Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma | Ludwig Ott | Baronius Press




Dr. Ludwig Ott

Baronius Press

§4. The concept and Classification of Dogma

1. Concept

By dogma in the strict sense is understood a truth immediately (formally) revealed by God which had been proposed by the magisterium of the Church to believed as such. The First Vatican Council explains: “All those things are to be believed with divine and catholic faith that are contained in the Word of God, written or handed down, and which by the Church, either in solemn judgment or through her ordinary and universal teaching office, are proposed for belief as having been divinely revealed.” (Fide divina et catholica ea omnia credenda sunt, quae in verbo Dei scripto vel tradito continentur at ab Ecclesia sive solemni idicio sive ordinario et universali magisterio tamquam diviitus revelata credenda proponuntur.) DH 3011.

Two elements may be distinguished in the concept of dogma:

a) An immediate divine revelation (revelatio immediate divina or revelatio formalis). The dogma must be immediately revealed by God either explicitly (explicite) or implicitly (implicite), and therefore be contained in the sources of Revelation (Sacred Scripture or Tradition).

b) The proposition of the dogma by the magisterium of the Church (propositio Ecclesiae). This implies, not merely promulgation of the truth, but also the obligation of the faithful to believe the truth proposed. This promulgation by the Church may be made either in an extraordinary manner through a solemn doctrinal decision by the Pope or General Council (iudicium solemne) or through the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Church (magisterium ordinarium et universal). The latter may be found easily in the catechisms issued by the Bishops.

In this view, which is the generally accepted 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. Tuyarts, A. Gardeil, F. Marin-Sola), a truth can be proposed as a dogma, even if it only mediately or virtually contained in the sources of revelation, that is, in such manner that it may be derived from a truth of revelation by the aid of natural reason. The Scotist view provides the Church’s Magisterium with a wider scope for defining truths of the faith proclaimed by the Church in the sources of revelation. This view has been challenged since it should be considered that the assent of faith is based not solely on the authority of the revealing God, but also on the natural knowledge of reason, while the Church demands divine faith (fides divina) towards the dogma.

Dogma in its strict sense is the object of both divine and Catholic faith (fides divina et catholica); it is the object of divine faith (fides divina) by reason of its divine revelation, and it is the object of Catholic faith (fides catholica) on account of its infallible doctrinal definition by the Church. If a baptized person deliberately denies or doubts a dogma in the strict sense, he is guilty of the sin of heresy (CIC [1917] 1325§2, CIC [1983] 751, CCC2089, and automatically becomes subject to the punishment of excommunication (CIC [1917] 2314§1, CIC [1983] 1364§1).

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 (Duarez, De Lugo), one is bound to believe it” by divine faith” (fides divina). However, most theologians teach that such a truth prior to its official proposition of the Church is to be accepted only with theological assent (assensus theologicus), as the individual may be mistaken.

H/T: For the record: Baronius Press’ revised translation of Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic DogmaFull text of Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s Foreword | By Augustinus at 6/01/2018 06:45:00 AM | RORATE CÆLI

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