PopeWatch: Development of Doctrine

Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, among his many other services to the Church, clarified the concept of development of doctrine as opposed to corruptions of doctrine that occasionally fasten on the Church and are shed off by the Church over time.

Newman posited seven notes, I would call them tests, for determining whether something is a development of doctrine or a corruption.

1.  Preservation of Type

2.  Continuity of Principles

3.  Power of Assimilation

4.  Logical Sequence

5.  Anticipation of Its Future

6.  Conservative Action upon Its Past

7.  Chronic Vigour

PopeWatch defies anyone to argue with a straight face that what Pope Francis has done in reversing the Church teaching on capital punishment is anything but a corruption of doctrine using the Newman test.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. I hold your view even for ccc 2267 from the first revision by St. JPII. But yes, Francis is another dimension in the bizarre entirely. Maybe he took too many headshots as a bouncer and this will be brought out at the end of time… “the work of everyone will be made manifest for the Day of the Lord will declare it…for that day will be revealed in fire.” I Cor. 3:13.

  2. In an interview before the Synod Cardinal Walter Kasper said that if the Church could change its ecclesiology, develop it, then why could it not also give the Eucharist to the divorced and remarried. So Pope Francis could be using the same reasoning with reference to capital punishment.
    In March 2016(Avvenire), Pope Benedict said that the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus is no more like it was for the missionaries in the 16th century. He said that there was a development with Vatican Council II. So a Magisterial interpretation of the dogma EENS has been changed in the present times.
    You have written:
    An example of a corruption I think is the Syllabus of Errors of Pius IX. Although a defense of the Syllabus can be mounted, and I have done so in the past, and there is much in the Syllabus that is still held by the Church, it is also fairly obvious that Pio Nono was writing largely in reaction to intellectual and political trends in his time with which he was not in sympathy. Pio Nono was deeply wedded to an intellectual and political world view that was dying before his eyes. He sought to enlist the Church in support of what he cherished. Time has demonstrated that, great Pope though he was, the attempt of Pius in the Syllabus of Errors to outline how the Church should deal with the modern world has proven transitory and a corruption that the Church today merely ignores. Pope Benedict, before he became Pope, referred to Gaudium et Spes as a “counter-Syllabus”. What new bedrock doctrines and teachings of the Church, which have made an appearance over the last few pontificates, will be totally ignored by popes a century or more hence, only time will reveal, although Newman and his Development of Doctrine analysis may give us hints.
    Since for you, like it is for Pope Benedict, invisible cases of the baptism of desire etc are visible exceptions to EENS as it was interpreted in the 16th century, there is a developmet of EENS and a rejection of the Syllabus of Errors on an ecumenism of return.This is a development for you.
    There is no development for me. Invisible cases of the baptism of desire etc are not visible exceptions to EENS.So Vatican Council II does not contradict the Syllabus of Errors for me. So there should be no change in the teaching on Capital Punishment or not giving the Eucharist to the divorced and remarried.

  3. Development of doctrine does not change doctrine.
    A citizen cannot sue the state because the citizen is the state. A citizen suing the state proves his own negligence, incompetence and often wickedness in preventing crime, corruption and the proliferation of evil. The citizen’s duty to the state is to do good through his good will for the common good.

    A citizen suing the state sues himself. A citizen suing the state sues “We, the people” A citizen suing an official of the state for damages is allowed to sue the official in his/her unofficial capacity for doing damage to the state and the individual citizen, himself.

    In a like manner a capital one murderer, a murderer in stealth of homicide in the first degree is executed through his own citizenship in the state through his own power of attorney.

    To deny the sovereign personhood of the murderer, homicide in the first degree, to bring himself to Justice through his own power of attorney in the execution of the death penalty is to deny his human dignity, his Justice and his citizenship.

    The citizenship of the condemned murderer of homicide in the first degree brings himself o Justice. Justice is the duty of the state to every sovereign person who institutes the state through his sovereign personhood.

    There are no words to forgive an individual who knowingly and intentionally murdered or inflicted injury to a child, your child, but to relinquish him to his Creator, to God, for God’s punishment are more horrendous than any imaginable penalty that man can contrive. Sending the murderer of homicide in the first degree to God for God’s perfect and infinite Justice suffices and conceives perfect Justice to the moral order of society. God’s perfect Justice suffices beyond all of man’s imagination.

    Without God all people are lost. Is the atheist exempt from the death penalty because he refuses to believe in God’s Justice?
    Mary De Voe

  4. Defending Francis is like playing a game of extreme Twister. Some people are still able to do it, but I can’t. Whether Francis has intentionally or not intentionally overstepped Papal authority is not clear, but as the dam has broke, we will like likely see more of it. And as this game of extreme Twister continues, we can rightly question the motives of those who still play the game.

  5. corruptions of doctrine that occasionally fasten on the Church and are shed off by the Church over time

    This gets my vote.

  6. It seems that the number one argument I’m seeing from the Pope’s defenders is that the Church changed when it came to slavery. I’m not sure how accurate that is as a comparison, but it’s the one I’m seeing the most.

  7. I do wonder how the College of Cardinals will sort this out when this Pope finally shuffles off. It has for over 50 years seemed as if papering things over was the default response by ecclesiastics when they weren’t being actively destructive, so I’m not expecting jack. A decadent age in which we live.

  8. “It seems that the number one argument I’m seeing from the Pope’s defenders is that the Church changed when it came to slavery. I’m not sure how accurate that is as a comparison, but it’s the one I’m seeing the most.”
    Indentured servitude is how people worked off their legitimate debts in the Old Testament.
    Slavery is the denial of and the refusal to acknowledge a sovereign person’s humanity.

  9. The main argument I am seeing is that “inadmissible” does not mean “intrinsically evil” therefore there has been no change. I agree, inadmissible does not mean intrinsically evil, because the two do not address the same aspect. Inadmissible addresses whether something may or may not be allowed. Intrinsically evil addresses why something may not be allowed. Thus, something may be inadmissible because it is intrinsically evil, or because it is evil under X circumstances. It is the “because,” and what follows it that clues us in to whether the inadmissibility is circumstantial, or if it is intrinsic. The key language is “because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” If nothing can change the dignity of the person, and therefore his inviolability, then no circumstances permit the act. Hence, the act is evil by its nature, not the circumstances. Therefore, the “Pope’s” teaching is contrary to what has been taught previously for the past 3,000 years (OT and NT). Ergo, heretical. If he persists in this after correction, and does not retract, he should be deposed. Incidentally, not that it is definitive, but every (and I mean EVERY) secular news outlet reports he has changed Church teaching, both those outlets that applaud the change and those that denounce it. I suppose it’s possible everyone misunderstands PF’s words, but then what good are his pronouncements if no one can understand them? Might as well issue them in Klingon.

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