Some Dogmatic, Canonical, and Moral Questions to Ponder

Eamonn Clark

Given the past few years of theological disputes, several questions have proposed themselves as needing more serious attention, either in explanation of or exploration for the correct answers. Except to suggest the use of one particular theological tool, I don’t have any purpose here other than to say what some (but not all) of these questions are and to give them a definite shape in the hopes of helping them to be more effectively addressed. Here we go…

  1. How do we determine what is infallibly taught by the ordinary magisterium and what is fallibly taught by the ordinary magisterium?
  2. Even if something is certainly taught fallibly by the ordinary magisterium, how do we know if it is still binding through demanding “religious assent”?
  3. What is the moral significance of failing to adhere to various kinds of positions taught with varying degrees of frequency, strength, and recentness?
  4. To what degree, if any, are theologians exempt from such demands and their corresponding moral penalties?
  5. Who exactly belongs to this supposedly exempt category called “theologians”?
  6. When does it become morally acceptable for theologians to presume to correct a legitimate ordinary magisterial organ, in various degrees of publicity?
  7. What is the exact significance and character of the extraordinary magisterium if it can only teach what has already been taught by the ordinary magisterium?
  8. Can a practice of the Church or its encouragement of a practice establish a speculative doctrine to one degree or another, other than with regard to the liturgy and the sacraments?
  9. What is the authoritative character of prudential utterances of the Holy Father or his legitimate direct cooperators (such as the CDF) when the matter of the utterance actually belongs most properly to the discretion of a legitimate civil authority?
  10. Is there a good solution to so-called “conflict marriage” annulment cases in which the petitioner is unable to produce witnesses due to a legitimate obstacle (such as the witnesses being dead)?
  11. What level and kind of ignorance of the Church’s legal system and its legitimate demands upon oneself would suffice to remove some or all of the formal aspect of sin from one’s materially sinful union?
  12. If there is a possibility of a complete or partial excuse of moral culpability due to ignorance of canon law’s legitimate demands upon oneself with regard to marriage which can be privately ascertained by a sacred minister, how ought such persons be sacramentally ministered to, whether publicly or privately?
  13. Aside from the general application of c. 915, and independent of the question of culpability for cohabitation and bigamy themselves, under what circumstances, if any, is it possible that to leave a person in ignorance about the moral necessity of an annulment, for which he or she is privately judged to be at least partially culpable, constitutes a legitimate condescension to a perceived likelihood of being unwilling to cooperate and thus likely leading to even worse sin?
  14. What is the exact character and efficacy of a so-called “spiritual communion” for those who persist in mortal sin?

These aren’t “ivory tower debates.” Some of these questions, as I have implied in previous posts, could be helped by a more common use and further refinement of the Church’s system of “theological notes.”

3 thoughts on “Some Dogmatic, Canonical, and Moral Questions to Ponder

  1. I had so more time this evening to read through Akin’s remarks on the topic. He mentions that we’re obligated to submit our intellect to this change in the teaching. Are you at this present moment doing such?

    I also wanted to explain that although I do acknowledge the possibility of Scoop’s hypothesis of Benedict XVI’s still the reigning pontiff, as it is odd for him to keep the style of the Pope within the traditions of the Church. If one applies Ockham’s razor, the easiest conclusion is, of course, that Pope Francis is the Pope.

    Again, the problem I have with the whole “development of doctrine” is what you explained in the above post. What else could simply change by using the words “dignity” and “inadmissible.” How can I submit my will to things that appear to be contrary to nature, as if we apply those same concepts to the possibility of taking life in a self-defense situation? It simply doesn’t follow logic. It becomes contradictory and that’s what I’m having difficulty with this whole change in the Catechism. Honestly, I can with no problem submit to this change and perhaps I should view that as an indication of the truth as Akin explains; however, there are lines which you give examples of above that our Church currently stands that I know if were developed is a bridge too far.


    1. I think Ratzinger and Akin are opposed on the matter… The matter belongs to the prudential assessment of the relevant civil authority, and its territory’s citizens, NOT the Holy See. Imagine if a paragraph was added to the CCC saying that “building a wall to keep out immigrants is inadmissible because it is an attack on the dignity of the person.” We should give it a respectful consideration, and then we are free to make up our own minds.


    2. As for Benedict… Well, if his resignation was invalid, one must wonder what would not be. There are always “pressures” to leave office. And basic jurisprudence tells us to accept the words as faithfully conveying the intention of the speaker in a juridical act, until definitively proven otherwise. The fact that he wears white and uses a certain style of address are, frankly, puerile arguments… One could make the argument that if he were not doing those things, it would further evidence that there was “coercion”… So there’s no winning. It’s a pseudoscientific theory, as most conspiracy theories are.


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