Wikipedia Errors on Roman Catholic Dogma
A series of articles on Wikipedia errors on Catholicism
by Ronald L. Conte Jr.

[Wikipedia Errors:   Papal Infallibility | Immaculate Conception | Original Sin | Venial Sin | Mortal Sin | Sanctifying Grace | Roman Catholic Dogma]

Roman Catholic Dogma
(July 24, 2009)

This article has numerous problems typical of articles in Wikipedia on Catholicism.

Wikipedia: "Dogma refers to an article of faith revealed by God, which the magisterium of the Church presents to be believed."

This definition is not correct because the Magisterium presents both infallible and non-infallible teachings to be believed. But the term dogma refers only to infallible teachings of the Magisterium. So this definition makes it seem as if a non-infallible teaching is a dogma; such is not the case.

Wikipedia: "The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the basic truth from which salvation and life is derived for Christians."

This assertion is like so many other assertions in Wikipedia articles on Catholicism. It is a baseless assertion, without any citation. It is not directly related to the main topic of the article, dogma. It sounds like a poor paraphrasing of some passage in an unnamed theology book, one that the editor paraphrased without understanding. Most theologians would say that the Crucifixion is the central event in the Christian Faith, the event which offers salvation and eternal life to everyone.

Wikipedia: "Dogmas regulate the language, how the truth of the resurrection is to be believed and communicated."

First, the article claims that a dogma is an article of faith presented by the Magisterium. Next, the article contradicts itself by saying that dogma is a way to regulate language concerning the truth of the resurrection. Two different understandings of dogma, both of them poor, apparently from two different editors, are combined in the same paragraph.

In truth, dogmas are a type of teaching, and the particular language and terminology used to state the dogma is not essential to the teaching. A dogma is an infallible teaching of the Magisterium, a truth of faith or morals found in Sacred Tradition or Sacred Scripture, at least implicitly, and also explicitly taught, infallibly and as a required belief by the Magisterium of the Church.

Wikipedia: "Roman Catholic Dogma is thus: 'a truth revealed by God, which the magisterium of the Church declared as binding' "

The inner quote above is from the theologian Michael Schmaus. This quote is an example of a common problem in these Wikipedia articles: the citations are often from a particular theologian, with one particular point of view, and yet this is presented as if it were Catholic teaching. The editors often seem unable to distinguish between an infallible teaching of the Magisterium, a non-infallible teaching of the Magisterium, and a theological opinion.

The above quote (which is probably quoted from Schmaus out of context) is not sufficient as a definition of dogma. A dogma is a truth revealed by God, but the Magisterium does not merely declare that the truth is binding. The Magisterium teaches that truth infallibly; the binding nature of such a teaching is a consequence of the infallibility of the teaching.

Wikipedia: "The faithful are required to accept with the divine and Catholic faith all, what the Church presents either as solemn decision or as general teaching. Yet not all teachings are dogma. The faithful are only required to accept those teachings as dogma, if the Church clearly and specifically identifies them as infallible dogmas. Not all truth are dogma. The bible contains many sacred truths, which the faithful recognize and agree with, but which the Church has not defined as dogma."

This passage appears to have been written by an editor who does not have English as his first language, or who has very poor writing skills. This is not an acceptable quality of writing for an encyclopedia article.

The above quoted paragraph contains numerous theological errors. First, only the Magisterium, exercised by either the Pope, or the body of Bishops led by the Pope, can teach infallibly; dogmas are infallible teachings of the Magisterium. The ability to teach infallibly is not given to individual Bishops, nor to the Church as a whole, nor to merely any person with a role of leadership or authority in the Church. Second, the temporal decisions of the Pope and the Bishops are never infallible and are never considered to be dogmas. Third, a dogma is not accurately described as a "general teaching." The non-infallible teachings of the Magisterium are not dogmas, but they could perhaps be called general teachings. Fourth, the Magisterium teaches infallible dogma; the Magisterium does not merely identify an infallible dogma.

Wikipedia: "The concept of dogma has two elements: Immediate divine revelation from scripture or tradition, and, a proposition of the Church, which not only announces the dogma but also declares it binding for the faith. This may occur through an ex-cathedra decision by a Pope, or by an Ecumenical Council."[7]

The above quote cites, as footnote 7, but does not quote, Ludwig Ott's book Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. However, in looking up the reference I find that Ott does not assert that dogmas are only taught under either Papal Infallibility or an Ecumenical Council. Rather, he asserts that any infallible teaching of the Magisterium is a formal dogma, including teachings of the ordinary and universal Magisterium. Also, Ott states that the second element is the "promulgation" of the dogma (found in Tradition or Scripture) by the Magisterium, not "a proposition."

Ludwig Ott: "This Promulgation by the Church may be made either in an extraordinary manner through a solemn decision of faith made by the Pope or a General Council (Judicium solemne) or through the ordinary and general teaching power of the Church (Magisterium ordinarium et universale)."

On the one hand, numerous articles throughout Wikipedia lack citations. On the other hand, many of the citations are erroneous. A claim is made in a sentence or paragraph, but the citation either does not support that claim, or actually contradicts it.

A dogma is an infallible teaching of the Magisterium. All such teachings are found, explicitly or at least implicitly, in Sacred Tradition or Sacred Scripture. There are numerous attempts to define dogma in this Wikipedia article, and they all fail to state this simple definition. While some theologians have attempted to restrict the definition of the term dogma only to solemn definition of the Pope or an Ecumenical Council, the Catechism takes the same approach as Ott and other theologians, extending the term dogma to all the infallible teachings of the Magisterium, even those of the ordinary and universal Magisterium.

Catechism of the Catholic Church: "88 The Church's Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes truths contained in divine Revelation or also when it proposes in a definitive way truths having a necessary connection with them."

The Catechism does not restrict dogma to Papal Infallibility and Ecumenical Councils, but includes any teachings that is proposed for belief by all the faithful in a definitive way. This definitive way would certainly have to include the ordinary and universal Magisterium, since the teachings of the Universal Magisterium are also required to be believed with Divine and Catholic faith.

Wikipedia: "Early Christians lived from oral traditions, as scriptures did not yet exist."

Sacred Tradition is not correctly defined as merely an oral tradition. Certainly, there is an oral component to the way that the truths of Sacred Tradition are transmitted from generation to generation. The Second Vatican Council described Sacred Tradition as "the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation."

Second Vatican Council: "This plan of revelation is realized by deeds and words having in inner unity: the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation manifest and confirm the teaching and realities signified by the words, while the words proclaim the deeds and clarify the mystery contained in them." (Dei Verbum, n. 2).

Furthermore, it is absurd to claim that the early Christians did not have Sacred Scripture. The early Christians had the Old Testament Scriptures, from which Christ Himself and the Apostles and all the early Church Fathers taught. And the first books of the New Testament are believed to have been written fairly soon after the Ascension of Christ.

Wikipedia: "Dogma is Divine and Catholic faith. It is Divine, because of its origin, it is Catholic because of the infallible teaching, binding for all."

Dogmas are to be believed with a type of faith that is called Divine and Catholic. A dogma is an infallible teaching of the Magisterium. Dogma is not identical to faith. The second part of the above quote is simply a poor paraphrasing of what Ludwig Ott correctly teaches.

The Wikipedia article goes on to state a series of disputable claims and theological opinions, presented as if these were facts. The history of the use of the term dogma, as given in this article, is over-simplified and inaccurate. See this article for a better presentation of the use of the term:

The Wikipedia article claims that the last two dogmas are those on the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. This assertion is based on the false claim that the infallible teachings of the Universal Magisterium are not dogmas. It also ignores the infallible teachings on murder, abortion, and euthanasia in Evangelium Vitae, and the infallible teaching of the Universal Magisterium against contraception.

Wikipedia: "The first Vatican Council stated in 1870 that within the limits of the statement of Vincent of Lérins , dogmatic development is possible, [19] Vatican two confirms this view in Lumen Gentium.[20]"

Footnote 19 cites a theology book by Beinert, even though the text claims that the assertion is from the First Vatican Council. Also, the First Vatican Council cited Vincent of Lerins in a footnote, but the sacred Council did not assert that its teaching on development of doctrine was limited by Vincent's teaching. A Council's teaching is not limited or defined by the teaching of an individual theologian.

Footnote 20 cites Lumen Gentium n. 12, which says nothing about development of doctrine. Again, a citation is given which does not support the text making the citation.

There follows a poorly written section on "categories of Church teachings." This material appears to have been paraphrased by an editor who either does not have English as a first language, or has very poor writing skills. The material is probably taken from Ludwig Ott's work, although no citation is given. Also, it should be noted that Ott's particular classification of teachings into various levels is not a definitive teaching of the Magisterium, but an opinion of theologians. The article presents this opinion as if it were Church teaching.

Next, the article has several paragraphs of material not related, or only peripherally related, to the topic of dogma. There is even a section on apparitions and dogma, which basically just explains that apparitions have nothing to do with dogma. The entire section should not be in this article.

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