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July 24, 2005

Ch.II. Q.13. Development of Doctrine

DEVELOPMENT of Catholic doctrine is not legitimate, in the sense of an increase in its substance or area; but it is both legitimate and necessary in the sense of (a) profounder analysis; (b) larger statement; (c) richer application; and (d) apologetical adjustment of language.1

2. The Faith once for all delivered, and held by the Church from the beginning, contains either explicitly or by necessary implication, all that man can learn with certainty of revealed truth in this life. But the Holy Ghost is ever guiding the Church into a deeper appreciation and fuller consciousness of the truth. The studies of her theologians are continually bringing to light new treasures as well as old, such as were not realized in detail before. The meaning of the Sacred Scriptures can be more fully ascertained now than ever before, but "the latest age has not exhausted the meaning of what was once said."2

3. Ecclesiastical statements of doctrine develop along with the development of Christian consciousness. The Church's explicit Faith is continually embracing larger areas of her implicit Faith. The growth of the Creeds from the baptismal formula illustrates this, as does also the gradual increase in the richness of Catholic theology.

4. The relation and application of revealed truth to human life and its conditions cannot but be more adequately understood in the Church as the stores of her practical experience increase. The science of Moral Theology cannot be permanently crystalized.3 Moreover, every development of the sciences of nature and of man must put the Church in a better position to perceive the bearing of revealed truth.

5. New forms of thought, and, therefore, of unbelief and assault upon the Faith, are continually appearing. In order to meet them, Catholic theologians must translate the old truths into new language, and employ such forms of thought and argument as are likely to meet the difficulties of the willing and the sophistries of the unwilling. This does not involve an adjustment of the Faith itself, but of its presentation. Nor does it justify a surrender of the Catholic Creeds or Sacred Scriptures, but only an explanation of their meaning, in view of contemporary thought.

6. Illegitimate developments arise from (a) treating as essential what is only pious opinion; (b) undue emphasis of isolated parts of the Faith. This last is the characteristic mistake of heresy, which signifies making a private choice of what to accept. It involves necessarily a denial of some other part.4 Theological speculation is inevitable; and remains harmless so long as speculative conclusions are not allowed to modify or displace Catholic doctrine.

1 St. Vincent, Commonitorium, ch. 23; Treatises of Mozley, Butler, Palmer, and Blenkinsopp on Development; Liddon, Divinity of Our Lord, pp. 435-441, 448-450; Stone, Outlines, pp. 136-139. Gore, Rom. Cath. Claims, pp. 53-55; Stanton, Place of Authority, pp. 128-138, 168-170. The theory of development has been exploited in Romish interests. See Newman, Development; Carson, Reunion Essays, I.; Loisy, Gospel and the Church.

2 Westcott, Revelation of the Risen Lord, p. 160.

3 Temple, Bamp. Lecs., pp. 146, 147.

4 Richey, Truth and Counter Truth, p. iii.; Blunt, Dic. of Sects, "Heretics."

Posted by Debra Bullock at July 24, 2005 09:23 PM

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