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Q6. Does the teaching of the Church always remain the same?

The answer is: yes and no. The doctrine of the Church always remains the same as far as its essential contents is concerned. But there is also a development of doctrine. During the first few centuries, for instance, the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity was gradually clarified. We express this in theology by saying that the true Tradition grows. It is dynamic.

One of the classic exponents of this aspect of Tradition was Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890). Read one of his sermons in which he explains some key concepts: ‘The Theory of Developments in Religious Doctrine’, (1843).

The Church has always believed that its true Tradition is not fully expressed in external statements or practices. Tradition also contains “the gospel which our Lord did not write, but taught by word of mouth and implanted in people’s hearts, and part of which the evangelists later wrote down, while much was simply entrusted to the hearts of the faithful” (Joseph Ratzinger (!), ‘On the Interpretation of the Tridentine Decree on Tradition’, in Revelation and Tradition, by K. Rahner and J. Ratzinger, Burns & Oates, London 1966, pp. 50-68.) This Tradition was known as ‘the Gospel in the Heart’. The term for it today is ‘latent tradition’.

Latent tradition often lies hidden behind other beliefs and practices in the Church. One famous example of this, relating to the ordination of women, can be seen in the age-old devotion to Mary as Priest. For if Mary was a priest, it proves that women as women can be priests. Read more about this:

  1. Tradition indicates four mean reasons why Mary was, indeed, a priest.
  2. Tradition stressed especially Mary’s role as Sacrificial Priest.
  3. Mary was seen to have a special relationship to priests, not least in the celebration of the Eucharist.
  4. The devotion to Mary Priest has been present throughout the history of the Church, according to the the witness of theologians and spiritual writers.
  5. The devotion to Mary Priest was also expressed in religious art. Visit our gallery of images of Mary Priest.

The underlying Christian faith always remains the same, but its full implications only become clear in the course of time. This applies also to the ordination of women.

If you have questions at any stage, please, let me know. Click on the envelope and send me an email!Drop me a line!

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Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.

Visit also our websites:Women Deacons, The Body is Sacred and Mystery and Beyond.

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