Monday, September 27, 2010
In the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, (Dei Verbum), the fathers of the Second Vatican Council taught that "insight grows into what has been handed down" (no. 8) or, as another translation has it, "there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down." The phenomenon under discussion, when it occurs, is what is sometimes referred to as "doctrinal development." Whatever we call the phenomenon, it occurs, as the Council continues (no. 8), "through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their heart (cf. Lk. 2:19, 51), through the intimate understanding of spiritual things they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through episcopal succcession the sure gift of truth."
I mention this because of this piece of moral theology and church (of England) teaching by Rowan Williams. Damian Thompson asks the right question: Would Pope Benedict ever -- think especially about his candor in the press conferences on the airplanes -- reply to a most important question, concerning what some regard as gay rights, with a "pass"? Williams has an impossibly hard job, a fact that is underscored yet again by this serious man's dodging a serious doctrinal question with a "pass."
Authority is made of sterner -- and subtler -- stuff, as John Noonan's work on "doctrinal development" has shown.