Sixth Sunday of Easter (May 5, 2013)

Holy Cross Parish, South Bend, Ind

This week’s Readings

Sunday’s first reading tells of a dispute between the Church in Antioch and the Church in Jerusalem. The latter, mostly converts from Judaism, said that the new Gentile Christians had to be circumcised as well as baptized. The Antiochene Christians, led by Paul and Barnabas, said: “No, Baptism is sufficient.” Several verses telling of a meeting of minds are omitted, but the end result is a compromise that covered the best interests of all involved.

These conflicts are nothing new to the Catholic Church, or any other Christian denomination for that matter. In the early centuries, there were many struggles over dogma, which are the things we must believe in order to be a Catholic Christian. Examples would be the divinity of Jesus, the humanity of Jesus, the Trinity, Mary as the Mother of God, etc. All the essential dogmas are covered in the Nicene Creed. Over the centuries new dogmas have been added, the most recent being 1950 with the dogma of Mary’s Assumption.

Nowadays most of the tension in the Church comes because folks are confusing dogma with doctrine and discipline. Doctrine is a non-infallible teaching of the Church, and it is binding on Catholics while in force. Doctrine can and has been altered, modified, abandoned and even condemned. Slavery, once in favor, has been condemned, as has usury. The doctrine of limbo has been quietly abandoned. The earth as center of the world is a doctrine that has been changed or altered. The Church doctrines regarding just war, economics and capital punishment are in process of changing. Papal primacy and female priests are doctrines, and therefore, can be changed, but I doubt this will happen anytime soon.

Discipline is a rule of behavior, binding on Catholics while in effect. Such rules are fasting before Communion, priestly celibacy, the holy days of obligation, etc. Discipline can be relaxed, altered or abolished. Friday abstinence, for example, is no longer mandatory. The fast before Communion has been changed. Ascension Thursday can be moved to Sunday. Whenever January 1 or August 15 or November 1 fall on a Saturday or on a Monday, the obligation to attend Mass is lifted.

In short, be sure to know what you’re arguing or getting upset about! Doctrine and discipline are not dogma!

Love deeply, laugh often, pray faithfully!

herb yost reflections

Fr. Herb, C.S.C.

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