Purpose ...

To defend the Catholic Church against claims that it has ...

I highlight certain issues that seem particularly troublesome. Note that I have made every attempt to explain away these changes by giving the church the benefit of the doubt, but can only do so using the most tenuous legal technicalities. The Catholic Church doesn't bother to explain the changes at all but merely insists that both contradictory statements are simultaneously true. Catholic defenders sometimes try to explain why the changes are not really changes after all, but their explanations are not very convincing.


The Catholic Church claims ...

Certainly, the church has the right to change church disciplinary (non-dogmatic) rules and to develop doctrine. However, certain changes seem to be in the domain of dogma, faith, and morals. It is hard to understand why the Catholic Church can claim it never changes based merely on the tiniest slivers of legal technicalities.

See also Astrology


Church Councils ...

This section addresses cases where the Catholic Church has changed its official views of decrees from an earlier church council.

Conclusion:  Apparent changes to decrees of church councils can be satisfactorily explained only by categorizing them as I have noted below. But the Catholic Church does not categorize them this way.

Changes in declarations of church councils are particularly troubling because ecumenical (whole church) councils of orthodox bishops are an important way in which the Holy Spirit has communicated Truth.

These changes of the decrees of church councils can be explained in several ways (this is my system of categorizing based on trying to give the maximum leeway to support Catholic claims using the tiniest sliver of legal technicalities):

1. The earlier statements are not dogmatic but merely disciplinary. The church may change disciplinary rules.

2. References to practices which are not allowed today do not mean that the church sanctioned these practices in the past.

3. The newer statements are not changes but merely a new perspective. The earlier statements are still true. (However, the earlier statements don't seem to match the new statements at all except by reinterpreting them to mean something they didn't mean at the time.)

4. The pope never ratified the council's decrees. Therefore, newer teachings do not contradict.

5. Since the great schism in 1054 A.D. there is no need for Orthodox bishops to be represented in ecumenical councils since they have rejected the authority of the pope.

These are the only examples I know of regarding apparent changes to decrees of church councils.

QuotesMy comments

Nobody is to hear the masses of those whom he knows to have wives or concubines.

1139 A.D., Second Lateran Council

1 and 2. The modern-day Catholic Church allows there to be married priests in certain circumstances . . .

  • Eastern-rite Catholic priests
  • Orthodox and Protestant married converts who become priests (with special permission)

It has changed its views. Presumably, it could change them again and someday allow married priests. More . . .

A bishop should be appointed by all the bishops of the province.

325 A.D., First Council of Nicaea

1. The Catholic Church has changed this, but this matches the Orthodox church. The bishop is to have regional recognition.

Neither bishops nor presbyters nor deacons shall transfer from city to city.

325 A.D., First Council of Nicaea

1. Catholic priests are transferred often.

Canons hitherto issued by the saintly fathers at each and every synod should remain in force.

451 A.D., The Council of Chalcedon

1. Yet the Catholic Church changes decisions made at previous councils.

In the matter of bishops or clerics who move from city to city, it has been decided that the canons issued by the holy fathers concerning them should retain their proper force.

451 A.D., The Council of Chalcedon

1. Catholic priests are transferred often.

No woman under forty years of age is to be ordained a deacon.

451 A.D., The Council of Chalcedon

3. Women are no longer allowed to be Catholic deacons. But it is not proper to insist that the word "deacon" when applied to women refers the same role as for men.

We entirely forbid, moreover, those abominable jousts and tournaments in which knights come together by agreement and rashly engage in showing off their physical prowess and daring.

1139 A.D., Second Lateran Council

1. Catholics now are very sports-minded.

We do not deny to kings and princes the power to dispense justice, in consultation with the archbishops and bishops.

1139 A.D., Second Lateran Council

1. This has been changed. Now the Catholic Church allows secular rulers to dispense justice without consulting church leaders.

We forbid all clerics to hunt or to fowl.

1215 A.D., Fourth Lateran Council

1. This has changed.

If any persons wish, for good reasons, to confess their sins to another priest let them first ask and obtain the permission of their own priest; for otherwise the other priest will not have the power to absolve or to bind them.

1215 A.D., Fourth Lateran Council

1. This has changed. In fact, Catholics are encouraged to confess to a priest from a different parish if it would be too embarrassing for them otherwise.

Can. 991 All Christ's faithful are free to confess their sins to lawfully approved confessors of their own choice, even to one of another rite.

Code of Canon Law

 

Democratic election of pastors. . . . We therefore decree that at the holding of an election, when all are present who ought to, want to and conveniently can take part, three trustworthy persons shall be chosen from the college who will diligently find out, in confidence and individually, the opinions of everybody.

1215 A.D., Fourth Lateran Council

1. This has changed. The choice of Catholic leaders is certainly not democratic today.



Writings by Popes ...

The Catholic Church claims that the teachings of the pope are infallible. Yet there are examples in which it appears that infallible teachings of popes are later changed.

Conclusion:  Apparent changes to infallible teachings of popes can be satisfactorily explained only by categorizing them as I have noted below. But the Catholic Church does not categorize them this way.

The Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility was first officially stated in 1869 at the ecumenical council Vatican I. This was five years after the most recent example which I present.

These changes of infallible teachings by the popes can be explained in several ways (this is my system of categorizing based on trying to give the maximum leeway to support Catholic claims using the tiniest sliver of legal technicalities):

1. The earlier statement does not meet the conditions of infallibility.

2. The earlier statement applied to the age in which it was declared but longer applies in our modern age (but the modern statements neglect to mention this shift — we must assume it to be true even though the church doesn't seem to think this).

3. The newer statement is not a change but merely a new perspective. The earlier statement is still true. (However, the earlier statements don't seem to match the new statements at all except by reinterpreting them to mean something they didn't mean at the time.)

QuotesMy comments

77. [It is an error that] In the present day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship.

Pius IX, 1864, Syllabus of Errors

2. He is saying that society should not become what it has today become — a secular state outside the control of the church.

78. [It is an error that] Hence it has been wisely decided by law, in some Catholic countries, that persons coming to reside therein shall enjoy the public exercise of their own peculiar worship.

Pius IX, 1864, Syllabus of Errors

2. He seems to be promoting the idea that the state should enforce Catholicism as the state-mandated religion.

15. [It is an error that] Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true.

Pius IX, 1864, Syllabus of Errors

2. The church used to believe that people are not free to choose their religion.

Marked for condemnation the "insanity" that: liberty of conscience and worship is each man's personal right, which ought to be legally proclaimed and asserted in every rightly constituted society; and that a right resides in the citizens to an absolute liberty, which should be restrained by no authority whether ecclesiastical or civil, whereby they may be able openly and publicly to manifest and declare any of their ideas whatever, either by word of mouth, by the press, or in any other way.

Papal encyclical by Pope Pius IX, 1864, Quanta Cura

2. This papal encyclical says many other things like this.

Nobody may be forced to act against his convictions, nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in association with others, within due limits. This right is based on the very nature of the human person, whose dignity enables him freely to assent to the divine truth which transcends the temporal order.

Catechism of the Catholic Church,
Section 2106

2. This quotation from the modern-day Catechism of the Catholic Church says the opposite of what these previous "official" statements said.

10. It is one of the major tenets of Catholic doctrine that man's response to God in faith must be free: no one therefore is to be forced to embrace the Christian faith against his own will.

Vatican II, Section 10, Dignitatis Humanae

2. No one should be forced what religion to believe.

The human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

Vatican II, Section 2, Dignitatis Humanae

2. Vatican II declares that people are free to choose. This is a change.

16. [It is an error that] Man may, in the observance of any religion whatever, find the way of eternal salvation, and arrive at eternal salvation.

Pius IX, 1864, Syllabus of Errors

3. This statement is partially true in stating that people are not saved in observing any religion (but neither are they saved merely by being Catholic). The error is that it seems to exclude the possibility that non-Catholics can be saved.

17. [It is an error that] Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ.

Pius IX, 1864, Syllabus of Errors

3. Whether or not a non-Catholic (or non-Christian) can have a good hope of salvation is unclear. But some non-Christians end up in the new heavens and new earth.

Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life.

Vatican II, Paragraph 16, Lumen Gentium

3. Not only can non-Christians be saved, but atheists can be also. This is a definite change in the teaching of the church.

73. [It is an error that] In force of a merely civil contract there may exist between Christians a real marriage.

Pius IX, 1864, Syllabus of Errors

3. Pope Pius IX is stating that a marriage of Christians outside the church is not really a valid marriage.

The matrimonial covenant; . . . This covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 1601

3. Notice that even non-sacramental marriage is really marriage.

The Church holds the exchange of consent between the spouses to be the indispensable element that "makes the marriage."

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 1626

3. It is the consent of the spouses which makes the marriage, not the church.

In case of disparity of cult [between a Catholic and a non-baptized person] an express dispensation from this impediment is required for the validity of the marriage.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 1635

3. The church teaches that it is possible for a marriage involving a non-Christian to be a valid marriage.



Non-Christians Can't Be Saved ...

The Catholic Church used to teach in very strong terms that only members of the Catholic Church can be saved.

Conclusion:  These apparent changes can be satisfactorily explained only by categorizing them as I have noted below. But the Catholic Church does not categorize them this way.

These change can be explained in several ways (this is my system of categorizing based on trying to give the maximum leeway to support Catholic claims using the tiniest sliver of legal technicalities):

1. The earlier statement does not meet the conditions of infallibility.

2. The earlier statement applied to the age in which it was declared but longer applies in our modern age (but the modern statements neglect to mention this shift — we must assume it to be true even though the church doesn't seem to think this).

3. The newer statement is not a change but merely a new perspective. The earlier statement is still true. (However, the earlier statements don't seem to match the new statements at all except by reinterpreting them to mean something they didn't mean at the time.)

QuotesMy comments

There is indeed one universal church of the faithful, outside of which nobody at all is saved.

1215 A.D., Fourth Lateran Council

3. The claim of this Catholic council is that no one is saved outside the one church.

Urged by faith, we are obliged to believe and to maintain that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and also apostolic. We believe in her firmly and we confess with simplicity that outside of her [the Church] there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins.

Papal bull by Boniface VIII,
1302 A.D., Unam Sanctam

3. The claim of this papal bull is that no one is saved outside the Catholic Church.

It firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart "into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.

Papal Bull of Pope Eugene IV,
1441 A.D., Cantate Domino

3. The claim of this papal bull is that only Catholics will go to heaven.


In modern times, the Catholic Church has changed this view and claims that there is the possibility that non-Catholics, and even non-Christians, can enter heaven.

QuotesMy comments

There are . . . those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy religion. Sincerely observing the natural law and its precepts inscribed by God on all hearts and ready to obey God, they live honest lives and are able to attain eternal life by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace. Because God knows, searches and clearly understands the minds, hearts, thoughts, and nature of all, his supreme kindness and clemency do not permit anyone at all who is not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishments.

8. Also well known is the Catholic teaching that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church. Eternal salvation cannot be obtained by those who oppose the authority and statements of the same Church and are stubbornly separated from the unity of the Church and also from the successor of Peter, the Roman Pontiff.

Encyclical of Pope Pius IX, 1863 A.D., Quanto Conficiamur Moerore

3. The claim of this papal encyclical is that some who are outside the Catholic Church will be saved. But those who wilfully oppose the Catholic Church will not be saved.

This is a change because allowance is made for non-Catholics to be saved.

16. Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life.

Vatican II, 1964, Lumen Gentium

3. The claim of this Catholic Council is that not only can non-Christians and non-Catholics be saved, but even atheists can be saved. This is quite a change.

Many people do not have an opportunity to come to know or accept the Gospel revelation or to enter the Church.... For such people, salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally a part of the Church but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit. It enables each person to attain salvation through his or her free cooperation.

Pope John Paul II, 1990 Redemptoris Missio

3. He states that non-Catholics and non-Christians can be saved. His way of avoiding the idea that the Church has changed its view is to declare that non-Catholics who are saved are in some way mysteriously related to the Catholic Church.


There are various attempts to explain the apparent contradictions, but these are typically tenuous at best — they basically don't make any sense at all. Only if you know that the Catholic Church is necessary for salvation but reject it; only in that case is membership necessary. If you are ignorant of this fact or doubt it (perhaps because the Church has changed its teachings on this topic), then membership in the Catholic Church is not necessary for salvation. This seems like an idiotic explanation to me. It explains the changed teaching only by using an arcane legal technicality. This doesn't seem to me like the way Jesus did things.