Dogma is still non-negotiable even through Francis is now Pope

Ed Peters (continue to pray for the complete recovery of his son Thom) has an interesting post at his place. You can check the full text and the whole context over there, but let’s focus on the guts of the entry:

[…]

Considering her age (+2,000 years), her membership (+1,000,000,000), and her range of concerns (eternal salvation and human civilization), the Catholic Church has a remarkably short list of non-negotiable assertions. Some of these non-negotiable assertions deal with dogma (e.g., Jesus is divine and human, or, there are exactly seven sacraments) and some of these non-negotiable assertions deal with doctrines (e.g., the Church has no power to ordain women to priesthood, or Thomas More is a saint) but in both cases, the assertion being made is, Catholics hold, being made with infallible certainty.

Now, among the assertions made by the Church with infallible certainty, I have argued, is this one: God made marriage to exist between one man and one woman. Catholics could debate, say, whether this assertion is a dogma to be believed or a doctrine to be held, or whether the assertion is knowable by reason alone or requires the gift of faith. Catholics could even debate whether civil unions of one sort or another between two persons of the same sex are good for society or bad. But Catholics cannot, I suggest, argue whether true marriage exists only between one man and one woman. To debate whether marriage can exist between two persons of the same sex is to imply that some Catholic non-negotiables can be negotiated by Catholics.

[…]

 

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41 Responses to Dogma is still non-negotiable even through Francis is now Pope

  1. Pingback: Ed Peters: Dogma is still non-negotiable | Catholic Confidential

  2. frjim4321 says:

    “Dogma is still non-negotiable even through Francis is now Pope.” Indeed, I agree with that.

    I think there could be some discussions around what would be considered dogmatic.

  3. Bosco says:

    I would dearly dearly dearly love to know (as I watch the ground slipping away) precisely what is within the the Pope’s power is to “LOOSEN” and may I have a few examples of what might be “Loosened”?

    I don’t think ‘binding’ is going to be on the radar.

  4. CatholicMD says:

    Spoken like a true relativist Fr Jim. Quid est veritas?

  5. frjim4321 says:

    “Spoken like a true relativist Fr Jim. Quid est veritas?”

    Hardly so, the definition of what qualifies as truly dogmatic is very important and necessary.

  6. Cantor says:

    Dr. Peters does a good job of explaining the problem, but there is still a bit of a question dealing with the difference between Dogma and Doctrine. He asserts that both fall within the region of “infallible certainty“. But do they?

    In its 2007 publication on what becomes of unbaptized infants (the Limbo question), the International Theological Commission discusses three levels of teaching: Dogma, Common Doctrine, and Liturgical Opinion. In its discussion of Limbo, it stated that teachings of what it referred to as the “common doctrine” of the Church might well be held for centuries by the Church, yet not be correct.

    The question I ask, then, is this:

    Has the Church, through its Pope and/or its Magisterium proclaimed as an infallible Statement of Faith that God made marriage to exist between one man and one woman OR is this an issue of Church doctrine OR is this an issue of theological opinion? [A specific reference to the document will be of great help.]

  7. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    frjim4321’s question, as phrased, may be entertained by Catholics.

    Cantor: No! No! No! Not all infallible assertions (to use a neutral word) are objects of BELIEF! Also, while I am trying to use words consistency, many orthodox representations of the issues in this area use other words, especially in English, and some are simply misused, so, in both cases, be very very careful with the parsing.

  8. kpoterack says:

    “Not all infallible assertions (to use a neutral word) are objects of BELIEF!”

    Then what would be an example of an infallible assertion that is not a matter of belief? Anything that is moral? Such as abortion, contraception?

  9. SpittleFleckedNutty says:

    Headline today in the Telegraph:
    Pope Francis reaches out to atheists and agnostics”

    So that’s what he was doing giving TBI to Jesuits! It all makes sense now…

  10. Bosco says:

    Let us say for the sake of discussion that Christ’s words: ” What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Mark 10:9) were to be coupled with the Pope’s belief that many marriages are not ‘of God’ and hence are null. The Pope has already referenced the Orthodox concept of ‘oikonomia’ and the Orthodox permission for a second marriage.
    If annulments and backlogs of same are a big problem (as the Pope has suggested), is it possible…possible for the Pope to permit a second marriage?

  11. Bosco says:

    The operative concept being that God hath not joined then together.

  12. kpoterack says:

    Bosco,

    He referenced the Orthodox notion of “oikonomia” on the plane interview, but I didn’t think it was by means of approval. Afterall, Card. Ratzinger referenced the same thing in at least one interview from what I recall. I think that Pope Francis was musing out loud without any particular solution in mind – more streamlined tribunal procedures? greater allowance for use of the internal forum? He clearly was referring to marriages that were null (not joined by God). So there is nothing wrong doctrinally with what he said. A valid, consummated marriage cannot be separated by any man – including the pope.

  13. Bosco says:

    @kpoterack,
    Hold the bus! I’ve just read Pope Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI has written ‘a lengthy letter’ to one of Italy’s most well-known atheists and that excerpts of the letter were published Tuesday by La Repubblica, the same newspaper which just two weeks ago published a similar letter from Pope Francis to its own atheist publisher.
    This is dizzying at best.

  14. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    kpoterack: read the CDF Commentary on Ad tuendam, including: “With regard to those truths connected to revelation by historical necessity and which are to be held definitively, but are not able to be declared as divinely revealed, the following examples can be given: the legitimacy of the election of the Supreme Pontiff or of the celebration of an ecumenical council, the canonizations of saints (dogmatic facts), the declaration of Pope Leo XIII in the Apostolic Letter Apostolicae Curae on the invalidity of Anglican ordinations …”

    Not to press the point (about precision) too dearly, but your line “A valid, consummated marriage cannot be separated by any man – including the pope.” Hmmm, careful. Depends what you mean. Just saying.

  15. JPManning says:

    the Catholic Church has a remarkably short list of non-negotiable assertions
    I would really like to see that list.

  16. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    “A valid, consummated marriage cannot be separated by any man – including the pope.”

    I believe that with the permission of his or her pastor, a Catholic may obtain a civil, legal separation and a restraining order, in situations in which insanity and/or violence makes it unsafe for the spouse and any children to remain in the home. None of this, however, renders either spouse free to marry anyone else. But they are civilly separated, and the spouse who obtains the civil separation under these conditions remains a Catholic in good standing for so long as he or she continues to observe the Ten Commandments and the Laws of the Church.

  17. Lori Pieper says:

    I was finally able to put together a few thoughts of my own on the subject:

    http://subcreators.com/blog/2013/09/24/pope-fakes-out-media/

  18. quamquam says:

    A couple of statements that the Holy Father affirmed in “Lumen Fidei”, that we can use to counter claims that he’s into ‘abandoning non-negotiable dogma':

    “Since faith is one, it must be professed in all its purity and integrity. Precisely because all the articles of faith are interconnected, to deny one of them, even of those that seem least important, is tantamount to distorting the whole. Each period of history can find this or that point of faith easier or harder to accept: hence the need for vigilance in ensuring that the deposit of faith is passed on in its entirety and that all aspects of the profession of faith are duly emphasized.” (48)

    “The magisterium ensures our contact with the primordial source and thus provides the certainty of attaining to the word of Christ in all its integrity.” (36)

    Of course, ‘Lumen Fidei’ being an encyclical has more binding force on Catholics than any interview. Personally I’ve found the interview, intelligently interpreted, spiritually and theologically enriching; there is much to learn from it. I have no disagreement with any statements the Pope makes. Still, as I understand it, in themselves they are non-magisterial statements that do not call, and are not intended by the Holy Father to call, for the religious assent or obedience of the faithful.

    This distinction won’t mean much to the media or the general public, who would probably consider accuracy of this nature ‘small-minded': we should all be ultramontanists now and fall in line with the pope’s every thought and word, whether or not he intended to use his authority in this way on this occasion.

    However, if theologically-educated liberal Catholics try to hit orthodox Catholics over the head for supposed ‘disobedience’ or ‘dissent’ from statements in the interview, their consistency and sincerity can be challenegd by asking if they’re obedient to Pope Francis’ encyclical – which actually does call for obedience.

  19. av8er says:

    The exerpt posted by Fr. Z. read logically and I was able to understand the point. After reading the comments however, I am confused and my puny brain hurts. Does it have to be this complicated?

  20. Spaniard says:

    Canon:
    If you want a document on the infallibility of the teaching on marriage, read Arcanum, of Leo XIII

  21. Moro says:

    I’m with Fr. Jim on this one. Pope Francis would do well to outline in one document what is dogma. People still debate over whether Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is dogma or not, and often that is among people who agree with it.

  22. StWinefride says:

    A valid, consummated marriage cannot be separated by any man – including the pope.

    The Pope can dissolve a “valid non-sacramental marriage”, it’s called the Petrine Privilege. There is also the Pauline Privilege but I can’t remember what that is.

  23. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    av8er wrote, “The excerpt posted by Fr. Z. read logically and I was able to understand the point. After reading the comments however, I am confused and my puny brain hurts. Does it have to be this complicated?”

    Av8er, some people find it helpful to adjust their personal receptivity-in-reading gain, according to whom they are reading. For known trusted and expert sources (such as Father Z himself), the gain would go toward the higher direction, because you know you’re going to get top-notch input. For less well-known or trusted sources, such as commenters here and elsewhere, myself included, perhaps to adjust the gain down a bit, so that while the data is received, it won’t have quite the impact . . . unless you choose to bring the gain back up again.

    I don’t know whether anyone else has found this, but my experience has been, that to know whom to read carefully and whom to trust, one cannot do better than to immerse oneself in the Bible and in the Catechism. After some time, it will seem as if your personal receptivity-in-reading gain will almost manage itself for you. And not perfectly reliably unerringly, but almost.

  24. kpoterack says:

    Thank you for the corrections from everyone. Let me see if I can reformulate more clearly what I understand to be the Church’s teaching on marriage:

    The sacramental bond of a (sacramentally) valid, consummated marriage cannot be broken by any man – including the pope.

    Thus a declaration of nullity finds that there was no sacramental bond in the first place and thus God hadn’t joined that union. (I think this would apply to the Pauline and Petrine Privelege cases, too.) Non-consummated, sacramental marriages may be dissolved by the pope. And finally, couples in valid sacramental (and consummated) marriages may separate and divorce for legal reasons – however the sacramental bond remains and they can’t remarry.

    Have I gotten it right this time, or am I still missing something?

  25. Andrew says:

    The suggestion that marriage could be defined as a union not only between a man and a woman is a complete reversal of all previously held understanding of the nature of marriage both in civil society and in the Church. An opinion that is contrary to what was previously universally accepted cannot claim to be consistent with the original understanding.

    Even though the language often did not specify that the spouses must be “one man and one woman” – it was always understood as something obviously presumed (not to mention experienced in daily life) hence it did not need to be mentioned. It is like saying “when you eat make sure the food goes into your mouth and not into your ear”. Hello!!

  26. Bosco says:

    @kpoterack,
    ” a declaration of nullity finds that there was no sacramental bond in the first place and thus God hadn’t joined that union”…
    A declaration of nullity is not ipso facto an error-free determination. It is a human judgement based on the evidence offered to the Tribunal and presuming the honesty and straightforwardness of the party(ies).
    In other words you might have a declaration of nullity and still be married in God’s eyes or you may be living with someone in a presumptive sacramental union and not be man and wife in what constitutes a sacramental union in God’s Eyes owing to some defect at the time the marriage was contracted.

  27. Andkaras says:

    There is a great deal that the average Catholic does not understand about annulments and it would be wise to read up and inform ourselves and others to avoid offending those who have been through them.There is a book out there by Mr Peters that is very helpful . And when dealing with someone who is inquiring on their own behalf of a possible divorce and annulment situation , play it safe and refer them to a competent Priest first.

  28. robtbrown says:

    Bosco says:
    24 September 2013 at 2:54 pm

    I would dearly dearly dearly love to know (as I watch the ground slipping away) precisely what is within the the Pope’s power is to “LOOSEN” and may I have a few examples of what might be “Loosened”?

    Binding and loosing are traditionally interpreted to refer to identifying what is sin (binding) and forgiveness from sin (loosing-absolving)

  29. Sissy says:

    I’ve been confused about something for a long time, and I hope this is the right post in which to ask. In Matthew 19:9, Jesus seems to suggest that there is an exception (sexual immorality) to the permanence of the marriage bond. In my reading about decrees of nullity, I’ve never seen that exception ( if it is one) taken into account. Is this an area where Pope Francis could conceivably “loosen” Canon law governing remarriage of divorced Catholics?

  30. Basher says:

    Andrew wrote:

    “Even though the language often did not specify that the spouses must be “one man and one woman” – it was always understood as something obviously presumed (not to mention experienced in daily life) hence it did not need to be mentioned. It is like saying “when you eat make sure the food goes into your mouth and not into your ear”. Hello!!”

    Ah, you see, you’ve hit on it. The idea that you know where something goes into the body is just you pushing your traditional religious ideas onto everyone else. Don’t bother talking about natural law because everyone has unwittingly been educated in a postmodern framework in which appeals to natural law are useless. It took a long time to create a populace which does not know which orifices things go into, but after 50 years of concerted efforts in the colleges and seminaries, it was finally accomplished about 10 years ago. The gay marriage debate is just the last step, the legal formalization of the concept that it is equally viable to stick a carrot into your ear as into your mouth. We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Norman Mailer writing books about sticking carrots into your ear and grey-bearded professors lecturing on the Euro-centricism of the carrot-mouth imperative.

  31. Bosco says:

    @Andkaras,
    Sound advice.

  32. VexillaRegis says:

    Dear Sissy: Here you are: http://www.ewtn.com/vexperts/showmessage.asp?number=292952&Pg=&Pgnu=&recnu=
    Very informative and interesting :-)

  33. William Tighe says:

    Rather than writing a long response to Sissy’s question here, may I (with Fr. Z’s permission) direct her to another Catholic blogger’s site, on which the same issue arose in the comment thread and on which I made a number of comments? Here is the link:

    http://modestinus.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/deo-gratias/#comments

  34. cajuncath says:

    If Dr. Peters gets the chance, I would be interested in his take on the following two points, which may well carry some relevance to this and other topics:

    1) How sound and established is Cardinal Franzelin’s meta-theological precept that any explicit, authoritative, magisterial unconditional papal condemnation in the area of faith and morals is infallible regardless of how non-infallible the teaching document as a whole may be that contains the condemnation?

    2) Would it be true to say that any official ecclesial law or disciplinary law promulgated by the Holy See outside the area of dogmas and doctrines, even if it must be viewed as impermanent and change-able by its very nature and may be seen at a later point in time as being injudicious, must be held to be free of any sinful immorality, as the Holy See would not issue any official non-dogmatic, non-doctrinal edict that would lead Her sons and daughters into unjust and immoral behavior.

  35. av8er says:

    Marion Ancilla Mariae,
    Thanks. Great advice is a true treasure.

  36. Sissy says:

    Thanks to those who addressed my question with links, etc. I very much appreciate it!

  37. robtbrown says:

    frjim4321 says:
    “Dogma is still non-negotiable even through Francis is now Pope.” Indeed, I agree with that.

    I think there could be some discussions around what would be considered dogmatic.

    It’s not merely a matter of what would be considered dogma, but rather what must be believed (credendum) or held (tenendum) by the faithful. Probably, only the first can be considered dogma (LG doesn’t use the word), but Catholics are also obligated to the second.

  38. robtbrown says:

    cajuncath says:
    If Dr. Peters gets the chance, I would be interested in his take on the following two points, which may well carry some relevance to this and other topics:

    1) How sound and established is Cardinal Franzelin’s meta-theological precept that any explicit, authoritative, magisterial unconditional papal condemnation in the area of faith and morals is infallible regardless of how non-infallible the teaching document as a whole may be that contains the condemnation?

    2) Would it be true to say that any official ecclesial law or disciplinary law promulgated by the Holy See outside the area of dogmas and doctrines, even if it must be viewed as impermanent and change-able by its very nature and may be seen at a later point in time as being injudicious, must be held to be free of any sinful immorality, as the Holy See would not issue any official non-dogmatic, non-doctrinal edict that would lead Her sons and daughters into unjust and immoral behavior.

  39. robtbrown says:

    1. I don’t understand what any “explicit, authoritative, magisterial unconditional papal ” document concerning faith or morals would lack that would make it fallible.

    2. I would say that Vat documents encouraging concelebration (which implicitly discourages the multiplication of the salvific benefits of the Eucharist) are proof that your assertion is false.

  40. Johnno says:

    frjim4321 is playing a little game of moving the goalposts. Why stop there frjim? Why not just go back the the question about whether God even exists or not. Or even better, whether you even exist or not? Or whether logic itself really exists? Might you just be a butterfly dreaming it is a man? What if all reality is illusion and nothing is what it seems…?

    Should we not accept that dogs are not cats, and the sky is not the ground until the Pope dogmatically says it is? Because that’s ideally precisely what liberals try to argue when they insist that homosexuality is desirable or that women can be Catholic ‘priestesses.’ I guess God could come around and make dogs into cats, and have us walk on the sky instead of on the ground, and then maybe homosexual men can get pregnant, lesbians can produce sperm, and women can be become the male persona of God and bring forth the sacraments. But until God does all this I don’t know why anyone expects the Pope and Church to be capable to changing the fabric of physical and spiritual reality… One might even call such people ‘crazy’ to imagine the Pope posessess such power! No wonder some Protestants are so confused and think Catholics deify a man!