Discipline versus Doctrine

Note: Robert Royal will appear today at 2:10 PM (Eastern) on Kresta in the Afternoon (with Al Kresta) on Ave Maria radio. Click here for listening options. Bob and Al will be discussing Bob’s new book, A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual tradition in the Twentieth Century.

In the ongoing debates about the status of Church teaching on several “family” issues (including marriage and sexuality) – discussions occasioned by the Synods of 2014 and 2015 – there is a prior question that is mighty significant: are proposed changes questions of discipline or doctrine?

The answer about the specific issues, of course, depends upon how one understands the word “doctrine.” Properly speaking, it’s the received teaching of the Church that began with the earliest Gospels and the first-century Didache, and is today summarized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. As such, a doctrine cannot be changed. When the media use the word “doctrine” they may (innocently or not) mistake discipline for doctrine, and disciplines can be changed.

It’s no surprise that there is some confusion about which rules are doctrine and which are discipline – confusion exacerbated by those who would like one to be the other. So, for instance, on the question of the ordination of women, those who favor it will tend to suggest it’s just a matter of discipline, in hopes that a change may come some day, which is why Pope St. John Paul II actually settled the matter in his brief but definitive apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (1994):

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful. [emphasis added]

If only it were possible to remove doubt in all such cases. Of course, all doubt has not been removed in the minds of dissidents and never will be – not in this life anyway.

And in our time, we’ve seen plenty of examples of discipline overwhelming doctrine. So many of the changes in Church practice after Vatican II were, in effect, ad hoc (and de facto) and not de jure.

And a sort of blending goes on, whereby papal statements about, for instance, the death penalty may be taken by the faithful to indicate that Catholic doctrine is opposed to capital punishment, although strictly speaking (i.e., in terms of doctrine) it is not.

Or in the case of divorce, civil remarriage, annulment, and Communion, the medium of a motu proprio may be used, as Pope Francis did (in Mitis et Misericors Iesus) ahead of the recent Synod, to affect discipline without needing to address doctrine.

"Council of Trent" [Museo del Palazzo del Buonconsiglio, Trento]
“Council of Trent” [Museo del Palazzo del Buonconsiglio, Trento]

Our own Father Gerald Murray has questioned the canonicity of Mitis, but whether or not the pope’s apostolic letter is valid, it will be applied at the parish level. It remains to be seen how many divorced Catholics will actually bother to avail themselves of the simplified annulment procedures, which (it seems beyond doubt) were instituted by the Holy Father in order to bring Catholic practice more in line with predominant, worldwide secular law. And yet Jesus’ teaching about the indissolubility of marriage remains unchanged, perhaps to be reaffirmed at some point in the way Ordinatio Sacerdotalis reconfirmed the all-male priesthood.

But to return to the question of doctrinal change: Does the “binding-and-loosing” power given to the Church by Christ apply here? If a pope chose to speak ex cathedra on the reception of Communion by those remarried without annulment – i.e. to allow it – would such a pronouncement be valid?

I can only consider such questions, not answer them, for I can find no precedents. Such changes as have been made to Catholic teaching have rarely, if ever, been made to doctrine but only to discipline. Perhaps, as Father Murray suggests, the pope has, intentionally or not, blurred the line between the two in Mitis et Misericors Iesus. Perhaps it was clear to him that change would not emerge from the Synod. We can probably live with that – and live to fight another day.

In changing Catholic discipline on fasting, as Paul VI did in the apostolic constitution Paenitemini (1966), damage may have been done to the allure of Catholic life, but clearly no assault on doctrine was involved. As Rodney Stark has written:

Getting rid of meatless Fridays was a dreadful error the Church made. When I was a kid – in a town that was 40 percent Catholic and 60 percent Protestant – meatless Friday was an enormously important cultural marker. . . .Our high-school football games were always played on Friday nights. After the game, you took your girlfriend to the drive-in restaurant. And, around midnight, you could hear the Catholic kids count down to twelve and then shout, “Hamburger!” And everybody would laugh. It was a little social ritual that left Catholics with an enormous sense of solidarity.

Of course, it wasn’t wonderful that Stark and his Protestant brethren “thought hamburgers were the big denominational difference,” but the point is still well made.

Were Pope Francis directly to allow divorced-and-remarried Catholics, with or without annulment, to be admitted to Communion, he would be acting directly in contravention of Christ’s direction in Matthew 5:32. Francis would consider such a step an act of mercy, but would it be?

Speaking about abstinence in Paenitemini, Paul VI emphasized “that salutary abstinence. . .will forearm [the faithful] against the danger of allowing themselves to be delayed by the things of this world in their pilgrimage toward their home in heaven.”

How is this not even more true with regard to the disciplines of marriage? And as St. John XXIII said with regard to the Council of Trent: “What was, still is.”

Brad Miner

Brad Miner

Brad Miner is senior editor of The Catholic Thing, senior fellow of the Faith & Reason Institute, and Board Secretary of Aid to the Church In Need USA. He is a former Literary Editor of National Review. His new book, Sons of St. Patrick, written with George J. Marlin, is now on sale. The Compleat Gentleman, is available on audio.

  • Dave Fladlien

    Pope Paul VI had perhaps the clearest vision of any Pope for a long time about the necessity of removing unnecessary stumbling blocks to non-believers’ recognizing the genuine nature of Catholicism, hence his elimination of some saints for whom there was no evidence of their existence, so that we could not be accused of adhering to superstition.

    Likewise, his clarification of the real background of St. Mary of Magdala dispelled a long-standing misunderstanding of who she really was in the gospel, an error carried forward in the otherwise basically favorable-to-Jesus rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, which was very popular at the time. While I always knew that the Church could change things like mandatory meatless Fridays, which were a scandal to non-believers (in my view rightfully corrected by the Pope, but which should ideally be practiced in general on a voluntary basis), I would have thought a saint was under the heading of doctrine, along with the erroneous concept that St. Mary of Magdala was a former prostitute, or there was a place called “Limbo” (debunked first by St. Therese of Lisieux and then finally by Pope Benedict XVI). And I would have been wrong.

    I think it is clear from all of this that we must be very careful, and limit to only that which is strictly necessary, the category of “doctrine”. Even then, we have to keep a somewhat open mind about the distinction between belief and application, recalling the words of St. John XXIII, “It is not that the gospel has changed, it is that we understand it better…” In short, true doctrine can’t change, but our understanding of it, and of how to apply it, can and must. In applying doctrine, I think we must be exceedingly careful that the application being made is in fact absolutely required by the doctrine in question.

    • Walt

      mandatory meatless Fridays, which were a scandal to non-believers (in my view rightfully corrected by the Pope, but which should ideally be practiced in general on a voluntary basis)

      Please explain, how was mandatory meatless Friday’s a scandal to non-believers and you comment seems to violate the law of contradiction.

      • Dave Fladlien

        This is a very good question, and I’m glad you asked. I see the world almost entirely from interaction with non-believers; rarely I encounter an Evangelical Christian in my business or recreational activities, but even that is unusual. Catholics rarely let it be known that they are believers, so I wouldn’t know it if I came to one. As a result, I observe a lot of how non-believers react to THEIR PERCEPTION of “religion” which is to them a cross between silly superstition and bizarre practices.

        Because acknowledgement of a God carries with it implications of responsibilities to that God, they are not eager to accept the idea. So I think we have to be very careful “…not to lay on (them) any obligation beyond that which is strictly necessary…” as the Apostles said to the early pagan converts in Acts. We don’t want to put any unwarranted stumbling blocks in their way, or give them any unnecessary opportunities to engage in ridicule or other forms of hiding from the truth of Jesus Christ.

        To them, abstaining from meat on Friday is at best an example of some ritual which is supposed to “save” us, when in fact they have a primitive understanding that no ritual can save, a belief in which they are in fact correct. But they will never give anyone the chance to explain the deep significance behind that practice. Assuming Medjugorje is a genuine apparition of Our Lady, she asked us to fast and abstain on Wednesdays and Fridays, but I don’t construe that to be a rigid law. As I construe it, she left us the option of making adjustments as needed, one of which would certainly be to avoid disedifying potential believers.

        • What an odd perspective. Since becoming Catholic, I have never encountered anyone who ridiculed the practice of fasting or found it a stumbling block, whether on Fridays, or Ember Days, or during Advent or Lent. Fasting is practiced in most world religions, and is now even fashionable among the “paleo” health crowd due to evidence that it has many health and anti-aging benefits. It’s one of the least strange aspects of Catholicism.

          When we look to Scripture or the objections of our contemporaries, what do we find as the actual stumbling-blocks to non-believers? The Cross. The indissolubility of marriage. Eating the flesh of Christ. Our Lord’s claim to equality with the Father. These are huge, bizarre, show-stopping claims for non-Catholics, and you’re worried about fasting? Well, I totally get the whole “eat my flesh and blood” thing, but asking me to refrain from meat once in a while? Impossible!

          Your argument seems more like a rationale for doing nothing than a clarion call for evangelization.

          • Dave Fladlien

            Obviously we don’t interact with the same people. Most of the ones I know don’t even know enough to raise the “objections” you mention. They see us do something, like saying we can’t join them for a hamburger on Friday, and they react to *that*, not to anything more sophisticated. So it seem that the difference between our viewpoints lies in the difference between the groups to whom we have been sent to bring the message of Jesus.

            In any case, I would much, much rather try to explain why Christ died on a cross, or why casual sex is wrong (which isn’t all the obvious to many people), than find myself in a debate about a practice that is not a part of our core beliefs or values. Bringing Christ to anti-religious non-believers is hard enough as it is.

        • kathleen

          Regarding Medjugorje which you reference above, have you researched the entire story of this alleged apparition of Our Lady. There is much disobedience on the part of the alleged seers. Perhaps Our Lady did appear in Medjugorje in the beginning years, but then something happened. When there is disobedience that should be a red flag for all. Our Lady would never approve of disobedience to the local bishop. I believe the Vatican has forbidden the seers to give talks on these alleged apparitions of Our Lady in Medjugorje. This ban is fairly recent. I do digress. I know we are discussing another topic, but you did mention Medjugorje.

    • mrteachersir

      The removal of meatless Fridays as obligatory was not “corrected” by the Pope. The regional bishops’ conferences were given the authority to lift that obligation. The United States bishops chose to do so, being sure to label those who continued to follow meatless Fridays as ‘holier than thou’.

      In truth, the abrogation of that element of Catholic identity was detrimental in our understanding of who we are as Catholic Christians. We are supposed to supplant abstinence with some other form of penance, which is hardly ever preached.

      • mahrt

        Pope Paul’s removal of mandatory abstention on Fridays was to be replaced by an equivalent penance undertaken voluntarily. How many Catholics do that today? A small minority, I would guess. Thus the notion of a Friday penance was not preserved but eviscerated.
        Marriage is a more serious issue: will the “streamlining” of the annulment process, leaving some cases up to the judgment of the local bishop, preserve the teaching on indissolubility of marriage or undermine it?

        • mrteachersir

          It will end up doing both. On paper, marriage will be indissoluble, in keeping with Tradition, but in the minds of the people, it will be as flimsy as in secular culture.

          However, if the bishops put truth ahead of “mercy” it would be beneficial. Unfortunately, the concept of mercy has been distorted beyond recognition.

      • Dave Fladlien

        It may not be preached, but please see my reply just below to Walt. I do follow the practice of some fasting on Wednesday and Friday, though not total fasting, and I definitely do adjust it to avoid disedifying potential believers, which I think would be what Our Lady wants in that case.

    • There are a few issues mixed up here.

      First, neither the identity of Mary Magdalene nor the existence of Limbo were matters of Church discipline. Both belong to the realm of pious speculation: the first because of the multiple “Marys” named in the Gospels (specifically in this case, Mary of Magdala and Mary of Bethany); the second because of the revealed doctrine that baptism is necessary for salvation. As far as I know, Catholics are still free to believe that the two Marys are actually one person, or that one or the other Mary was the woman caught in adultery (as portrayed in The Passion of the Christ) or the woman who washed Jesus’s feet. They are likewise free to believe that the souls of unbaptized children are in some fashion excluded from the Beatific Vision, since revelation is silent on this point, and the Church has never made a solemn definition one way or the other. Pope Benedict offered the hope that unbaptized children are saved through the mercy of God–and it is very much to be hoped–but that’s all it is.

      Nor did Bl. Paul VI “eliminate” saints. He ordered feast days to be removed from the calendar to deal with overcrowding and the proliferation of local devotions to ancient saints, but he did not decanonize anyone. (This action, issued in a motu proprio, is an example of a discipline.)

      Finally, I am entirely unsure what you’re getting at with your final paragraph. Could you rephrase it in a clearer fashion?

      • Dave Fladlien

        I can try to be more clear. Brad (and also Fr. Morello above) talk about doctrine and discipline, and do so very thoroughly. However, I think it is our understanding of doctrine, not the doctrine itself, which dictates our actions (i.e. applications of the doctrines). I think what our Holy Father St. John XXIII was trying to say is that, while the doctrine can’t change, our understanding is imperfect, and therefore must change as we correct the imperfections. It follows from that, in my view, that our application of the doctrine will at times change in accord with our understanding.

        This phenomenon, which I contend is true for all human thought, namely that we inherently act, not on facts themselves, but on our understanding of them, means that some changes we need to make, and are guided by the Holy Spirit to make, may *appear* to be changes in doctrine, when in fact they are changes in our *understanding* of the doctrine. Subtle, but vital, distinction.

        Hopefully I can respond to your other comments later, but this point about understanding vs. doctrine is so important I wanted to stop and take a try now. If I still haven’t made it clear, please ask again. Thanks for asking.

        • bernie

          I suspect you have made an error in your understanding similar to the Kasper faction, if I can call it that. It seems to me, today’s “understanding” would be tomorrow’s error or misunderstanding, as you seem to present your consideration. True “understanding” would help us to go more deeply into a particular reality of our Faith and intensify our observance. E.g., doctrine does require us to fast and self- denial despite dropping the Friday obligation. We are still seriously required to its practice. To deliberately disdain such practice might even constitute sin. But the example limps in consideration of the much more serious obligations of Marriage. The Church’s understanding and practice has always been the same. Adulterers are in an objective state of serious sin. Unforgiven serious sin excludes the worthy reception of the Eucharist. Period. Only Baptism and Reconciliation are ‘Sacraments of the Dead’ – a phrase I have not heard lately. But perhaps I have misunderstood your reflection.

        • Ah, I kind of thought that was your intent. But I’m not sure how your subjectivist approach (focusing as it does on our “understanding” of doctrine rather than the objective reality it describes) differs from the “vital immanence” of the Modernists condemned by St. Pius X in Pascendi. There are really too many passages dealing with this error to fit in a combox, but he describes the Modernist position thus in Section 13:

          …amongst the chief points of their teaching is this which they deduce from the principle of vital immanence; that religious formulas, to be really religious and not merely theological speculations, ought to be living and to live the life of the religious sentiment. …it is necessary that the primitive formula be accepted and sanctioned by the heart; and similarly the subsequent work from which spring the secondary formulas must proceed under the guidance of the heart. Hence it comes that these formulas, to be living, should be, and should remain, adapted to the faith and to him who believes. Wherefore if for any reason this adaptation should cease to exist, they lose their first meaning and accordingly must be changed.

          Earlier on in Pascendi, St Pius X cites three anathemas from Vatican I:

          …the Vatican Council has defined, “If anyone says that the one true God, our Creator and Lord, cannot be known with certainty by the natural light of human reason by means of the things that are made, let him be anathema” (De Reve l., can. I); and also: “If anyone says that it is not possible or not expedient that man be taught, through the medium of divine revelation, about God and the worship to be paid Him, let him be anathema” (Ibid., can. 2); and finally, “If anyone says that divine revelation cannot be made credible by external signs, and that therefore men should be drawn to the faith only by their personal internal experience or by private inspiration, let him be anathema” (De Fide, can. 3).

          How is this substantially different from the position you outline; to wit, that we do not apprehend doctrine itself but only our internal and subjective understanding of it, and that as our understanding changes, we must change doctrine accordingly?

      • Dave Fladlien

        Murray: about the “earlier” items in my initial post, it is clear from the number of questions I’ve gotten (including a private one from someone who knows me), that I tried to do too much in one brief commentary. Sorry for the confusion. All I was trying to say was that I was taught a lot of things which — as you correctly point out — are not doctrine. The problem is that I, and at least one other Catholic I’ve discussed this with, were taught that they were solemn Catholic teaching. You sinned if you disagreed.

        So I was trying to say that we need to be really careful about what we call doctrine; we need to be really sure it is, which my teachers were not. Hope that clears it up; again, sorry for any ambiguity.

  • Manfred

    Thank you for a well researched article, Brad. I notice that the restaurants in northern N.J. always have fish on the menu on Fridays. It would appear that some Catholics are imposing the meatless Friday discipline on themselves
    Prior to the 2014 Synod, a book appeared written by five Cardinals and three priest scholars entitled “Remaining in the Truth of Christ”. Its purpose was to counter any arguments which might be proposed arguing for Catholics living in adultery to receive Holy Communion. As that Synod did not resolve the issue, another book came out just prior to the 2015 Synod which became known as the eleven Cardinals book, which made the same arguments as the first book.. The writers were Cardinals from around the world.
    Is it too much to assume that this vast network of orthodox, sound Cardinals stands ready to intervene should this Pope exceed his competence and authority in matters of Faith or Morals? If Fr. Murray is concerned about the expedition of annulments by this Pope, I am confident there are many in authority who are ready to step in when the moment presents itself to either remove or severely censure the Pope.

  • Diane

    In Poland Catholics do not eat meat on Fridays. They never changed. Those who are devout Catholics that have come to the US, still adhere to it. The binding-and-loosing has always troubled me. What exactly can the Church bind or loose? The Bible clearly states what Jesus taught about marriage, which would also means that the marriage must be only between one man and one woman, just as God created Eve to be with Adam. To me, it is a liberal and secular twisting to try to change the discipline and not the doctrine. Any changes to the Catholic Church or its Doctrines would not be good, period.

    • GaryLockhart

      Quite a few Catholics in the United States still do abstain in accordance with Canon Law.


      Can. 1249 All Christ’s faithful are obliged by divine law, each in his or her own
      way, to do penance. However, so that all may be joined together in a certain
      common practice of penance, days of penance are prescribed. On these days the
      faithful are in a special manner to devote themselves to prayer, to engage in
      works of piety and charity, and to deny themselves, by fulfilling their
      obligations more faithfully and especially by observing the fast and abstinence
      which the following canons prescribe.

      Can. 1250 The days and times of penance for the universal Church are each Friday of
      the whole year and the season of Lent.

      Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the
      Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should
      fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday
      and Good Friday.

      Can. 1252 The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth
      year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until
      the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents are to
      ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of
      fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.

      Can. 1253 The Episcopal Conference can determine more particular ways in which
      fasting and abstinence are to be observed. In place of abstinence or fasting it
      can substitute, in whole or in part, other forms of penance, especially works
      of charity and exercises of piety.

    • Antonio

      I agree 100%. I think the Catholic Church has changed soften up the rules plenty enough to open the gate for all this liberalism ideas, which if persist will decimate it. Priests has different rules during the Mass. Deacons are now allowed to open and close the Tabernacle, women going to communion, basically half naked. Priests are afraid to mentioned the word “Sin” “Devil’ Hell. As was mentioned above, everybody receive communion, it’s like a banquet. It bother me seeing my Church denigrating so much. And still getting less and less followers, so it’s not the answer losing up the rules. Would Jesus OK all this if He Shows up tomorrow? I don’t think so, more likely definitively Not. I think we should fallow the Church, not the other way around.

  • PCB

    “Does the “binding-and-loosing” power given to the Church by Christ apply here?” – This is a question that immediately rose in my mind when Rome announced questions of debate for the synod – Does the Church have the authority, granted by the Lord, to permit, despite (most I presume would respond resoundingly, “NO!”) his exhortation in Matthew 5:32? The argument, I anticipate, could be/will be, made by opposing camps within the Church, that Moses was exercising his (perhaps God-given) authority to “loose”, the Jewish rules on marriage, because as Christ said, “because of your (the Jews) hardness of heart” – Matthew 19:8; thus, the Church, the argument continues, is well within it’s authority to “loose” rules on Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, because of the current state of “hardened hearts” among the faithful – they may argue or liken it to an “imperfect confession”, (i.e. remorse of sins for fear of just punishment) vs. “perfect confession” (i.e. because sins cause offence to our Lord) – where the validity of the Sacrament remains in both instances, while striving towards better perfection. I myself, am not educated enough in Church Doctrine/Theology to make this judgment – I merely anticipate the nature of the arguments base on the narrow limits of my understanding.

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    Today is the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle. I pray to him for guidance and clarity. As to the issue it is first necessary to define the essence of doctrine and the essence of discipline. Doctrine as you indicate is teaching. Here it refers to the Deposit of the Faith and Apostolic Tradition. That as you say cannot be changed. Even the power to bind and to loosen cannot change the essence of that doctrine. Discipline as you correctly say can be changed. The difficulty which is the topic of your article is what in given instances is discipline and what is doctrine. Discipline is best defined as training, correction, direction, preparation, and perfecting. Strictly speaking any change in marriage and annulment and the reception of the Eucharist cannot affect the essential character of indissolubility of marriage and the lawful reception of the Eucharist. Christ’s words define define divorce and remarriage as adultery. Receiving the Eucharist in that state is unlawful. The reason is that to receive the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist we must also receive and assimilate the Truth which is Christ, Truth which He commanded and which defines Him. What can change are the structures insuring the integrity of receiving Holy Communion which are discipline. Theoretically that can include canon law canon law regarding the annulment process as already done in Mitis, non essential aspects of the sacrament of reconciliation, penance. With penance often discipline and doctrine are indeed blurred. Fasting, abstinence is not essential to penance. The reason is that penance can be exercised by other activities. Denial can take the form of abnegation and interior suffering. Hypothetically Pope Francis may reduce ecclesiastical structure to the point where tribunals no longer exist as desired by Cardinal Reinhard Marx and others except as left to the discretion of the parish priest incorporating to himself the functions of the tribunal. That could be lawful. However anyone expecting parish priests to possess that capacity would be the same as expecting the Man in the Moon to decide marriage cases with moral certitude. Unfortunately this seems to be the route Pope Francis is taking. In effect his ecclesiology seems to provide as little structure as possible which is to destroy the Church as a viable structure. The Church initially was such. Certainly its development was and is necessary in today’s world. If he does in fact take this route he will be a destroyer not a guardian of the faith.

  • Destroying Dogma is never merciful. It goes against the Spritual Works of Mercy.

  • givelifeachance2

    We seem to be creating a paradox within marriage, not unlike the Escher or Magritte paintings that prey on your mind looking “x” and “not x” at the same time. If a valid marriage can be later abrogated with the approval of the Church, then when one contracts one’s (first) marriage, it is entirely reasonable to expect that sometime in the future it *could* be abrogated (even if one didn’t want that). BUT, if one enters that first marriage believing in its potential non-permanence, then that mitigates its validity, making it null.

    So the effect of making it possible to abrogate marriage in some cases is to eviscerate the sacrament for everyone.

    • Jill

      So true! I know that it is said that we are to ‘assume’ our marriages are sacramental until we find otherwise (if we are in the sad place of having to look), but I can’t help but feel that the ‘realness’ of my marriage has been diminished by all this conversation of the many ways that a marriage can be determined to be non-sacramental. This concern is within the confines of Christianity.

      Outside of the faith, the creation of the reality of same-sex marriage has shaken my sense of permanent connection to my husband, as well. What IS marriage? Are any of us sure?

      Well, we will truck along and pray that all goes well until death parts us, and then I guess we’ll know for sure, one way or the other.

      • Aliquantillus

        The ultimate future Church “discipline” or “doctrine” will perhaps be that my marriage is valid as long as I feel that it is valid. It will all be a matter of “conscience”. The subjective and the objective will thus perfectly correlate. This is the Dogma of the Immaculate Conscience which is expected to be pronounced as a result of a genuine development of the sensus infidelium.

  • Francis Miller

    I grew up in the 60’s in NYC. Meatless Friday was a defining aspect of being Catholic as was the people streaming to mass on Sundays and buying Sunday papers on the way home. Did meatless Friday make better Catholics? Not a fair question. The loss of that restriction changed an overt and shared identity. It went the way of other Catholic practices like not needing to go confession and skipping mass when necessary. The changes certainly made us look more like other Christians. Our parish was surrounded by various Protestant churches. Many had plenty of folks at services but nothing like the one time mass attendance. I know, no one preached not needing to offer up something on Fridays, or forgoing confession or missing mass at your own convenience. No one preached it but everyone seemed to hear it.
    If I lived in a predominantly Catholic country, then such an identity would not be necessary. I don’t and so the small losses to overt identity seem to have made it easier for deeper ones to slip away as well. We do seem to be better assimilated now. I know we will be known by how much we love and in that case no specific Catholic identity is needed.

  • Manfred

    You historians out there, I need your help. When abstinence on Friday was mandatory, the Spanish were exmpted from abstaining from meat. It was an honor awarded by the Pope.
    Was it because of the Spanish support at the battle of Lepanto, or was it the Catholic vidtory in the Spanish Civil War?

    • Esperanzaypaz

      In 1089 Spanish counts were granted a dispensation from the Friday rule by Pope Urban II for their role in the Crusades; after the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, Pope St. Pius V extended the dispensation to the entire Spanish dominion, including her colonies in the New World. Mexico, for example, was not instructed by the Holy See to observe Friday abstinence until 1950, and the following year bishops in New Mexico and Texas informed their flock that this applied to them as well.
      Venezuelans can eat capybaras, a large rodent; Germans, folks in the arctic and Canadians may dine on beaver; and Michiganders can eat muscrat… These latter seem like penances in themselves.

      • Manfred

        Muy bueno! Muchas gracias!

      • Alicia

        When my father was transfered to Lima, Peru, in 1966, we found out that meat on Fridays was permitted in Peru. They explained to us that the papal dispensation was due to the fact the it was a poor country and the undernourished people needed the proteins. I thought that pope was crazy because poor people can’t afford meat. My mother was furious and said that popes can’t change sins from one country to another.
        I didn’t know about Pope Pius V’s dispensation for the Spanish colonies. Maybe that was it, not the proteins.
        Thank you for the history lesson. Very interesting

  • Jon S.

    Has the Magisterium ever defined doctrine and discipline?

    Is this a good definition of doctrine: a specific interpretation of Divine Revelation by the
    Magisterium that presents the substance of the Catholic Faith that is true for all times and places while allowing for development/reformation that will not contradict previous interpretations?

    It seems to me that any definition of doctrine needs to take into account the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s “Doctrinal Commentary of the Concluding Formula of the Professio Fidei” (1998), which sets forth the three orders of doctrine (dogma that is infallible and not reformable, doctrine that is infallible but reformable, and doctrine that is reformable and not claimed to be infallible) but does not present a general definition of doctrine that covers all three orders.

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    To further clarify the distinction between doctrine and discipline doctrine in this instance refers to the Deposit of the Faith and Apostolic Tradition which as understood cannot be changed. This refers directly to the words of Christ, the teaching of the Apostles who further clarified what Christ taught them, and solemn pronouncements by the ordinary and universal Magisterium such as the Immaculate Conception as defined elsewhere in the Doctrinal Commentary to Ad Tuendam Fidem of Saint Pope John Paul II and underwritten by then Cardinal Josef Ratzinger prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. To this first proposition or level of truth we our faith a that to be believed as divinely revealed. This is the essence of Catholic Doctrine.
    The second proposition or level refers to teachings belonging to the dogmatic or moral area that are necessary for faithful keeping of the Deposit of the Faith. To this second proposition we must firmly accept everything definitively proposed by the Church.
    Discipline: Discipline by nature is an act not doctrine. It entails training, correction, perfecting, teaching the essence of which is an act to safeguard, ensure, clarify the essence of doctrine. As the Second Proposition states discipline cannot change the essential character of any teaching of the Deposit of the Faith or Apostolic Tradition or solemn dogmatic pronouncements. Any structure affecting that doctrine or manner of presenting it then is discipline meant to safeguard and protect what is contained in the First Proposition.
    The Third Proposition refers to the teachings of the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops [which includes the Bishop of Rome] enunciated when they exercise their authentic magisterium even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act. To these teachings presented “as true or at least sure” are owed “religious submission of the intellect.”
    The expected exhortation by Pope Francis on the Synod falls under this Third Proposition unless he decides to make a solemn pronouncement to the universal Church. Then such a pronouncement must comply to the requirements of the Second or First Propositions which cannot contradict the Deposit of the Faith.
    Again doctrine relating to the Deposit of the Faith reveals unchangeable truth. Discipline is an act in the the form of structure and manner of presentation that safeguards the former.

  • Diane

    This is all just liberal spin to make everything sinless, period. Destroying the Truth of the Catholic Church with the mumbo jumbo. It is disgusting.

  • Jacobi

    The danger in the Church today is the technique of gradualism, that is where the proposed change in discipline and practise is gradually accepted as a change in doctrine, thus producing de facto heretical schism, which is of course the objective of the Gradualist Modernists within the Church.

    To draw attention away from this rather obvious observation, which any objective Catholic
    can see, a diversion must be created. This is the concept of Holy Communion for one and all, as a right, and regardless of the state of the soul of the recipient and what they actually believe. For the Modernists, it is also very convenient, since kills two birds with one stone, that is the doctrine of he Real Presence and the very idea of sin itself.

    Regarding the possibility of a heretical Pope, this has been considered by Schall, Carroll, Constable, Davies, Bellarmine and Suarez. There is one precedent of a Pope being openly heretical, that is John XXII.