Doctrine and Discipline

Can one of my more Catholic readers offer a suitable distinction between doctrine and discipline? Specifically, I’m thinking about the development of doctrine issue. The faith of the Church never changes, never has–and so when Catholics are confronted with the contradiction between clerical celibacy and Paul’s prescription in the Pastorals (husbands of one wife…) they tell me that that’s a matter of *discipline* not doctrine. Discipline can change but doctrine can’t. So–where’s the line?

6 thoughts on “Doctrine and Discipline

  1. The young fogey

    The dividing line? Like the American judge said of porn, ‘I know it when I see it’. Seriously, faith and morals are unchangeable; there’s no claim anywhere that the issue of celibate or married clergy, for example, affects one’s salvation! Having a married priest ≠ denying the existence of God, denying the divinity of Christ or killing somebody in cold blood!

  2. James Day

    Papacy Baby!! No one rocks the doctrine/discipline divide like my man B-16. Nothing says drawing a line like infalliability. If only us Anglican heathens would see the light and give ups to ponitifical power, things would be so clear. My boy B got the binding and loosing in stride. He can put heathens in their place, cut through the theological ambiguity, and still make a mean Vatican pot roast without breaking a sweat. How does he do it? Because if he can’t then the gates of hades be makin’ moves in the church. Where to put married clergy and proper doctrine is only a problem for us Anglicans ’cause we actually have to think these things through. But Big Papa Ben got JC backing him up. Peace.

  3. Derek the Ænglican

    Yeah, well, that’s the thing… I thought I’d find it in the big Catholic catechism but no such luck… Maybe the twins will point me to it.

  4. David B.

    Well, this is only slightly infallible, but here goes:

    Discipline relates to church order and doctrine/dogma relates to fundamental truths. There is a fine line and I am not really sure how the Catholic Church always distinguishes the two. I suspect as the young fogey hinted at, some of it is common sense. Church order can change while the fundamental truths behind the order remain the same. However, you change the fundamental truths and then you have problems. For instance believing in the Real Presence at Mass is important, the direction the priest faces can and will change.

    I know my answer probably isn’t satisfying, but the supreme court and porn example (or the Socrates and courage example) is similar.

    I’ll have a look at the catechism and see if its buried there somewhere.

  5. bls

    Until at least the early part of the 20th Century, women were forbidden to sing in the choir; the claim was that being female, they “couldn’t perform a liturgical function.” Boys were allowed to sing, though, if high voices were needed.

    Doctrine or discipline? (Or just typical cultural values masquerading as one or the other?)

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