Be Not Confused! On Authentic Dogmatic Development and Sound Doctrinal Interpretation

Part 16

So, we must return to Scalfari’s report. It is a truism to say “God is not a Catholic.” It is a truism because it would be a total category mistake to think that “God is a Catholic”. What, is God, who is pure spirit, to be baptized with water? While the rejection of a statement that involves a category mistake is true, it is often not helpful.

Precisely because it would be a category mistake to say that God is Catholic, it is unhelpful to say that he is not.

The rejection is unhelpful because it can lead to an erroneous conclusion in the hearer’s mind. For one might hear “God is not Catholic” to mean that God did not establish the Catholic religion as the one true religion. If one embraces the statement and this meaning of it, one embraces heresy. For God did establish the Catholic religion as the one true religion.

And the most important matter for each of us is to hold what is true and reject what is false.

Thus, I return to my formulation of the principle behind the hermeneutic of continuity. Here is my formula: No Catholic has any excuse on earth – for whatever reason whatsoever – to reject any defined teaching of faith or any teaching of faith held infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium. Regardless of what you hear rumored about or rustling in the leaves, no matter what “interim document” you have read on whatever website or press report, no matter what opinions of whatever men you have heard: You have left the true faith and abandoned Christ if you use any statement from whomever or whatever source as reason to hold what contradicts dogma.

It is time to return to St. Paul’s formula: “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached [past tense], let him be accursed” (Gal 1:8).

Paul is indicating the crucial second rule of dogmatic interpretation I laid down above. That rule is that dogmas can never be overturned. So, any proposal, dressed in the guise of “development,” that contradicts dogma, must be utterly rejected as false. We must ever keep in mind the dogmas, with the same meaning and judgment with which they were propounded. Whoever departs from them is a heretic. Whoever is a heretic loses membership in the Church. And no one who has not membership in the Church has authority over her.