Sunday, September 3, 2023

A Dogmatic Response

 From Fr. Paul Scalia at The Catholic Thing:

Similarly, we rebel at the thought of a truth that we ourselves haven’t invented. So, rather than dogma, people speak about the Church’s “policies” or “stances.” Will the Church change her policy on women priests? What about the Church’s stance on abortion? The refusal to receive the faith according to the principle of dogma means that we have nothing sure or certain but only unfixed rules.

“Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you.” The principle of dogma is also set in contrast to popular opinion. This whole Gospel scene begins with our Lord’s question, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” The results of this primitive public opinion poll are disheartening and predictable. The crowds don’t know who he is. But that doesn’t surprise our Lord. After all, he doesn’t ask the question to learn something. He asks so that the Apostles will learn not to look for the true faith in public opinion.

The Catholic faith doesn’t come by surveys, opinion polls, referenda, or even synods. It comes from God. Those other instruments might at times be helpful for understanding how best to express and hand on the faith. But the faith itself is of divine origin. Failure to adhere to the principle of dogma inevitably leads members of the Church to chase after public opinion, desperately trying to shape the faith into what others think it should be.

The principle of dogma also has tremendous meaning for the Church’s interior life and governance. This is why we must appreciate this principle prior to our Lord’s promises to Peter and the Church. Ecclesial and papal authority flow only from the principle of dogma and are in turn at its service. Peter receives authority not for his own purposes or pleasure, but for making known the truth of Jesus Christ that he himself professed.

The Church will be governed either by truth or by power. Of course, that’s true for any institution to some degree or another. But for the Church, whose very life comes from the Father’s revelation, it’s all the more important that she be governed by truth. If dogmatic truth does not govern, then the assertion of power is the only alternative. Clericalism is, in the end, precisely that prizing of human power, influence, and control over the authority of truth and dogma. (Read more.)


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