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July 12, 2005

Ch. II. Q.8. Dogma

DOGMA (δόγμα, authoritative teaching) is an authoritative formulation of truth. Its authority is equal to that of its source. Thus Catholic dogmas have the authority of the Catholic Church.1

2. Catholic dogmas are concerned with the facts of revelation, and are framed by the Church for the purpose of affording explicit, accurate, and exclusive statements concerning them, for the guidance of the faithful in the midst of error.2 Strictly speaking, such dogmas consist of the language which has received ecclesiastical sanction, as well as the doctrines defined thereby. This sanction consists either of an ecumenical decree of faith or of separate though consentient action of different portions of the Church. In any event the sanction is official and formal. Dogmas in this proper sense are not numerous. They cover only the more central doctrines. Much that is necessary to be believed has not been given dogmatic form in the ecumenical sphere; e.g., the doctrine of baptismal regeneration.3

3. Dogmas which have provincial sanction merely, but which are seen to exhibit ecumenical doctrine, have Catholic weight. But they are improperly called Catholic dogmas, for their phrases do not bind private consciences except in the particular Churches which adopt and impose them.

4. It is one thing to hold the faith implicitly and another to state it explicitly, or receive it in the form in which it is explicitly stated. The faithful are under obligation to receive all the teachings of the Church implicitly, however set forth. They must also receive all explicit dogmas of the Church universal, or of their particular Church, so far as they are in a position to ascertain what those dogmas are. It can be shown that one who accepts all Catholic dogmas in their Catholic meaning and lives the life involved, is thus protected practically from permanent or fatal error in the rest of the Faith.4

1 Owen, Dogmatics, p. v., vi.; Martensen, Dogmatics, §1; Moberly, in Lux Mundi, pp. 220-229; Garbett, Dog. Faith, pp. 13-16; Baldwin, Dic. of Philos. gives various uses of the word "dogma."

2 Liddon, Some Elements, pp. 24-29; Divinity of Our Lord, pp. 3, 4.

3 Church Hist. Soc. Lecs., 2nd Series, pp. 41-44.

4 Dix, Authority of the Church, Lecs. i., ii.; Pusey, Responsibility of the Intellect; Liddon, Life of Pusey, Vol. IV., pp. 7, 8; Lacey, Elements of Doctrine, pp. 62-65.

Posted by Debra Bullock at July 12, 2005 12:19 PM

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