Church teachings: past vs. present

I have been confused and upset by certain posters in the Traditionalist Section of this board who bring up Church documents from the ancient centuries and claim that THESE documents contradict what is being taught today in the Catholic Church.

The NFP thread is an example of this, although it has happened many times in that Section with other doctrines and dogma. Someone will use the writings of a very ancient Pope to prove that the current Pope is “wrong” and that we should return to the “true teachings” of the Church.

Could someone please explain how the Catholic Church incorporates the teachings of the past when they pronounce dogma for the present?

I remember reading that the Catholic Church is a “growing Church,” not a static church. As our leaders are given more understanding of the Kingdom of Christ, they adjust teachings. The Magisterium continually reviews the dogma, doctrine, doctrines and devotions of the Church, and makes sure that everything is up-to-date.

Is this correct? How does it work in practice? How does the Church avoid contradicting itself (as they apparently have in this NFP question)?

How do we know when a Pope is just stating his personal opinion, not Church dogma? E.g., the current Pope has made it perfectly clear that he dislikes rock music. Does this mean that there should be no “rock music” in the Mass?

How about these “contradictions” that that traditionalists find; e.g., someone has found a Pope who seems to be saying that ANY attempt to delay or space pregnancy,even using NFP, is a grave sin.

And how about the teaching that the TLM is the REAL Mass, and the NO is an “experiment?”

Why is it that people have to be looking all over the place, including the past, for the “truth” rather than just obeying what our Holy Father and Church currently teaches?

I guess I’m just too simple–if my Bishop says it, I believe it, and that settles it! Of course, the traditionalists would label me a “Protestant-thinking Catholic.” They tell me that we should all dig into the documents and be prepared to spot errors in the Catholic Church.

Am I wrong or foolish to be in submission to my CURRENT Church teachings? Should I spend more time digging into the past and finding reasons to distrust the current leadership and teachings in the Church?

I feel like some Catholics play “Pick a Pope.” They find a Pope that seems to agree with them, and try to convince everyone that this particular Pope taught the Final Truth, even if he lived back in the 5th Century.

I feel like I’m back in the Protestant Church. It’s not a good feeling.

Thank you for any information about this topic.

This is one reason that I generally stay out of the TC forum. I have found a lot of them are uncharitable and in rebellion against the very magisterium that they profess to hold in such esteem.

The problem (for me) is that (IMO) they do more harm than good. Most of their documents are taken out of context and brought forward in a literalist way, without consideration of the historical context in which they were written, which would show that they addressed a specific problem at a specific time and in many cases did not have the information that we have today.

My other problem is how very much they sound like the fundamentalist n-Cs/a-Cs in their remarks. I have had enough discussions with them that even though I have a pretty decent facility with Latin I will not attend a TLM for fear of giving the false impression that I agree with their rhetoric. I have no problems with the TLM, I grew up with it, and even have a Latin missal and pray my Rosary in Latin just because I can, but I have no use for the contention and hassles that traditionalists cause.

My advice: Listen to the Pope and stay away from the TC forum and the Traditionalists in general. (Especially if you are a convert to the faith.)

Having said that, I realize that some of my friends on here are traditionalist Catholics to some degree or other, and I treasure them deeply, but I want no part of that movement.

Sorry guys.

Here is something I did for RCIA that might help with development of Doctrine.

I set up before class a candle in a holder on the table up front and don’t say anything about it.

About 15 minutes into the class I mention that there is a candle on the table, nothing more than there is a candle on the table.

About 15 minutes later I mention that it is a 15 inch candle, and nothing more.

Again 15 minutes later I mention that it is 55% bees wax.

Again 15 minutes later I mention that it is a Blessed Candle.

At the end of class speaking about Doctrine, Dogma, Church Documents, Catechisms, Etc.

I recall the candle.

It didn’t appear on the table when I pointed it out, it was always there from the time they walked in.

I point out that it did not become bees wax when I told them that.
It always was bees wax from the beginning of the class.

It didn’t grow to 15 inches from 7 when I told them how long it was.

I didn’t Bless it when I told them it was Blessed, it had been from the beginning.

Doctrine develops in the same way. What we know today about a Church teaching always was from the beginning. We just didn’t know certain things about a certain Doctrine, in prior times.
One pope from 1000 years ago may have spoken about a Doctrine in a very generic way and in relation to things of his time. Then 500 years later another Pope may have spoken about the same Doctrine, explaining it in more detail, in relation to things of his time. Then 300 years later another pope or Council might revisit that Doctrine and apply it to some new discovery made in the world of science in the last 10 years.

The Doctrine has not changed. Our understanding of it has.


I love this! Thank you.:slight_smile:

I’d like some examples.

Such as, "oh well, here in 1034, 1852, and 1941, the Pope and Magisterium changed the doctrines (or dogmas) (or devotions) from XYZ to ABC.

p.s. Sincere question. I’m not itching for a fight.

I agree with Church Militant. I would stay away from such folks, they do lots to harm the faith of Catholics. As he said, they take things out of context and misinterpret the Magisterium. We have a living Magisterium that interprets not only the Scriptures, but all of Tradition including past magisterial texts.

Many so called “traditionalists” have simply adopted the error of private judgment, except instead of just applying it to the Scriptures, they also apply it to past ecclesiastical texts.

The deposit of faith isn’t reviewed or changed. The deposit of faith remains the same forever. However doctrine develops in the following manner:

What was implicit is made explicit (this is usually where traditionalists go wrong), new terminology is devised to better explain certain truths (they sometimes go wrong here too), and finally, timeless principles are applied to new situations (when this yields a different result than when the timeless principle was applied to another situation, “traditionalists” often don’t understand). But there is always a unity in truth throughout.

Here are some examples:

The fact that Jesus Christ has two wills, one Divine and one human, was defined at the Third Council of Constantinople. This teaching was implicit in the Gospels and in the dogma that Jesus Christ has two natures, but it wasn’t explicitly expressed until centuries after Christ ascended to Heaven.

The term transubstantiation to explain the Real Presence was devised in the 12th or 13th century even though belief in the Real Presence has always been part of the deposit of faith.

Finally, the early Church had no doctrine on cloning, but the recent Magisterium has developed a doctrine on it by applying timeless principles.

Truth cannot change.

Some people have become bitter because they see abuses and people misrepresenting Church teachings all in the name of development and progression of the faith.

Unfortunately this is much more common in the traditionalist circles because many of them have been treated bad and have seen horrible things happen to the faith that they love. The bad thing these people exhibit is they lose charity and trust of people who many times genuinely just want to follow Christ and be loyal to their Bishop.

Church teachings never change, but as lifestyles changes unique situations need to be addressed. As time goes by more things need to be clarified, very much like the candle example.

Sometimes it takes many years to clarify some ambiguities especially these days as there have been many distortions of Church teachings. The 60’s, 70’s, 80’, etc have been hard with the changes in culture and the misrepresentations of Church teaching.
Just be faithful, charitable and don’t let it get you down.

In Christ

Well, I suppose the Pope that called VII is one of us misguided traditionalists.

Read this, written in 1962.

Note the section “A natural result”. Also note the “outdated” documents cited at the end.

Pope John XXIII saw what was about to happen. And those who were in his mist couldn’t wait to publish Sacrosanctum Concilium soon after his death. (1963)

“outdated” documents were cited there as well.

If one isn’t a cradle catholic, then they can’t be expected to understand the views of traditionalists. Nothing wrong with that. They are as catholic as any other.

But to dismiss traditionalists as misguided troublemakers is a bit much. The traditionalists are are no more “armchair curia” than those who those who don’t understand their views and continue to dismiss them.

The only valid reason to dismiss the traditionalist minset would be if the overwelming majority of bishops and cardinals were speaking out against it. That isn’t happening. Many of them share our views.

'nuff said.


The Church grows organically (like a bush) - which means it comes to a fuller understanding. No dogmas are reversed.

After VII many claimed the Church has changed its position on things after 2,000 years. I fell into this trap until I started studying for myself and not listening to heretics and their liberal lies. I was pleased to find the Church of my youth teaches the same today.

Hmmm, works for the other side, too. :wink: Big Church, Big Tent. Maybe we should stop trying to toss each other out and work on the things we agree about.

You know, I agree completely. I started a thread on the 24th, hoping to do just that.

I tried :shrug:

Whether you jump off the barque from the right side or the left doesn’t matter you’re still off the barque.

My advice: Listen to the Pope and stay away from the TC forum and the Traditionalists in general. (Especially if you are a convert to the faith.)

And you accuse traditionalists of being uncharitable. You’ve had bad experiences with some so-called traditionalists and you judge the rest of us based on that.

Why would you encourage fellow Catholics to stay away from traditionalists? That’s encouraging division. You made no distinction between schismatics and those who simply prefer the Tridentine Mass.

I am a “traditionalist” in that I prefer the EF but I am certainly not a schismatic; I am 100% orthodox in my beliefs and 100% loyal to the Pope. You are guilty of stereotyping.

I will not attend a TLM for fear of giving the false impression that I agree with their rhetoric.

Since when did Mass attendance become a political statement? This ancient Mass is beautifully reverent, sacred, and holy. It is wrong to say that all who attend are radical schismatics.

The Holy Father has given us the option of attending the Tridentine Mass. Previously this Mass was associated primarily with schismatic groups. In the future, as a result of greater availability, this association will weaken because more loyal orthodox Catholics will start attending. It is time for the mainstream Church to reclaim this Mass.

Do not avoid traditionalists because by doing this you would be wounding the body of Christ. Remember that the traditionalist movement does not have a monopoly on schismatics, and that many schismatics attend the OF.


Dempsey1919, I think the advice to stay away from the Traditionalist forum is pretty good advice for a convert like me, who is still learning and is easily confused.

I have actually asked the Moderators to put a warning on this section of the Board because it is so confusing and upsetting to Protestant converts. I don’t know if you are a Protestant convert–when I read the Traditionalist forum, I see dissention and sometimes I see outright disobedience to the Pope. This disturbs me, as a new Catholic. It creates doubts in my mind; perhaps I have stumbled into yet another Christian sect, and all those people who claim that the “Church of Jesus Christ” isnt’ an actual organization but instead consists of all the believers in Jesus are right after all.

I know that doubts aren’t sin, but they can lead to sin.

So I try to stay out of the Traditionalist thread, but sometimes when they talk about Protestants (IMO, they are often misinformed about Protestants), I feel that I have to chime in.

I appreciate your encouragement to attend TLM, but I’m simply not interested. It has nothing to do with conflicts over the forms or politics. I just don’t have any interest in the “experience” and I don’t like to listen to a language that I don’t understand. I never liked charismatic (tongues-speaking) Protestant worship services, either. I’m glad so many enjoy it. Our city has had TLM since the mid 1980s, so we are blessed to have the opportunity to attend if we wish. Our city also has a great Lifeteen Mass at one of the parishes (my parish) that is packed on Sunday evenings. So we are super-blessed! And best of all, our NOs are reverent. So we are mega-blessed! Thanks to God for our great bishop!

I would also highly recommend attending a TLM. It is wonderful and like nothing you will have ever experienced. :slight_smile:

one thing about our wonderful catholic faith,not one word has been added to or deleted from ,the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ in faith or morals/

I appreciate your encouragement to attend TLM, but I’m simply not interested. It has nothing to do with conflicts over the forms or politics. I just don’t have any interest in the “experience” and I don’t like to listen to a language that I don’t understand. I never liked charismatic (tongues-speaking) Protestant worship services, either.

The language used is such a small aspect of the Tridentine Mass. I would still attend the EF if it was all in English. The differences are far more profound. The prayers are longer and more beautiful in my opinion. The older prayers concentrate more on the intercession of the Virgin and the Saints and the fact that the Mass is a sacrifice is also explicitly mentioned in greater detail. Also, more respect is shown to the Eucharist in the Tridentine Mass. We receive the Lord on our tongues while kneeling.

There have been whole books written about the symbolism of the older Mass. For example, the laity are not allowed near the altar because this is considered to be like the holy of holies (a carry over from Judaism). The Priest himself even professes that he is a sinner and asks forgiveness and prayers before he ascends to the altar.

(If anyone is interested in the Tridentine Mass, I strongly recommend “The Holy Mass” by Dom Prosper Gueranger - available from the Baronius Press website.)

I could go on and on. To appreciate this Mass you must learn about it. After a few weeks you will be able to follow along very well and the language will no longer pose a problem, you will memorise most of it from the Missal.

This is the Mass that the Latin Rite used for 15 centuries. So many Saints received the bread of angels in this Mass. It connects you to the past in an amazing way. This is why I think all Catholics should attend this Mass at least once in their lifetime. They may prefer the new Mass but I recommend that they attend the Tridentine Mass to experience how the Church worshipped for centuries.