholic population that has nothing but negative things to say about Vatican II. Personally, I think that this group is extremely small and isolated, their voices amplified by the internet far beyond their actual relevance, but that’s me. The internet definitely has a way of building silos and organizing fringe ideas, so maybe that’s the case. In any event, regardless of its actual size, opposition to Vatican II is a prevalent topic online that needs addressing.

On Monday, I did a general video defending the very idea of Vatican II, calling for people to stop with their logical fallacies and to see that the problems of our world have complex causes beyond our control. Today, I’d like to look at a specific issue that needs addressing: the reform of the liturgy. While I’ve addressed the specifics of the reform before, there are some that believe in the idea of a reform is flawed because of a strict interpretation of Pope Pius V’s words back in 1570.

If this video seems oddly specific and completely unnecessary, it’s because it is. The very fact that I made a video addressing this topic is absurd. And yet, such is the world we live in. If we don’t want fringe groups to take over, we must speak the truth and respond to their ridiculous claims so that, as a well-informed Church, no one will be left confused or led astray.

 

When you think someone who is a saint and doctor of the Church, you probably think of someone who lived a long, holy life, who was groomed from a young age in the teachings of the Church, who never held heretical beliefs or committed terrible sins.

You probably don’t think of someone who spent 33 years as a heretic, had a child out of wedlock, and who’s most famous prayer is “Lord, make me chaste—just not yet.”

And yet, that is our St. Augustine, one of the most important theologians and leaders in Church history. He lived a tumultuous early life, but ended up saving the Church from two major controversies, and is certainly a saint you should know.