Thoughts and Excerpts: Receiving the Council by Ladislas Orsy, Post 8, Inventing “Definitive Doctrine”

Friday, January 29, 2010books, church

In this chapter, Orsy addresses how the new papal invention of “definitive doctine” compromises the intellectual freedom necessary to properly develop doctrine.  “… the demand for stability and the imperative of development are vital forces in any living community.” (p. 105)

He describes how you can tell when development of doctrine is healthy: it respects the foundations of the institution, shows a harmonious progress from the old to the new, the once hidden potentials of the old are revealed, it is filled with energy. If it is unhealthy, it destabilizes the foundations, has a corrosive impact on identity, undermines original principles, is a radical break, shows no vigor of life, and weakens the institution.

“The Code of Canon Law, promulgated in 1983, mandated a healthy balance between stability and development. It’s canon 750 stressed the importance of stability … Canon 218 asserted the imperative of development and the need for ‘just freedom’ in research …

The two canons together stated well the right and duty of the community–to preserve and to let evolve the evangelical doctrine. (p. 108)

Inventing Definitive Doctrine with Ad tuendam fidem

“This balance established by the Code of Canon Law, however, was changed in 1998 with the promulgation of the Motu Proprio Ad tuendam fidem. The letter introduced into, and imposed on, the church a new category of teaching, called ‘definitive,’ and explained it as not infallible but irreformable. Effectively, it not verbally, it transferred some freely debated doctrines from the field of ‘doubtful things’ to the field of the ‘necessary things,’ where no question must be raised anymore about their unchangeable nature. …

“Thus the document places each and every point of teaching that has been declared ‘definitive’ by the papal magisterium into the body of ‘the doctrine of the Catholic Church,’ even when such a declaration does not fulfill the stringent criteria of a papal definition …” In other words, is not infallible. (p. 108-9)

Ratzinger also wrote a Commentary (not part of it or signed by the CDF) listing examples of definitive doctrine, like no ordination for women, the invalidity of Anglican ordination, etc.

So now doctrine doesn’t have to be infallible to be “irreformable.” And sanctions were added to canon law to enforce observance of doctrines determined to be definitive. Gotta love it.

But Ad tuendam fidem itself is not infallible because it is not a solemn ex cathedra pronouncement. So even by the loony logic of infallibility, it isn’t infallible.

It extends doctrinal foundations beyond traditional limits by attributing “unchangeable permanency to doctrines to which the universal church has not committed itself infallibly.” (p. 112) Plus, it just basically made up the category of non-infallible but unchangeable. And it stifles real thought.

And you wonder why so many people think the church is nuts.

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