Thursday, August 09, 2018

The development of doctrine

I'd like to make one comment on this:

So the new position is classified as a development of doctrine. And that's justified by appeal to the teaching of John-Paul II and Benedict XVI. A couple of points:

i) Strictly speaking, doctrine is not supposed to develop. Rather, allowance is made for evolution in how doctrine is understood. So I assume "development of doctrine" is shorthand for developments in the understanding of doctrine.

ii) The frame of reference for the development of doctrine isn't supposed to be the teaching of the 20C pope, but the deposit of faith:

This tradition which comes from the Apostles develop in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. (5) For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. De Verbum 2.8. 

The deposit of faith is apostolic tradition:

81 "And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. 

83 The Tradition here in question comes from the apostles and hands on what they received from Jesus' teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy Spirit. 

84 The apostles entrusted the "Sacred deposit" of the faith (the depositum fidei),45 contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to the whole of the Church.

That's the benchmark. That's the point of departure. So the starting-point a development of doctrine isn't something a pope says, much less a 20C pope. Rather, that's supposed to trace all the way back to the deposit of faith. To justify the new position on capital punishment, it's necessary to demonstrate that this is a legitimate extension or extrapolation of apostolic tradition–and not a legitimate extension or extrapolation of John-Paul II's position on capital punishment. 

But in reality, this is all about power. The pope has all the high cards, so he can impose it on his sect by papal fiat. Appeal to development is just a cosmetic cover. 

1 comment:

  1. >>>Strictly speaking, doctrine is not supposed to develop. Rather, allowance is made for evolution in how doctrine is understood.

    True - but also note how the development of doctrine is typically explained to mean - that just as the seed looks nothing like the tree, so the understanding of the eventual doctrine may look nothing like what it was originally understood. (I think this is the sense in which the Vatican is employing Newman's DoD thesis.

    However, the distinction between this, and an actual change in doctrine can theoretically even be a distinction without a difference.