Catholicism's Ever-Changing Doctrine

What Is The Dogma Of The Day?

It is fascinating to study the dogma and doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. The fascination lies not in the dogma themselves but, rather, in their imaginative origins and the incredible lengths taken to substantiate them. It is also incredibly interesting to look back over the years at how Catholic dogma, which supposedly are immutable, seem to defy the RCC's definition and mutate anyway.

One wonderful dogma, defined by popes and councils, holds that:

"Outside the Church there is no salvation, thus membership in the Church is necessary." (Adam S. Miller, The Final Word, Tower of David Publications:Gaithersburg (1997), p. 16)

That seems clear to me. According to this dogma, one must be a member of the Roman Catholic Church if he is to be saved. Stated another way, the dogma reads: Extra ecclesia nulla salus.

Some modern Catholics might ask who is Adam S. Miller and what authority does he have to define RCC dogma? Valid questions. The answer, of course, is that Miller did not define this dogma but merely included it in his little book of more than 110 defined dogmas of the Roman cult. A dogma, for those who might has slept through catechism class, is a teaching that every Roman Catholic must believe as a matter of faith - that is, without reservation - lest he lose his salvation.

In this age of easy-believism, both Catholic and non-Catholic, no doubt there will be some who who might chuckle at such a strict interpretation of an ancient rule of faith. And it is ancient, going back at least as far as the Athanasian Creed (ca. 400 AD), wherein one might read:

"Whoever wishes to be saved, needs above all to hold the Catholic faith; unless each one preserves this whole and entire, he will without a doubt perish in eternity. . . This is the Catholic faith' unless everyone believes this faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved." (Denzinger 39, 30)

Some of the Church Fathers, who were not Catholic because there was as yet no Roman Catholic Church, wrote of the necessity of belonging to the Church. They were, of course, referring to membership in the True Church, which is the Body of Christ and whose membership is comprised of all those who are truly saved by God's unmerited grace, through faith alone in Christ alone. That the Roman cult appropriated their words and twisted their meanings to require membership in the RCC as a prerequisite for salvation should come as no surprise to those who are familiar with the Magisterium's peculiar and self-serving theology. These words of Origen, written in the third century, make no mention of the Roman cult in this formal declaration:

"Outside the Church nobody will be saved. (Extra ecclesiam nemo salvatur)" (Origen, In Jesu Nave hom. 3,5)

Cyprian, another third century Church Father, wrote something similar:

"Outside the Church there is no salvation." (Salus extra ecclesiam non est)" (Cyprian of Carthage, Epistle 73, To Iubaianus, n.21, Migne: Patrologiae Cursus completus. Series prima Latina, Parisiis; 1844)

The fourth Lateran Council declared, in 1215, that:

"One indeed is the universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved . . ." (Lateran IV, The Catholic Faith, Chap. 1; Denzinger 430)

The bishops assembled at Lateran IV cited the above words of Cyprian as support for their position that outside the Church no one can be saved. They did not look to the inspired Word of God as found in the sacred Scriptures for their support, but to the words of a man and then changed their meaning to point to the Roman cult and not the True Church as was Cyprian's intention.

There no doubt are some Catholics who might reject the words of Origen, Cyprian and the Athanasian Creed as not be binding on the church in that they were not formally defined according to the criteria established by the First Vatican Council. I don't know that ex post facto dogma are any more valid for the Roman Catholic Church than are ex post facto laws valid under the United States Constitution. Just to be certain, however, let us search for a definition of this dogma that would satisfy even the criteria of Vatican I. In 1302, Pope Boniface VIII promulgated the Bull Unam Sanctam, wherein these defining words might be found:

"With faith urging us we are forced to believe and to hold the one, holy, Catholic Church and that, apostolic, and we firmly believe and simply confess this (Church) outside which there is no salvation nor remission of sin . . . Furthermore, we declare, say, define and proclaim to every human creature that they by necessity for salvation are entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff." (Denzinger 468-69)

Now there's a definition of a dogma if ever I saw one. Here is another:

"It (Roman Church) firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart "into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church." (Council of Florence (1441), Pope Eugenius, Decree for the Jacobites, in the Bull Cantata Domino; Denzinger 714)

Can there be any doubt that it is a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church, defined by two ecumenical councils and confirmed by two reigning popes, that salvation is not possible outside the RCC? It is further specified that one cannot be saved, "even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ," unless he is in the very bosom of the Catholic Church. What does it mean to "be in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church?" This points to another dogma; another link in a chain of such teachings built link by link, drawing from one another and supporting one another in an endless circle.

"The members of the Church are those who have validly received the Sacrament of Baptism and who are not separated from the unity of the confession of the Faith, and from the unity of the lawful communion of the Church. (Sent. Cert.)" (Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Tan Books and Publishers:Rockford (1974), p. 309; w/Nihil Obstat and Imprimitur)

Pius XII made it crystal clear as to just what it takes to be a member of the Roman Catholic Church:

 

"Actually only those are to be numbered among the members of the Church who have received the laver of regeneration and profess the true faith, and have not, to their misfortune, separated themselves from the structure of the Body, or for very serious sins have not been excluded by lawful authority." (Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, encyclical, June 29, 1943; Denzinger 2286)

A highly respected Catholic theologian and teacher explains what the Pope said in these terms:

"According to this declaration three conditions are to be demanded for membership of the Church: a) The valid reception of the Sacrament of Baptism. B) The profession of the true Faith. C) Participation in the Communion of the Church. By the fulfilment of these three conditions one subjects oneself to the threefold office of the Church, the sacerdotal office (Baptism), the teaching office (Confession of Faith), and the pastoral office (obedience to Church authority)." (Ludwig Ott, Op. Cit.)

To recap, it is a defined dogma of the RCC that not only is salvation impossible outside the Church but that to be saved one must be baptized in the RCC, profess the Catholic faith and participate in the Communion of the RCC. We have this from at least two ecumenical councils and three popes. As frosting on the cake, let us add the words of another pope, who declared it to be error to believe that;

"In the worship of any religion whatever, men can find the way toi eternal salvation, and can attain eternal salvation." (Pius IX, "Syllabus," or Collection of Modern Errors, Section III; Denzinger 1716)

"We must have at least good hope concerning the eternal salvation of all those who in no wise are in the true Church of Christ." (Pius IX, "Syllabus," or Collection of Modern Errors, Section III; Denzinger 1717)

One of the boasts of the Roman cult, a motto if you will, is that it is Semper Eadem, always the same. That this applies to dogma of the RCC was made clear by Pope Paul VI:

"The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful--who confirms his brethren in the faith (cf. Lk. 22:32)--he proclaims in an absolute decision a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.[42] For that reason his definitions are rightly said to be irreformable by their very nature and not by reason of the assent of the Church, is as much as they were made with the assistance of the Holy Spirit promised to him in the person of blessed Peter himself; and as a consequence they are in no way in need of the approval of others, and do not admit of appeal to any other tribunal." (Paul VI, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), November 21, 1964)

Another Romish theologian helps us to understand that dogma, once defined, are immutable. He then goes on to explain that when dogma change, it is not because they have been re-defined, but that they simply have been clarified. Classic RCC doublespeak.

"Dogmas, as divine truths revealed by God, are eternal and unchangeable. That is why a dogma can never be "re-defined." Yet, in this work you will notice that most of these dogmas have been solemnly defined and/or pronounced more than once. These are not "re-definitions." Rather, they are further definitions and/or clarifications which buttress aspects of a dogma that have come under some form of denial or attack. The content of these denials/attacks was often not anticipated in the preceding pronouncements. Hence, each further definition is a MORE PRECISE definition of the dogma. It is never the opposite. It is never an expansion or widening, and thus changing, of what the dogma holds. It is never an evolution as to the content and substance of a dogma. The reason this is so is, again, because dogmas are immutable. Truth cannot change." (Adam S. Miller, Op. Cit., p. 3)

That's the RCC's position on dogmas. Dogmas, being divinely-revealed truth, are immutable. They cannot be changed because truth cannot change. They cannot be re-defined, only clarrified or made more precise. They can never be made to say something opposite to what they originally said. Keeping this in mind, look again at the words used by Pope Boniface VIII to define the necessity of membership in the RCC and submission to the pope for salvation:

"With faith urging us we are forced to believe and to hold the one, holy, Catholic Church and that, apostolic, and we firmly believe and simply confess this (Church) outside which there is no salvation nor remission of sin . . . Furthermore, we declare, say, define and proclaim to every human creature that they by necessity for salvation are entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff." (Denzinger 468-69)

And to this clear declaration of a dogma, add the clarifying definition of Pope Eugenius,

"It (Roman Church) firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life . . .and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church." (Council of Florence (1441), Pope Eugenius, Decree for the Jacobites, in the Bull Cantata Domino; Denzinger 714)

Now let us turn our attention to the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, which informs catechumins that:

"Outside the Church there is no salvation."

846. "How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body. . .

847. "This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

"Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation. " (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Doubleday:New York, 1994, United States Catholic Conference, Inc. - Libreria Editrice Vaticana, p. 244 w/Imprimi Potest of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger)

O my! Looks as though the CCC has done a bit of clarification here. And it would appear that this clarification has so modified the dogma as pronounced by Boniface VIII and Eugenius as to now make it possible that people who have never even heard of Jesus Christ or the Roman Catholic Church might be saved. If I had not been told differently by Paul VI and Adam S. Miller, I would have thought this amounted to a reversal of the earlier defined dogma. Clearly, I do not understand how declaring that people outside the RCC who never heard of the RCC or Jesus Christ are not to be considered when accepting as a matter of faith that "Outside the Church there is no salvation." Maybe I can find a more clear understanding by looking deeper into the CCC.

"1258. "The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of Blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament." (CCC, Op. Cit., p. 352)

Whoa! This seems to be another clarification that appears to run opposite to the earlier definition of the dogma, in particular the words of Pope Eugenius, who declared:

". . .no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church." (Council of Florence (1441), Pope Eugenius, Decree for the Jacobites, in the Bull Cantata Domino; Denzinger 714)

When I was Catholic, I never worried about dogmas and definitions. In fact, I do not recall having heard either word from the priest during his homily or from the catechists in their teaching. Probably a good idea, given that immutable dogmas indeed do mutate, in contradiction of the RCC's teaching that they are irreformable.

Why does the Roman Catholic Church teach one thing and then deliberately act in contravention of its own teaching? That is a no-brainer. It is because the dogmas, doctrines, rules, practices and disciplines of the Roman Catholic Church all have their origins in the inconstant minds of men. Men change, cultures change, the dogmas and processes of the Roman Catholic Church change. What does not change is the revealed Word of God, as recorded by inspired men in the Holy Scriptures. Seek truth in the Bible, not the imaginative and inconsistent ramblings of the Magisterium.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24)


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