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Unity of Christians
Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma
by Dr.  Ludwig Ott

§ 1. Concept and Object of Theology

1. Concept
The word theology, according to its etymology, means "teaching concerning God" (Phrase in Greek), de divinitate
ratio sive sermo: St. Augustine, De civ. Dei VIII I). Thus theology is the science of God.

2. Object
The material object of theology is firstly God, and secondly, created things under the aspect of their relation to
God: Omnia pertractantur in sacra doctrina sub ratione Dei, vel quia sunt ipse Deus, vel quia habent ordinem ad
Deum ut ad principium et finem. In sacred science all things are considered under the aspect of God, either
because they are God Himself or because they refer to God as their beginning and end. S. th. I I, 7.

As regards the Formal Object a distinction must be made between natural and supernatural theology. Natural
theology was first expounded by Plato. It is called by St. Augustine, in agreement with Varro, Theologia Naturalis,
and since the 19th century it is also called theodicy. It is the scientific exposition of the truths concerning God, in
so far as these can be known by natural reason and thus may be regarded as the culmination of philosophy.
Supernatural theology is the scientific exposition of the truths about God under the light of Divine Revelation. The
formal object of natural theology is God, as He is known by natural reason from creation; the formal object of
supernatural theology is God, as He is known by faith from revelation (cf. St. Augustine, De Civ. Dei VI 5: S. th. I I,
I ad 2).

Natural and supernatural theology differ: (a) in their principles of cognition, unaided human reason (ratio
naturalis), reason illuminated by faith (ratio fide illustrata); (b) in their means of cognition, the study of created
things (ea quae facta sunt), divine revelation (revelatifo divina); (c) in their formal objects, God as Creator and
Lord (Deus unus, Creator et Dominus), God one and three (Deus Unus et Trinus).

§ 2. Theology as a Science
1. The Scientific Character of Theology

a)   According to the teaching of St. Thomas, theology is a true science, because it uses as principles the
securely founded basic truths of Divine Revelation and draws from these new knowledge (theological conclusions)
by a strict scientific method and unites the whole in a closed system.
But theology is a subordinate science (scientia subalternata) because its principles are not immediately evident to
us in themselves, but are taken over from a higher science, from the truths communicated to us by God in
revelation (cf. S. th. I I, 2: Sacred doctrine is a science because it proceeds from principles established by the light
of a higher science namely the knowledge possessed by God and by the Blessed; Sacra doctrina est scientia,
quia procedit t ex principiis notis lumme superioris scientiae, quae scilicet est scientia Dei et beatorum).

The questions posed by the Schoolmen were exclusively those pertaining to speculative theology. The
development of historical research at the beginning of the modern era led to an extension of the concept of
"science" which permits its application to positive theology also. By "science" in the objective sense is understood
today a system of methodically worked-out knowledge about a unitary object. Theology possesses a unitary
object, uses a methodical process adapted to the object, and unites its results in a closed system. The
dependence of theology upon Divine authority and that of the Church does not derogate from its scientific
character, because theology belongs to the revealed truth given by God into the hands of the Church, and
therefore these cannot be dissociated from the object of theology.

b)   Theology transcends all other sciences by: the sublimity of its object; by the supreme certainty of its
knowledge which is based on the infallible knowledge of God; and by its practical purpose which is eternal bliss,
i.e., the ultimate destination of mankind (cf. S. th. I I, 5).

c)  According to St. Thomas theology is both a speculative and a practical science, since, in the light of Divine
Truth, it contemplates on the one hand, God, the First Truth, and things in their relation to God and on the other
hand it contemplates the moral actions of man in relation to his supernatural ultimate goal. Speculative theology is
the more noble since theology is concerned above all with Divine Truth. Thus the final aim even of Moral
Theology is to bring men to the perfection of the knowledge of God (S. th. I I, 4).

The medieval Franciscan School appraises Theology primarily as a practical or affective science, because
theological knowledge by its very nature is aimed at moving the affections or the will. The main object of moral
theology is the moral perfection of man: ut boni fiamus (St. Bonaventura, Proemium in IV libros Sent. q. 3).

The ultimate reason for the various answers to the problem lies in the various estimations of the hierarchy of the
powers of the human soul. St. Thomas and his School, with Aristotle, recognise the primacy of the intellect, the
Franciscan School with St. Augustine, that of the will.

d)   Theology is "Wisdom," since its object is God the ultimate origin of all things. It is the supreme wisdom since it
contemplates God, the ultimate origin, in the light of the truths of revelation communicated to man from the
wisdom of God Himself (cf. S. th. I I, 6).

2. A Science of Faith
Theology is a science of faith. It is concerned with faith in the objective sense (fides quae creditur) that which is
believed, and in the subjective sense (fides qua creditur) that by which we believe. Theology like faith accepts, as
the sources of its knowledge, Holy Writ and Tradition (remote rule of faith) and also the doctrinal assertions of the
Church (proximate rule of faith).

But as a science of faith it seeks by human reason to penetrate the content and the context of the supernatural
system of truth and to understand this as far as possible. St. Augustine expresses this thought in the words:
"Crede, ut intelligas" Believe that you may understand (Sermo 43, 7, 9); St. Anseim of Canterbury, with the words:
"Fides quaerens intellectum" Faith seeking to reach the intellect (Proslogion, Proemium) and: "Credo, ut
intelligam" I believe that I may understand (Proslogion I); Richard of St. Victor with the words: "Properemus de fide
ad cognitionem. Satagamus, in quantum possumus, ut intelligamus, quod credimus" (De Trinitate, Prologus). Let
us hasten from faith to knowledge. Let us endeavour so far as we can, to understand that which we believe.

3. Classification
Theology is a unitary science, as it has a single formal object: God and the created world, in so far as they are
the objects of Divine Revelation. As Revelation is a communication of the Divine knowledge, so theology is, in the
words of St. Thomas, a stamp or impression imposed by the Divine knowledge, which is unitary and absolutely
simple, on the created human spirit (S. th. I I, 3).

Theology is, however, divided into various branches and departments according to its various functions, which
are all sub-divisions of the one theological science :

a)   Dogmatic Theology, which includes Fundamental Theology, i.e., the basis of Dogmatic Theology.

b)  Biblical-historical Theology: Biblical introduction, Hermeneutics, Exegesis; Church History, History of Dogmas,
History of Liturgy, Church Legal History, Patrology.

c)   Practical Theology: Moral Theology, Church law, Pastoral Theology, including Catechetics and Homiletics.

§ 3. Concept and Method of Dogmatic Theology
1. Concept
On the ground of its proposition to the faithful by the Church the whole field of supernatural theology could be
called dogmatic theology. In point of fact, however, only the theoretical truths of Revelation concerning God and
His activity are dealt with in dogmatic theology (doctrina credendorum: the science of things to be believed), while
the practical teachings of Revelation regulating the activity of men are the object of moral theology (doctrina
faciendorum: the science of things to be done). Thus dogmatic theology can with Scheeben (Dogmatik, Einleitung
n. 2) be defined as "the scientific exposition of the whole theoretical doctrine revealed by God about God Himself
and His activity and which we accept on the authority of the Church."

2. Method
The method of dogmatic theology is both positive and speculative. Positive dogmatic theology is concerned with
doctrines that have been proposed to our belief by the Teaching Authority of the Church (dogmatic factor) and
that are contained in the sources of Revelation, Scripture and Tradition (Biblical-Patristic factor). In so far as it
defends the doctrine of the Church against false conceptions, it becomes controversial theology (apologetic or
polemic factor).

Speculative dogmatic theology, which is identical with the so-called scholastic theology, strives as far as possible
for an insight into the truths of faith by the application of human reason to the content of revelation.

The positive and speculative methods must not be separated from each other. The ideal lies in the harmonious
coalescence of authority and reason. This is, indeed, expressly prescribed by Ecclesiastical Authority : Pope Pius
XI, in the Apostolic Institution "Deus scientiarum Dominus" 1931, directs that Sacred Theology "is to be presented
according to the positive as well as to the scholastic method." The speculative exposition is to proceed "according
to the principles and teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas" (Article 29) (cf. St. Thomas, Quodl IV 9, 18).

§ 4. Concept and Classification of Dogma
1. Concept
By dogma in the strict sense is understood a truth immediately (formally) revealed by God which has been
proposed by the Teaching Authority of the Church to be believed as such. The Vatican Council explains: Fide
divina et catholica ea omnia credenta sunt, quae in verbo Dei scripto vel tradito continentur et ab Ecciesia sive
solemni iudicio sive ordinario et universali magisterio tanquam divinitus revelata credenda proponuntur. D 1792.
All those things are to be believed by divine and Catholic faith which are contained in the Word of God written or
handed down and which are proposed for our belief by the Church either in a solemn definition or in its ordinary
and universal authoritative teaching.

Two factors or elements may be distinguished in the concept of dogma:--

a)   An immediate Divine Revelation of the particular Dogma (revelatio immediate divina or revelatio formalis), i.e.,
the Dogma must be immediately revealed by God either explicitly (explicite) or inclusively (implicite), and therefore
be contained in the sources of Revelation (Holy Writ or Tradition).
b)   The Promulgation of the Dogma by the Teaching Authority of the Church (propositio Ecclesiae). This implies,
not merely the promulgation of the Truth, but also the obligation on the part of the Faithful of believing the Truth.
This Promulgation by the Church may be made either in an extraordinary manner through a solemn decision of
faith made by the Pope or a General Council (Iudicium solemne) or through the ordinary and general teaching
power of the Church (Magisteriurn ordinarium et universale). The latter may be found easily in the catechisms
issued by the Bishops.

In this view, which is th. usual one, and which is principally expounded by the "Thomists, the Truth proposed in the
dogma must be immediately and formally contained in the sources of Revelation either explicitly or implicitly.
According to another opinion, however, which is held by the Scotists, and also by several dominican theologians
(M. M.** Tuyaerts, A. Gardeil, F. Marin-Sola), a Truth can be proposed as a dogma, if it be only mediately or
virtually contained in the sources of Revelation, that is, in such a manner that it may be derived from a Truth or
Revelation by the aid of a truth known by Natural Reason. The Scotist view permits greater room for play in the
formal action of the Teaching Authority and makes it easier to prove that the Dogma is contained in the sources
of Revelation but its validity is challenged on the ground that the Truth of the Dogma is supported not solely by
the authority of the Revealing God, but also by the natural knowledge of reason, while the Church demands for
the dogma a Divine Faith (fides divina).

Dogma in its strict signification is the object of both Divine Faith (Fides Divina) and Catholic Faith (Fides
Catholica); it is the object of the Divine Faith (Fides Divina) by reason of its Divine Revelation; it is the object of
Catholic Faith (Fides Catholica) on account of its infallible doctrinal definition by the Church. If a baptised person
deliberately denies or doubts a dogma properly so-called, he is guilty of the sin of heresy (CIC 1325, Par. 2), and
automatically becomes subject to the punishment of excommunication (CIC 2314, Par. I).

If, despite the fact that a Truth is not proposed for belief by the Church, one becomes convinced that it is
immediately revealed by God, then, according to the opinion of many theologians (Suarez, De Lugo), one is
bound to believe it with Divine Faith (fide divina). However, most theologians teach that such a Truth prior to its
official proposition of the Church is to be accepted with theological assent (assensus theologicus) only, as the
individual may be mistaken.

2. Protestant and Modernistic Conception

a)   Protestantism rejects the Teaching Authority of the Church, and consequently also the authoritative
proposition of the content of Revelation by the Church. It claims that the Biblical Revelation attests itself. In spite
of this, and for the sake of unity of doctrine, a certain connection is recognised between dogma and the authority
of the Church. "Dogma is the valid teaching of the Church" (W. Elert). The liberal movement of the newer
Protestantism rejects not only the authoritative doctrinal proclamation of the Church, but also the objective Divine
Revelation, by conceiving Revelation as a subjective religious experience, in which the soul enters into contact
with God.
b)  According to Alfred Loisy ( 1940) the conceptions which the Church represents as revealed dogmas are not
truths which have come from Heaven, and which have been preserved by religious tradition in the exact form in
which they first appeared. The historian sees in them "the interpretation of religious facts acquired by the toil of
theological mental labour" (L'Evangile et l'Eglise, Paris, 1902, 158). The foundation of the dogma is, according to
the modernistic viewpoint, subjective religious experience, in which God reveals Himself to man (religious factor).
The totality of religious experience is penetrated by theological science and expressed by it in definite formularies
(intellectual factor). A formulary of this kind is then finally approved by the Church Authority, and thus declared a
dogma (authoritative factor). Pope Pius X has condemned this doctrine in the Decretum "Lamentabili" (1907), and
in the Encyclical "Pascendi" (1907). (D 2022, 2078 et seq.)

As against Modernism, the Catholic Church stresses that dogma according to its content is of truly Divine origin,
that is, it is the expression of an objective truth, and its content is immutable.

3. Classification
Dogmas are classified:

a)   According to their content as : General Dogmas (dogmata generalia) and Special Dogmas (dogmata
specialia). To the former belong the fundamental truths of Christianity, to the latter the individual truths contained

b)   According to their relation with Reason as : Pure Dogmas (dogmata pura) and Mixed Dogmas (dogmata
mixta). The former we know solely through Divine Revelation, e.g., The Trinity (mysteries), the latter by Natural
Reason also, e.g., The Existence of God.

c)   According to the mode by which the Church proposes them, as : Formal Dogmas (dogmata formalia) and
Material Dogmas (dogmata materialia). The former are proposed for belief by the Teaching Authority of the
Church as truths of Revelation; the latter are not so proposed, for which reason they are not Dogmas in the strict

d)   According to their relation with salvation as : Necessary Dogmas (dogmata necessaria) and Non-necessary
Dogmas (dogmata non-necessaria). The former must be explicitly believed by all in order to achieve eternal
salvation; for the latter implicit faith (fides implicita) suffices (cf. Hebr. II, 6).

§ 5. The Development of Dogma
1. Heretical Notion of Dogmatic Development
The Liberal Protestant concept of dogma (cf. A. von Harnack) as well as Modernism (ef. A. Loisy) assumes a
substantial development of dogmas, so that the content of dogma changes radically in the course of time.
Modernism poses the challenge: "Progress in the sciences demands that the conceptions of the Christian
teaching of God, Creation, Revelation, Person of the Incarnate Word, Redemption, be remoulded" (cf. D 2064).
Loisy declares: "As progress in science (philosophy) demands a new concept of the problem of God, so progress
in historical research gives rise to a new concept of the problem of Christ and the Church." (Autour d'un petit livre,
Paris 1903, XXIV.) In this view there are no fixed and constant dogmas; their concept is always developing. The
Vatican Council condemned Anton Günther's ( 1863) application of the idea of development in this sense to
dogmas as heretical: Si quis dixerit, fieri posse, ut dogmatibus ab Ecclesia propositis aliquando secundum
progressum scientiae sensus tribuendus sit alius ab eo, quem intellexit et intelligit Ecclesia. If anybody says that
by reason of the progress of science, a meaning must be given to dogmas of the Church other than that which
the Church understood and understands them to have let him be anathema. A.S. D 1818. In the Encyclical
"Humani Generis" (1950), Pope Pius XII rejected that dogmatic relativsm, which would demand that dogmas
should be expressed in the concepts of the philosophy ruling at any particular time, and enveloped in the stream
of philosophical development: "This conception," he says, "makes dogma a reed, which is driven hither and thither
by the wind" (D 3012).

The ground for the immutability of dogmas lies in the Divine origin of the Truths which they express. Divine Truth
is as immutable as God Himself : "The truth of the Lord remaineth for ever" (Ps. 116, 2). "Heaven and earth shall
pass away : but my word shall not pass" (Mk. 13, 31).

2. Development of Dogmas in the Catholic Sense

a)   From the material side of dogma, that is, in the communication of the Truths of Revelation to humanity, a
substantial growth took place in human history until Revelation reached its apogee and conclusion in Christ (cf.
Hebr. I, I).
St. Gregory the Great says: "With the progress of the times the knowledge of the spiritual Fathers increased; for,
in the Science of God, Moses was more instructed than Abraham, the Prophets more than Moses, the Apostles
more than the Prophets" (in Ezechielem lib. 2, horn. 4, 12).

With Christ and the Apostles General Revelation concluded. (sent. certa.)
Pope Pius X rejected the liberal Protestant and Modernistic doctrine of the evolution of religion through "New
Revelations." Thus he condemned the proposition that: "The Revelation, which is the object of Catholic Faith, was
not terminated with the Apostles." D 2021.

The clear teaching of Holy Writ and Tradition is that after Christ, and the Apostles who proclaimed the message of
Christ, no further Revelation will be made. Christ was the fulfilment of the Law of the Old Testament (Mt. 5, 17 ; 5,
21 et seq), and the absolute teacher of humanity (Mt. 23, 10: "One is your master, Christ" ; cf. Mt. 28, 20). The
Apostles saw in Christ: "the coming of the fullness of time" (Gal. 4, 4) and regarded as their task the preservation,
integral and unfalsified, of the heritage of Faith entrusted to them by Christ (1 Tim. 6, 14; 6,20; 2 Tim.1, 14; 2,2;
3,14). The Fathers indignantly repudiated the claim of the heretics to possess secret doctrines or new
Revelations of the Holy Ghost. St. Irenaeus (Adv. haer III 1 ; IV 35, 8), and Tertullian (De praesc. 21) stress,
against the Gnostics, that the full truth of Revelation is contained in the doctrine of the Apostles which is
preserved unfalsified through the uninterrupted succession of the bishops.

b)   As to the Formal side of dogma, that is, in the knowledge and in the ecclesiastical proposal of Revealed
Truth, and consequently also in the public faith of the Church, there is a progress (accidental development of
dogmas) which occurs in the following fashion:

1)   Truths which formerly were only implicitly believed are expressly proposed for belief. (Cf. S. th. I; II, 1, 7 :
quantum ad explicationem crevt numerus articulorum (fidei), quia quaedam explicite cognita sunt a posterioribus,
quae a prioribus non cognoscebantur explicite. There was an increase in the number of articles believed explicitly
since to those who lived in later times some were known explicitly, which were not known explicitly by those who
lived before them.)

2)  Material Dogmas are raised to the status of Formal Dogmas.

3)   To facilitate general understanding, and to avoid misunderstandings and distortions, the ancient truths which
were always believed, e.g., the Hypostatic Union (unio hypostatica), Transubstantiation, etc., are formulated in
new, sharply defined concepts.

4)   Questions formerly disputed are explained and decided, and heretical propositions are condemned. Cf. St.
Augustine, De civ. Dei 2, 1 ; ab adversario mota quaestio discendi existit occasio (a question moved by an
adversary gives an occasion for learning).

The exposition of the dogmas in the given sense is prepared by theological science and promulgated by the
Teaching Authority of the Church under the direction of the Holy Ghost (John 14, 26). These new expositions of
dogmatic truth are motivated, on the one hand, by the natural striving of man for deeper understanding of
Revealed Truth, and on the other hand by external influences, such as the attacks arising from heresy and
unbelief, theological controversies, advances in philosophical knowledge and historical research, development of
the liturgy, and the general assertion of Faith expressed therein.

Even the Fathers stress the necessity of deeper research into the truths of Revelation, of clearing up obscurities,
and of developing the teachings of Revelation. Cf. the classical testimony of St. Vincent Lerin ( before 450). "But
perhaps someone says: Will there then be no progress in the religion of Christ? Certainly there should be, even a
great and rich progress . . . only, it must in truth be a progress in Faith and not an alteration of Faith. For
progress it is necessary that something should increase of itself, for alteration, however, that something should
change from one thing to the other." (Commonitorium 23.) Cf. D 1800.

5)   There may be also a progress in the confession of faith of the individual believer through the extension and
deepening of his theological knowledge. The basis for the possibility of this progress lies in the depth of the truths
of Faith on the one hand, and on the other in the varying capacity for perfection of the human reason.

Conditions making for a true progress in the knowledge of Faith by individual persons are, according to the
declaration of the Vatican Council, zeal, reverence and moderation: cum sedule, pie et sobrie quaerit. 1) 1796.

§ 6. Catholic Truths
Corresponding to the purpose of the Teaching Authority of the Church of preserving unfalsified and of infallibly
interpreting the Truths of Revelation (D 1800) the primary object (obiectum primarium) of the Teaching Office of
the Church is the body of immediately revealed truths and facts. The infallible doctrinal power of the Church
extends, however, secondarily to all those truths and facts which are a consequence of the teaching of Revelation
or a presupposition of it (obiectum secondarium). Those doctrines and truths defined by the Church not as
immediately revealed but as intrinsically connected with the truths of Revelation so that their denial would
undermine the revealed truths are called Catholic Truths (veritates catholicae) or Ecclesiastical Teachings
(doctrinae ecclesiasticae) to distinguish them from the Divine Truths or Divine Doctrines of Revelation (veritates
vel doctrinae divinae). These are proposed for belief in virtue of the infallibility of the Church in teaching doctrines
of faith or morals (fides ecclesiastica).

To these Catholic truths belong:

1.        Theological Conclusions (conclusiones theologicae) properly so-called. By these are understood religious
truths, which are derived from two premisses, of which one is an immediately revealed truth, and the other a truth
of natural reason. Since one premiss is a truth of Revelation, theological condusions are spoken of as being
mediately or virtually (virtualiter) revealed. If however both premnisses are immediately revealed truths, then the
condusion also must be regarded as being immediately revealed and as the object of Immediate Divine Faith
(Fides Immediate Divina).

2.        Dogmatic Facts (facta dogmatica). By these are understood historical facts, which are not revealed, but
which are intrinsically connected with revealed truth, for example, the legality of a Pope or of a General Council,
or the fact of the Roman episcopate of St. Peter. The fact that a defined text does or does not agree with the
doctrine of the Catholic Faith is also, in a narrower sense, a "dogmatic fact." In deciding the meaning of a text the
Church does not pronounce judgment on the subjective intention of the author, but on the objective sense of the
text (D 1350 : sensum quem verba prae se ferunt).

3.        Truths of Reason, which have not been revealed, but which are intrinsically associated with a revealed
truth, e.g., those philosophic truths which are presuppositions of the acts of Faith (knowledge of the
supersensual, possibility of proofs of God, the spirituality of the soul, the freedom of will), or philosophic concepts,
in terms of which dogma is promulgated (person, substance, transubstantiation, etc.). The Church has the right
and the duty, for the protection of the heritage of Faith, of proscribing philosophic teachings which directly or
indirectly endanger dogma. The Vatican Council declares: Ius etiam et officium divinitus habet falsi nominis
scientiam proscribendi (D 1798).

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7. Theological Opinions
Theological opinions are free views on aspects of doctrines concerning Faith and morals, which are neither
clearly attested in Revelation nor decided by the Teaching Authority of the Church. Their value depends upon the
reasons adduced in their favour (association with the doctrine of Revelation, the attitude of the Church, etc.).

A point of doctrine ceases to be an object of free judgment when the Teaching Authority of the Church takes an
attitude which is clearly in favour of one opinion. Pope Pius XII explains in the Encyclical "Humani generis" (1950):
"When the Popes in their Acts intentionally pronounce a judgment on a long disputed point then it is clear to all
that this, according to the intention and will of these Popes, can no longer be open to the free discussion of
theologians" (D 3013).

8. The Theological Grades of Certainty
1.        The highest degree of certainty appertains to the immediately revealed truths. The belief due to them is
based on the authority of God Revealing (fides divina), and if the Church, through its teaching, vouches for the
fact that a truth is contained in Revelation, one's certainty is then also based on the authority of the Infallible
Teaching Authority of the Church (fides catholica). If Truths are defined by a solemn judgment of faith (definition)
of the Pope or of a General Council, they are "de fide definita."

2.       Catholic truths or Church doctrines, on which the infallible Teaching Authority of the Church has finally
decided, are to be accepted with a faith which is based on the sole authority of the Church (fides ecclesiastica).
These truths are as infallibly certain as dogmas proper.

3.        A Teaching proximate to Faith (sententia fidei proxima) is a doctrine, which is regarded by theologians
generally as a truth of Revelation, but which has not yet been finally promulgated as such by the Church.

4.       A Teaching pertaining to the Faith, i.e., theologically certain (sententia ad fidem pertinens, i.e., theologice
certa) is a doctrine, on which the Teaching Authority of the Church has not yet finally pronounced, but whose
truth is guaranteed by its intrinsic connection with the doctrine of revelation (theological conclusions).

5.        Common Teaching (sententia communis) is doctrine, which in itself belongs to the field of the free opinions,
but which is accepted by theologians generally.

6.        Theological opinions of lesser grades of certainty are called probable, more probable, well-founded
(sententia probabilis, probabilior, bene fundata). Those which are regarded as being in agreement with the
consciousness of Faith of the Church are called pious opinions (sententia pia). The least degree of certainty is
possessed by the tolerated opinion (opimo tolerata), which is only weakly founded, but which is tolerated by the

With regard to the doctrinal teaching of the Church it must be well noted that not all the assertions of the
Teaching Authority of the Church on questions of Faith and morals are infallible and consequently irrevocable.
Only those are infallible which emanate from General Councils representing the whole episcopate, and the Papal
Decisions Ex Cathedra (cf. D 1839). The ordinary and usual form of the Papal teaching activity is not infallible.
Further, the decisions of the Roman Congregations (Holy Office, Bible Commission) are not infallible.
Nevertheless normally they are to be accepted with an inner assent which is based on the high supernatural
authority of the Holy See (assensus internus supernaturalis, assensus religiosus). The so-called "silentium
obsequiosum." that is "reverent silence," does not generally suffice. By way of exception, the obligation of inner
agreement may cease if a competent expert, after a renewed scientific investigation of all grounds, arrives at the
positive conviction that the decision rests on an error.

9. Theological Censures
By a theological censure is meant the judgment which characterises a proposition touching Catholic Faith or
Moral Teaching as contrary to Faith or at least as doubtful. If it be pronounced by the Teaching Authority of the
Church it is an authoritative or judicial judgment (censura authentica or iudicialis). If it be pronounced by
Theological Science it is a private doctrinal judgment (censura doctrinalis).

The usual censures are the following: A Heretical Proposition (propositio haeretica). This signifies that the
proposition is opposed to a formal dogma; a Proposition Proximate to Heresy (propositio heresi proxima) which
signifies that the proposition is opposed to a truth which is proximate to the Faith (Sent. fidei proxima); a
Proposition Savouring of or Suspect of heresy (propositio haeresim sapiens or de haeresi suspecta); an
Erroneous Proposition (prop erronea), i.e., opposed to a truth which is proposed by the Church as a truth
intrinsically connected with a revealed truth (error in fide ecclesiastica) or opposed to the common teaching of
theologians (error theologicus); a False Proposition (prop. falsa), i.e., contradicting a dogmatic fact ; a
Temerarious Proposition (prop. temeraria), i.e., deviating without reason from the general teaching; a Proposition
Offensive to pious ears (prop. piarum aurium offensiva), i.e., offensive to religious feeling; a Proposition badly
expressed (prop. male sonans), i.e., subject to misunderstanding by reason of its method of expression; a
Captious Proposition (prop. captiosa), i.e., reprehensible because of its intentional ambiguity; a Proposition
exciting scandal (prop. scandalosa).

As to the form of the censures a distinction is made between Damnatio Specialis, by which a censure is attached
to an individual proposition, and the Damnatia in Globo, in which censures are imposed on a series of
The Primacy of Peter
from the "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma", Ludwig Ott., p. 279.

# 5.    The Primacy of St. Peter
Primacy means first in rank. A primacy may be one of honor, of control, of direction, or of jurisdiction, that is, of
government. A primacy of jurisdiction consists in the possession of full and supreme legislative, juridical and
punitive power.
1. The Dogma and its opponents;
Christ appointed the Apostle Peter to be the first of all the Apostles and to be the visible Head of the whole
Church, by appointing him immediately and personally to the primacy of jurisdiction. (De fide.)
The Vatican Council defined: [...] 1823. If anyone says that the blessed apostle Peter was not constituted, by
Christ Our Lord, Prince of all the Apostles and visible head of the Church Militant; or that he (Peter) directly and
immediately received from Our Lord Jesus Christ a primacy of honor  only and not one of true and proper
jurisdiction, let him be anathema. [Anathema:   CE,   The ecommunication of a person for either apostacy, sin or
The invisible Head of the Church is the risen Christ. St. Peter represents the position of Christ in the external
government of the militant Church, and is to this extent  "the representative of Christ" on earth (Christi vicarius: D
694). (militant, suffering, triumphant)
Opponents of this dogma are: the Greek Orthodox Church and the Oriental sects: individual medieval opponents
of the Papacy, Marsilius of Padua and John of Jandum, Wycliffe and Huss; the whole Protestant movement; the
Gallicans and Febronians; the old Catholics and; the Modernists. According to the Gallicans (E. Richer) and the
Febronians (N. Hontheim) the fullness of Christ's spiritual power was transferred immediately to the whole Church
and through this to St. Peter, so that he was the first servant of the Church, who was appointed by the Church
(caput ministeriale). According to the Modernists, the primacy was not founded by Christ, but was developed to
meet the needs of the Church in post-apostolic times. D 2055 et seq.

2.   Biblical Foundation
From the very beginning Christ distinguished the Apostle Peter from the other Apostles. At the first meeting he
announced the change of his name from Simon to Cephas = rock: "Thou art Simon the son of John" (Vulg. ;
Jonas). (I, 42; cf. Mk. 3:16). The name Cephas indicates the office to which the Lord had appointed him (cf. Mt.
16:18). In all the lists of the Apostles, Peter is named in the first place. In St. Matthew he is expressly called the
first. (Mt. 10:2). Since from the point of view of his time of calling, Andrew was before Peter, the constant placing
of Peter's name at the head of the list of the Apostles indicates the dignity of his office. Peter together with James
and John, was permitted to witness the awakening of the daughter of Jairus (Mk 5:37), the Transfiguration (Mt.
17:1), and the Agony in the Garden (Mt. 26:37). The Lord taught from Peter's boat (Lk 5:3), and paid the temple
tax for Peter and himself jointly (Mt. 17:27), ordered him to strengthen the bretheren after his own return (Lk
22:32), appeared to him alone before appearing to the other Apostles (Lk 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5).
The primacy was promised on the  occasion of the solemn confession of the Messiahship in the house of
Caesarea Philippi (Mt. 16:17-19):  "Blessed art thou, Simon BarJona : because flesh and blood hath not revealed
it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee : That thou art Peter (= Cephas); and upon this rock I
will build my Church. And the gates of hell shall  not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the
kingdom of Heaven. And whatever thou shalt bind on earth, it shall be bound  also in Heaven : and whatsoever
thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in Heaven." These words are addressed solely and immediately
to Peter.  In them Christ promises to confer on him a threefold supreme power in the new religious community
which he is to found. St. Peter is to guarantee to this Church a unity and unshakable strength similar to the rock
foundation of a house (cf. Mt. 7:24 et seq.). He is to be the holder of the keys, that is the steward of the Kingdom
of God on earth (cf. Is. 22:22; Apoc. 1:18; 3:7; the keys as a symbol of power and dominion). He is to bind and
lose, that is, following Rabinical language, impose the ban or loose from the ban, and also interpreting the law,
pronounce a thing to be forbidden (bound) or permitted (loosed). In association with Mt. 18:18, in which the power
of binding and loosing, in the sense of the exclusion from or acceptance into the community, is bestowed on all
the Apostles, and in view of the universal term ("whatever"), the plenary power promised to St. Peter is not limited
to his teaching power, but it extends to the whole sphere of jurisdiction. God in Heaven will confirm whatever
obligations Peter will impose or dispense from the earth.
In spite of all attempts to explain the passage, which appears in St. Matthew only, as a partial or complete later
interpolation, its genuiness is unassailable. This is proved, not only by the fact that the text is found in all
manuscripts and translations, but also by the obvious Semitic coloring  of the context. That these words were
spoken by the Lord Himself there are no convincing reasons for disputing. It contains no contradictions of other
teachings or facts in the Gospel.
The primacy was conferred when Christ, after His Resurrection, gave the mandate to Peter, after the latter's
three-fold assurance of His love: "Feed my lambs!...Feed my lambs!...Feed my sheep!" (John 21:15-17). Here, as
in Mt. 16:18 et seq., the words are directed solely and immediately to Peter. The "lambs" and the "sheep"
designate Christ's whole flock, that is, the whole Church (cf. Jn
10). "Feed" in ancient and biblical language means, in its application to human beings, rule or govern (cf. Acts
20:28). By Christ's thrice-repeated mandate, Peter obtained, not re-appointment to the Apostolic office-he did not
lose this through his denial-but the supreme power of government over the Church.  After the Ascension of Our
Lord, the Primacy devolved on Peter, and was exercised by him. From the very beginning he takes a leading
position in the primitive community. He conducts the election of Matthias (Acts 1:15 et seq.); he is the first to
proclaim on the Feast of Pentecost the message of the crucified and risen Messiah (Acts 2:14, et seq.); he attests
the message of Christ before the High Council (Acts 4:8); he accepts the first pagan, the captain Cornelius, into
the Church Acts 10:1). He is the first to speak at the Council of the Apostles (Acts 15:7). Paul goes to Jerusalem
"to see Peter" (Gal. 1:18).       

3.   Testimony of the Fathers
Commenting on the promise of the Primacy, the Fathers assert that the Church was built on Peter, and recognize
his pre-eminence over the other Apostles. Tertullian speaks of the Church: "which was built on him" (De monog.
8). St. Cyprian says with reference to Mt. 16:18: "He builds Church on one person" (De monog. 8). St. Clement of
Alexandria calls the Blessed Peter: "the chosen one, the selected one, the first among the Disciples, for whom
alone, besides Himself, the Lord paid the tax" (Quis dives salvetur 21, 4). St. Cyril of Jerusalem calls him: "the
head and leader of the Apostles" (Cat. 2, 19). According to St. Leo the Great "only Peter was chosen out of the
whole world to be the Head of all called peoples, of all the Apostles and of all the Fathers of the Church" (Sermo
4, 2). In the defensive struggle against Arianism many Fathers take the rock on which the Lord built the Church as
meaning the faith of Peter in the Divinity of Christ, without, however, excluding the reference to Peter's person,
which is clearly indicated in the text. Peter's faith was the reason why he was appointed by Christ as the support
and the foundation of His Church.

4.   Peter and Paul
It follows from the dogma of the Primacy that Paul, like the other Apostles, was subordinate to Peter as the
supreme head of the whole Church. Pope Innocent X rejected as heretical (1647) the teaching of the Jansenist
Anton Arnauld, that Peter and Paul were joint heads of the Church. D 1091   The Fathers, who frequently put
Peter and Paul on equal footing (pricipes apostolorum), have in mind either their apostolic efficacy or the
contribution of both the Apostles to the building - up of the Church in Rome or the Church in general. St. Paul,
according to his own confession, surpassed in efficacy all his co-Apostles (1 Cor. 15:10). The Primacy of power
belongs to Peter alone; to Paul belongs a leadership in the promulgation of the faith: Princeps clave Petrus
Primus quoque dogmate Paul (Venantius Fortunatus, Misc. IX 2, 35). The passage Gal. 2:11 : "I withstood him to
the face," does not derogate from Peter's Primacy. Paul censured the inconsistent attitude of Peter, because,
precisely on account of the latter's high authority in the Church, it endangered the freedom from the Old Law
enjoyed by the Christians who were converted from Paganism. Peter well knew and recognized this freedom.
Perpetuation of the Primacy (FCD) p. 282, That the Primacy is to be perpetuated in the successors of Peter is not
expressly stated in the words of the promise and conferring of the Primacy by Our Lord, but it flows as inference
from the nature and purpose of the Primacy itself. As the function of the Primacy is to preserve the unity and
solidarity of the Church, and as the Church, according to the will of her Divine Founder, is to continue
substantially unchanged until the end of time for the perpetuation of the work of salvation, the Primacy must also
be perpetuated. But, Peter, like every other human being, was subject to death (John 21:19), consequently his
office must be transmitted to others. The structure of the Church can not continue without the foundation which
supports it (Mt. 16:18): Christ's flock cannot exist without shepherds (John 21:15-17).
Early on the Fathers expressed the thought that Peter lives on and works on in his successors. The Papal Legate
Philippus, at the Council of Ephesus (431), declared: "This (Peter) lives and passes judgment up to the present
day, and for ever, in his successors" (D 112, 1824). In a letter to Eutyches, St. Peter Chrysologus says od the
Roman Pontiff: "The blessed Peter who on his Bishop's Chair lives on and leads the council, offers the true Faith
to those that seek it" (With Leo, . 25, 2). St. Leo the Great declared the Primacy to be a perpetual institution: "As
that which Peter believed in Christ lives forever, so also that which Christ institued in Peter lives forever" (Sermo
3, 2). "This Rock" Feb. '97,

QQ Fr. Hal Stockert
Question: Even granting that Jesus chose Peter as earthly head of the Church, and the apostles as its leaders,
what evidence is there that their successors assumed their powers?
Answer:   This is the real issue that separates Catholics from other Christians. I doubt very much that anybody,
Fundamentalist or mainline Protestant, denies the authority of the apostles. The very fact that there were apostles
and that Christ explicitly commanded them to "go forth and teach whatsoever I have commanded you" is too
powerful to ignore or deny. The real problem is in the question of their transferring that mission to others who
decidedly were not apostles.

That this teaching authority can reside elsewhere than solely among the  apostles, is amply demonstrated. Of the
four Gospels, two were written by men who were not apostles, and yet their writings bear the stamp of divine
inspiration and authentic teaching. Matthias was chosen as apostle by the other apostles to replace Judas
Iscariot. The choice was, according to the Acts of the Apostles, made directly under the inspiration of the Holy
Spirit. Once elected, he was treated exactly as one of the original Twelve.
In other words, the Bible itself shows that Jesus himself gave the apostles the power to appoint successors.

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