|One of the casualties of
the Modernist revolution has been Catholic education in this country and throughout the
world. As we know this is a part of the strategy the Modernists have used to further their
agenda of creating a church within the Church. One of the aspects of the ignorance of most
Roman Catholics today is their inability to distinguish between 3 essential elements of
the Faith. These 3 elements are discipline, doctrine and dogma. They are related to each
other but separate in terms of importance and effect within the structure of the Church.
In regards to the importance of distinguishing between these 3 elements it was never more
evident than in the recent visit of Pope John Paul II to the Eastern United States. As
they are fond of doing, the various news service agencies began to take polls of what
Catholics think in this country about such issues as, Artificial Birth Control, Women
Priests, Married Priests, Abortion and Euthanasia to name a few. It is notable that they
always take these polls around the time the Pope is visiting and they tend to be based on
a merely democratic view of reality. Nevertheless, no matter how skewed and inaccurate
these polls may be where there is smoke there is fire and they do indicate a deplorable
amount of ignorance among the "Catholic" population of America about what they
can and cannot believe as a Roman Catholic and still remain one.
Knowledge about the 3 D's is essential to understanding what can change and what is unchangeable, what we must believe and what we do not necessarily have to believe in order to remain Roman Catholic. We will begin with Dogma.
Dogma: "The deposit of faith" (1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:14) is made up of the entire revelation of Jesus Christ to the Church both in Doctrine and Morals.
A dogma is a truth revealed by God, and as such is proposed by the Magisterium of the Church as necessary for belief. A person remains a Catholic in good standing only if he accepts in its entirety the full revelation of the Faith in its integrity. Dogmas because they are divinely revealed cannot change.
Dogmas are essential to the Faith. They cannot change. If any one dogma is denied by an individual or group of individuals the truth is not diminished by their denial, however, they remove themselves from the Body of Christ, the Church. The deliberate denial of a dogma of the Faith is called heresy. Heretics are the branches Jesus speaks of when he says:
"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned." (John 15:5-6)
Dogmas are those truths revealed by Christ which have been explicitly defined by the Church through her teaching authority called the Magisterium. It is very important to remember that because these truths are essential to the Faith and have been revealed by Christ Himself they precede any Church clarification. Dogmatic pronouncements by the Church are simply clarifications of those revealed truths which have in some way been denied or challenged to the point that the Church must step forward to protect the deposit of faith from error and dilution. For instance, the dogma of Christ's Divinity, called the Hypostatic Union, was not defined by a General Ecumenical Council of the Church until the 4th Century. Nonetheless, it was always necessary for a Christian, in order to remain Christian, to believe that Jesus was not merely the Christ but was, in fact, God Himself who became a man for man's salvation. The meaning of each dogmatic truth remains the same throughout the ages and cannot change. The Modernists claim that dogmas "evolve" and actually change their meaning as man himself evolves and understands these truths in a completely different way. The Modernist does not believe in the fact that truth is absolute and immutable, for him all truth is relative and fluctuating with circumstances. The Catholic Church on the other hand recognizes the eternal immutability of the truth because it comes from God who is infinitely perfect and who does not change.
Doctrine: is the compilation of all the teaches of the Catholic Church. That includes those teachings which are necessary as well as those which are not essential to the complete integrity of the Faith. Also included in this category of revelation is the concept that there are dogmas which have yet to be defined, i.e., clarified, officially by the Church.
Doctrine differs from dogma in that it can be disputed and speculated upon until such time that it is officially defined by the Magisterium of the Church. For instance, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (When Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin in the womb of her mother Saint Ann) was speculated about and discussed for many centuries before Pope Pius IX explicitly defined it as a dogma for belief by all the faithful. St. Thomas Aquinas had, in fact, argued both for and against the possibility of the Immaculate Conception in his own writings. It was not until the Franciscan scholar Dun Scotus proposed the solution that the Blessed Virgin Mary was saved from sin by Jesus her Son in anticipation of His death on the Cross because it was an eternal act of redemption. Therefore, before Pope Pius IX defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception any Catholic could have chosen not to believe it if they so desired. Belief was not necessary to one's integrity of the Faith until the Vicar of Christ clarified that it was.
Some doctrines are non-essential to the Faith but are nonetheless, important to it cohesion as a unified whole. These doctrines can be see as the threads that hold the whole fabric of the Faith together. They are not as developed and are more interesting to the theologian who's trying to understand the deeper significance a particular dogma must play within the realm of salvation history and personal salvation.
Some doctrines are essential not to the Faith but rather to the Moral Law of Christ. These moral precepts of Christ and the precepts of the Natural Law are subject to direct interpretation and clarification by the Teaching Authority of the Church. Things such as, the Churchís prohibition against artificial birth control, abortion, divorce and remarriage, premarital sex, drug and alcohol abuse, etc. all come under this category. In most cases these things have been defined within the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church and must be recognized and given intellectual ascent.
Discipline: Any rule, regulation, law and direction set down by the authority of the Church for guiding the faithful toward the perfection of the Gospel in their own lives and the life of the Church as a whole.
The discipline of the Church is the one area that has most effective power over the faithful. This is the place where we feel it the most because this area is subject to change and is the most visible reflection of our every day faith. Examples of disciplinary customs and regulations would be; abstaining from meat on Friday, married clergy, communion in the hand, altar-girls, saying the Mass in Latin or the vernacular, the obligation to go to Mass on designated Holy Days, etc. These things can change due to circumstances within a particular diocese or throughout the entire Church. In matters of discipline the Church is not infallible. The duty of the Magisterium in these matters is to create the most conducive atmosphere toward our salvation. The Church has the right and necessary obligation to place whatever strictures and sanctions it sees fit in order to coerce those who do not have the strength on their own to do those actions which are ultimately to their own benefit. For instance, before the modernist revolution there was a strict prohibition not to eat meat (from any air-breathing animal) on all Fridays of the year with special exceptions made if a holiday fell on a Friday. The sanction was strict; "on pain of mortal sin" and the only exception made was if the person ate meat without realizing it was Friday. When the revolution swept the Church it threw away this wonderful practice saying, as all liberals do, that we had matured as a People and we didn't need to be directed toward sacrifice even for our own good. In the new Code of Canon Law the following laws are promulgated regarding this traditional prohibition. Read these canons carefully and then see whether or not the law has really changed.
Days of Penance
Can.1249--All members of the Christian faithful in their own way are bound to do penance in virtue of divine law; in order that all may be joined in a common observance of penance, penitential days are prescribed in which the Christian faithful in a special way pray, exercise works of piety and charity, and deny themselves by fulfilling their responsibilities more faithfully and especially by observing fast and abstinence according to the norm of the following canons.
Can.1250--All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the universal Church.
Can.1251--Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Can.1252--All persons who have completed their fourteenth year are bound by the law of abstinence; all adults are bound by the law of fast up to the beginning of their sixtieth year. Nevertheless, pastors and parents are to see to it that minors who are not bound by the law of fast and abstinence are educated in an authentic sense of penance.
Can.1253--It is for the conference of bishops to determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence and to substitute in whole or in part for fast and abstinence other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.
The new Code of Canon Law has the full body of laws, rules and regulations based on the Faith. Every organization must have laws and regulations in order to bring it to its ultimate goal. The ultimate goal of the Church is the salvation of souls these laws are supposed to be designed to take us in that direction. However, we must have leadership. How many of you knew that we are all obligated to abstain from eating meat on Fridays throughout the year? Just because there is no longer a sanction of mortal sin does not mean we are not seriously obligated to practice penance. It is typical of today's poor leadership that we the faithful remain ignorant of those things instituted by the Church in order to lead us on the tried and true path toward salvation. Nevertheless, just because our leaders fail to inform the faithful it does not let us off the hook. We remain accountable, as individuals, to discover our obligations and to act upon them.
By understanding the differences between dogma, doctrine and discipline we have the ability to inform our family and friends, as well as anyone with whom the subject arises, about their confusion over what is necessary and what is not. I have met innumerable people who are well educated in many areas but have no idea about the essential differences between dogma, doctrine and discipline. I donít know how many times I have been in a discussion with someone who confused dogma with discipline not knowing that discipline can change and having their faith shaken when it does. Iím sure youíve heard the same thing.
"When I was growing up it was a mortal sin to eat meat on Friday now itís okay to eat meat on Friday. Thatís a perfect example of how the Church always changes its doctrines." If you should ever hear someone say this or have similar objections just hand them a copy of this article.