Thursday, February 15, 2007

Introduction to Catholic dogmatic theology

The following excerpt is from the introduction to Dr. Ludwig Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. It provides a pretty good overview of Catholic dogmatic theology. Its description of the "theological grades of certainty" are particularly helpful.

The book can be purchased here:

God bless,



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 therein.

    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 sense.

    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 Revelation 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).

§ 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 Church.

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 propositions.

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