Discover more from Pope Francis Generation
Recently, I’ve seen a Dominican priest on Twitter lifting historical Church documents from centuries ago and imposing those teachings on others.
As a catechist, it would be inappropriate for me wield historical documents and present those things as if they were what the Church teaches and require the assent of the faithful. Things like…
1. That Catholic parents are "forbidden" to send their kids to public school without the permission of their bishop (Divini Illius Magistri 79, 1929AD).
2. That receiving interest on a loan (usury) is gravely evil and those guilty of usury should be denied Christian burial unless they repent (Second Lateran Council, 1139AD).
3. That "none of those who are outside of the Catholic Church" (including pagans, Jews, heretics, and schismatics) can be saved and all of them are damned to Hell (Council of Florence, 1442AD).
4. That slavery "considered in itself and all alone, is by no means repugnant to the natural and divine law" (Instruction of the Holy Office, June 20, 1866).
We can't understand, let alone impose on others, historical texts isolated from the Living Magisterium. The living Magisterium is our only sure guide and interpreter of Scripture, Tradition, and historic documents and councils (cf. CCC 85). And "frequent repetition" of a doctrine is one way for us to know the kind of submission we owe a magisterial teaching (Lumen Gentium 25).
So there's danger in accepting historic teaching as binding if it hasn’t been repeated in generations, much like the danger of deriving doctrines from our personal understanding of Scripture. We must read these things in light of the living Magisterium, starting with the CCC.
The CCC was intended to be "a compendium of all catholic doctrine regarding both faith and morals" and, when it was published, JPII called it "a sure norm for teaching the faith" and "a sure and authentic reference text for teaching Catholic doctrine" (Fidei Depositum 1,4).
The CCC itself says, "This catechism aims at presenting an organic synthesis of the essential and fundamental contents of Catholic doctrine, as regards both faith and morals, in the light of the Second Vatican Council and the whole of the Church's Tradition" (CCC 11).
So if a particular teaching isn't in Vatican II or the CCC (or a more recent magisterial document), there can be some assurance that it's not a required belief or binding on consciences.
It is catechetical malpractice to wield historical documents and present those things as if they were what the Church teaches. This can do real harm to people as well as damage the reputation and credibility of the Church.