Q. If the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus and many doctrines are supposedly based upon the teaching of the apostles and scripture, how can it change its doctrines, like at Vatican II?
A. Actually the Catholic Church has never changed its doctrines. She has held fast. That is why so many reject her for not approving modern views of contraception, homosexuality, etc. What she does change however are her disciplines. Disciplines are changeable but doctrine is not changeable because they are truths revealed by God–such as the incarnation, Trinity, Virgin Birth, etc. But disciplines are practices the Church decides to use to help lead the faithful to a deeper Faith and relationship with Our Lord.
For instance, for years Catholics were to abstain from the flesh of land animals on Friday. They could eat fish instead. This was a small sacrifice for the sake of discipline; to suffer a little bit on Friday in memory and union with the sacrifice of Christ on the cross on Good Friday. It inserted the practice of our Faith into an additional day of the week besides Sundays only. But by the time of Vatican II, it was decided by the Magesterium of the Church to remove this particular discipline as mandatory and change it. The new discipline for Friday’s is that each of the faithful may choose their own sacrifice to join themselves to the suffering of Christ. They may choose whatever is meaningful for them but all are encouraged to do something. However, due to poor catechesis, many ordinary Catholics think the Friday discipline was dropped altogether.
CCC1438 The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice. These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).
Another discipline that the Church has changed is married priests. We know that Peter was married, since scripture mentions his mother-in-law. We do not know if his wife was still living or if any of the other disciples were married. But there have been and still are married men who are priests of the Roman Catholic Church. Most are not, however. The practice of maintaining a predominately celibate priesthood is a discipline, not an unchangeable doctrine. That is why it is even possible at all, to have married priests in the Catholic Church. Theoretically this could change again. To learn more about the history of celibacy click —>HERE.
So, let me restate the fact that the Catholic Church does not change her Doctrine. It is easy to see, however, that many, even Catholics, could be confused and think, erroneously that the Church “changed her doctrines”, dropped doctrines, or made up new doctrines.
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