I'll concede the point that Catholic doctrine has evolved over the years. But did you read the numerous quotes in my last post? Here are just a couple, both consistent with the others...
"Nothing ever changes in the eternal Catholic doctrine." Pope John Paul II, LOR, #49, December 9, 1992, (quoted in The Apostolic Digest, by Michael Malone, Book 6: "The Book of Sentimental Excuses", Chapter 4: "The Dogmas of Faith Admit No Alteration Whatsoever").
"The Catholic Faith is such that nothing can be added to it, nothing taken away. Either it is held in its entirety, or rejected totally. This is the Catholic faith, which, unless a man believes faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved." Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi, PTC:761, (quoted in The Apostolic Digest, by Michael Malone, Book 6: "The Book of Sentimental Excuses", Chapter 4: "The Dogmas of Faith Admit No Alteration Whatsoever").
Obviously the fact of changing Catholic doctrine and beliefs makes a joke out of the Roman Church's claim to infalliability, as well as the Pope. So what are we to believe are the true beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church?
I have to slightly disagree (no surprise there I'm sure) with Lee (although I greatly appreciate his fair and balanced views, as always) because I do indeed believe that the teachings of the Church in essence remain the same. (The quotes used above are not the best encapsulation of what that means. As always, a sound bite does not convey the entirety of the message.)
The thing is, we believe doctrines do not change, but as the world changes the applications of the doctrines may change. A simple example of that would be if there were a doctrine that said "Be generous in your alms giving," depending on the time and place and person, the amount given may vary widely, but may be equally generous.
I believe the article I posted above does a good job of explaining how, when all of the points in the syllabus of errors are taken in their time and historical context, the principals (doctrines) behind them can still be considered valid and even supported and expounded upon by our most recent council (Vatican II). Some of the particulars (the way the doctrines are applied) have changed as is normal, but actual doctrine has not. The syllabus of errors pointed out many problems but didn't offer solutions to them. A document from Vatican II entitled Gaudium et Spes
, "outlined a positive agenda while the Syllabus of Errors
(and Quanta Cura
which accompanied it) merely condemned errors and outlined no actual agenda." The old and the new complement each other and build on each other. We are always learning as we go...the doctrines remain the same, it is our understanding of them that develops, and our application of them that adapts as cultures and times change.
I thought this was a pretty absurd statement when I first heard it, honestly, and thought it would take absolutely no time to refute. But when I looked at things from the other side and stopped using anti-Catholic sources that kept ripping things out of context, I quite surprised myself.