If Catholics are not faithful to doctrine, we will face Anglican-style divisions

Those proposing change have not shown how it can be reconciled with Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium

The Church is in a full-blown civil war over doctrine, as Dan Hitchens observed earlier this week in a carefully argued and fully evidenced article. Coincidentally, the Church of England’s doctrinal civil war has taken a new turn at the latest sitting of the General Synod, with heated debates over same-sex relationships. Michael Fabricant MP suggests in the Telegraph that Anglicans should jettison their “conservative” wing. In the same newspaper, the devout and passionate Andrea Minichiello Williams makes a convincing case for Christian tradition.

The Williams article makes one very important point: “The Church can’t give its blessing to same-sex marriages when its sole source of authority does not.” She is completely correct to pinpoint the question of authority as crucial. If anyone is proposing change, one must ask by what authority do they act? When a change cannot be backed up by Scripture (crucial for all Christians) and by Tradition and the Magisterium (especially crucial for Catholics), then there can be no presumption that change is right. When Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium are not merely not silent on the matter, but explicitly forbid what is being proposed, then the matter is even more clear-cut.

This is not “fundamentalism”, a charge often levelled at people like Andrea Minichiello Williams. If the Scriptural foundation of the Church’s teaching – any Church’s teaching – is removed – then it follows logically that no teaching is to be regarded as absolute, and thus no teaching is to be regarded as worthy of belief, for all teachings are from now on, in theory at least, open to radical revision.

If we look at the sort of Church that Michael Fabricant is envisioning, it is a Church without any foundation at all, except the vagaries of public opinion. Contrary to what he thinks, such a Church would simply fade away. It would, for a moment, seem terribly up to date, but that would last merely a few years. It would come to look increasingly desperate as it struggled to keep up with every vagary of public opinion, which is hardly coherent and ever fluctuating.

Catholics cannot be smug about this, for the same pressures that afflict the Anglicans are now being brought to bear on us. Those who are proposing change need to be confronted with the question of authority and challenged to show us where in Scripture, where in the Magisterium, and where in the Tradition is there anything that can be used to justify communion for those living in irregular unions. They would have a hard task to find any useful evidence for their position. Moreover, they have advanced no argument of merit, as far as I can see, that suggests that change in this matter is desirable or necessary.

Meanwhile, Catholics should look at the Church of England, for what is happening there today represents our future too unless we are not merely careful, but faithful to what we have received. The Anglican civil war began at the Lambeth Conference of 1930. Ours is just beginning, and will, perhaps, run for many a year yet.




  1. Peter Aiello Reply

    Vatican II’s Dei Verbum 21 says: “Therefore, like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture”.
    I find it interesting that this quote from Dei Verbum 21 shows only “Sacred Scripture” as the regulator of Christianity. I invariably get a lot of disagreement from fellow Catholics who insist that the Church is not “sola scriptura”, even though this quote is the closest that I have seen to sola scriptura coming from the Magisterium. Vatican II could have used the term “Word of God” as it does in Dei Verbum 10: “Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God”.
    I don’t believe that this is an oversight. I notice that in the Catechism 131, The actual quote from Dei Verbum 21 is left out. Part of the sentence after this is included. I wonder why?
    I think that the quotes are reconcilable because Dei Verbum 21 addresses what regulates the Church. Sacred tradition also has to be regulated by Sacred Scripture; otherwise is could veer off into error. If it is also regulated, it qualifies as valid teaching.
    We as individual Catholics, also need to be regulated by Sacred Scripture in forming our personal consciences.

  2. thomraff Reply

    Do you really think Catholics are faithful to Church doctrine now? Please face reality. Present-day Catholics are “Cafeteria Catholics” big-time. The vast majority of today’s Catholics are attempting to reconcile reality with Church dogma and are coming up with a wide variety of mind games in order to attempt to preserve their faith. The only people who presently accept all of the unsupported, ignorant dogma are the fringe “Devout Catholics” and those living in poor areas and/or in 3rd World countries. Oh, by the way, all of this drifting away from Catholic teaching is good, as it shows at least an attempt by people to think for themselves based on evidence. I just hope they will continue toward dumping religion entirely, for their sake and that of humanity in general.

  3. Patrick Gannon Reply

    The Church has changed, and can continue to do so. It no longer publicly condones slavery, racism, misogyny, prejudice against the disabled, and these actions are in direct opposition to its god according to his holy book, so the Church can spit in the face of god, as it has in the past, just as its parishioners can spit in the face of the Church by ignoring its Iron Age dogma regarding contraception, which is part of the Church’s manic obsession with all things sexual.
    These are such minor issues in comparison with the greatest problem facing the Church today – the loss of the foundation for its god. There was no six day creation, no two-person DNA bottleneck (meaning no original sin), no global flood, no mass Exodus from Egypt and no conquest of Canaan. All of these events are myths, and having been debunked, what else can its god rest upon? DNA evidence and evolution do away with original sin, which really eliminates any need for the Church in the first place.
    Trying to keep the focus off these critical issues by diverting attention, as always, to things of a sexual nature (communion for the divorced/remarried, continued hostility to LGBTs, restrictions on the roles of women, not to mention what they can and can’t do with their bodies, etc.); these are minor issues compared with the loss of original sin.

    1. Peter Aiello Reply

      Patrick Gannon: Original sin exists whether a person believes in it or not. In Romans 7:14-8-2, Paul describes it as doing the things that we don’t want to do, and not doing the things that we should. He call this the law of sin. It causes our sin actions. It is our human weakness, and not just a black mark on our soul. Are you guilty of this?

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