43. Authority and different views—doctrine
43. Authority and different views—doctrine

43. Authority and different views—doctrine

Last week, I argued that being in a position of authority does not mean that everything we do and say is correct.

Throughout history, the golden rule for humankind has been: “Do to others what you would want them to do to you” (cf. Matt 7:12), or the variant, “Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you”. As Christ summarises it: “Love your neighbour as yourself”.

Love is the basis of Christianity. For the love of us, God sent his son to the world for our salvation (John 3:16), and Jesus affirms that no love is greater than laying down one’s life for another (John 15:6). St Paul extolls the qualities of love as not arrogant or rude or resentful, one that does not insist on its way nor rejoices at the wrong, but bears and endures all things (1 Cor 13: 5-7). As Christianity’s moral standard, love remains unchanged from epoch to epoch and from culture to culture.  

Hence, as priests and religious, when we make mistakes that hurt people, the aggrieved will differ from us. How do we react to differing views? Do we assume that everybody must agree with us? Do we assume that we are always correct? In the coming weeks, I will look at the phenomenon of authority and different views. Today, I discuss authority and different doctrinal views.

Canon 212 §1 says: “Christ’s faithful, conscious of their own responsibility, are bound to show Christian obedience to what the sacred pastors, who represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith and prescribe as rulers of the Church”. The strength of the Catholic institution is its continuity and universality, making it the most organised multinational institution in the history of humankind. Of course, Jesus promised his grace (Matt 16:18).

Church doctrine has a long history of development across the centuries, yet the foundations of these teachings are the scripture and natural law. Against this backdrop, the Church’s teachings are clear, and even the Pope cannot arbitrarily change them. Of course, customs change as the society changes; traditions also differ according to cultures; interpretation of doctrines can also differ according to cultures and epoch, yet the fundamentals remain unchangeable. 

There are many instances where Church authority deviated from doctrine in history, such as bible examples, Arius, and Luther. Recently, some European cardinals spoke in favour of modifying the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. For instance, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich believes that “sociological-scientific foundation of this teaching (homosexuality) is no longer correct”. On the same theme, Cardinal Reinhard Marx affirmed that the “Catechism is not set in stone. One may also doubt what it says”. Are these positions correct because Church Princes made them?

The synodal process of the Church in Germany has been tilting towards liberalising the Church’s teaching on sexuality and marriage. Over 70 bishops, including Cardinal Francis Arinze, have signed a fraternal open letter to Germany’s bishops warning about the consequences of this and the possible slip into schism. 

The point today is:

If some Church authority teaches something against established and universally accepted doctrine, we are not bound by conscience to accept it. If I teach it, I should expect differing views.

Ka Chineke mezie okwu🙏🏾


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