What Catholics Must Believe – Dogma, Doctrine or Discipline?

Simple Catholic Snapshots
  • In a Previous Post, I concluded that to be a true Catholic you must:
    1) Be Validly Baptized
    2) Believe the Required Teachings of the Catholic Church
    3) Live a Sacramental Life in Communion with the Body of Christ – The Church
  • The Required Teachings (#2) of the Catholic Church are called Dogmas and Doctrines
  • Dogmas and Doctrines can not change
  • Dogmas and Doctrines only apply to issues of Faith and Morals
  • Disciplines are teachings and practices that can change
  • Belief in Disciplines is optional

In this post I’ll explore what is meant by a Dogma, a Doctrine and a Discipline. I’ll explain where these terms derive from and how they form our faith. Finally to get specific, I’ll present a list of the 258 Dogmas of the Catholic Church (that I could find) that all the faithful must believe.

Simple Catholic Truth

In the previous post entitled “What Does It Mean To Be Catholic?”, I concluded that there existed a set of core beliefs that all Catholics must believe in order to be considered Catholic. For lack of time and space, I deferred a more detailed examination of what these beliefs are and where they came from until now. I will also include a final (optional) element of the Church’s faith teachings which are called Disciplines.

Taken together, Dogmas, Doctrines and Disciplines compose the framework of teachings of the Catholic Church. In sequence, Dogmas, Doctrines and Disciplines form a sort of descending classification of Catholic Christian truths. As we descend down this taxonomy, the relative importance and certainty of the teaching(s) decreases. For example, at the top of the list (Dogmas) we have absolute theological truths directly revealed to mankind by God. At the bottom (Disciplines) we have theological projections or opinions or practices that are useful, but otherwise can still be open to debate and change.
In all cases we must remember that the sole objective of the Church and her teaching is to promote a relationship between God and mankind that eventually leads to the eternal salvation of the body of believers.


In this section, I’ll offer some definitions that will help us understand the “Three Ds”. I’ve researched countless numbers of writings from Popes, Councils, Saints, Church Fathers, theologians and various blog sites trying to extract a simple way to describe Dogmas, Doctrines and Disciplines. The theological terminology is sometimes difficult to understand – much like a layperson reading a legal document saturated with “heretofores” and “torts” and “wobblers.” As always, SimpleCatholicTruth strives to take the theological legalese and turn it into understandable English – I hope I’m successful.

Infallible / Infallibility:

At its most basic level, the term infallible means “without error.” In the context of our discussion of teaching the Gospel message of Jesus Christ, this term is used to describe the fact that in certain circumstances the Catholic Church is able to teach without error. This is not an intrinsic power of men that comprise the Church hierarchy; it is simply the result of a promise from Jesus Christ that the Holy Spirit will protect His Church from teaching errors.

I know that many non-Catholics (and unfortunately Catholics also) struggle with the concept of infallibility. But let’s set aside our preconceptions for a moment and look at it logically. The Bible clearly shows us that Jesus came to earth to teach us about God’s plan for our salvation. It’s also clear that part of His mission was to carry the cross to Calvary, to redeem our sins, and to be the Savior of the entire world. He knew of His upcoming death and resurrection. Now with that in mind, lets look at what Jesus did in preparation for His departure. He commissioned his Apostles to go and spread the Good News throughout the entire world. He didn’t give specific instructions on how to do this. Jesus didn’t tell the Apostles to write down anything, or publish a new magazine called ‘The Jesus Story’ or start a blog site. No, he told them to go out and teach and promised to be with them always (Mt 28:18-20).

Also, keep in mind that the Apostles were a common mix – from fishermen to tax collectors. Certainly not the academic powerhouses of the age. Were the Apostles capable of teaching without getting confused at times or twisting the message? Could they always find the right words at the right time? Of course not – they were fallen men! So Jesus promised that when the Apostles spoke, that it was essentially Himself speaking (Lk 10:16) and when people heard them, they were hearing Jesus.
I’m sure we all agree that Jesus never taught with error. As I just pointed out, the Bible tells us that when the Apostles spoke, that Jesus Himself was essentially speaking. Therefore, the Bible is telling us that the Apostles also taught without error. [If A is true, and B equals A, then B must be true.]

Jesus knew they needed help to speak the truth in His absence and the help He gave was the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would lead them to the truth (Jn 16:13).

So you see, if emotions are put aside, we see that the concept of infallible teaching is a logical consequence of the promises Christ made to the Apostles. Infallible teaching was necessary to spread Jesus’ word throughout the world. Infallible teaching was necessary for the Church to endure forever (Mt 16:18).

A final comment is necessary. Infallibility is not universal to everything the Church says or does. This is a common misunderstanding even among Catholics and is an overused complaint and indictment against the Church. When speaking of the infallibility of the Pope (or the council of Bishops), how often have you heard that the Pope couldn’t possibly speak infallibly because ‘he is a sinner’ or ‘there have been bad Popes in history’? This is absolutely correct. The Pope is just a man, just like Peter and just like all of us. When he speaks about politics, or global warming, or sports he is prone to mistakes just like all of us. However, when formally speaking on theological issues of faith and morals (those that affect our salvation) he has the divine authority to teach without error because when the Pope formally speaks, Jesus is speaking.


A Dogma is a truth revealed by God.  Because they are revealed by God, Dogmas are essential elements of our faith and can not change. Dogmas are formally taught to us by the Church and as such are taught (infallibly) without error.

These Dogmas require the fullest and complete assent of theological faith by all members of the Catholic Church. In other (SCT) words, to be considered Catholic we must hold these to be true “beyond all doubt.”

The deliberate and obstinate denial of a Dogma of the faith is called heresy because this person rejects the revealed Word of God.

Examples of Dogmas: Divinity of Christ, Immaculate Conception, Real Presence of the Eucharist, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Papal Infallibility.


Doctrines are also infallible teachings of the Church on matters of faith and morals but are not directly revealed by Christ. Doctrines are true but have been defined by Biblical, historical or logical extension of, or connection to, Dogmas.  Doctrines can develop over time as the Church comes to understand them better—but Doctrines cannot change. No one—not even the Pope—has the authority to change Doctrine.

Every believer is therefore required to give “firm and definitive assent” to these doctrinal truths. In other (SCT) words, to be considered Catholic we must hold these to be true “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Whoever rejects a Doctrine rejects the idea of the promise of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to protect the teaching authority of the Church.

Examples of Doctrines: Resurrection, The Incarnation, Heaven, Holy Trinity, Priesthood reserved for males.


Disciplines are the liturgical and theological practices and customs of our faith. As with Dogmas and Doctrines, Disciplines are intended to further enhance the faith journey of the believer. Unlike Dogmas and Doctrines, however, Disciplines can be changed.

One quick comment here to emphasize the need for authoritative teaching. Even with the Bible, without the Church and its authoritative teaching it is difficult, if not impossible, to tell the difference between Disciplines (optional practices – such as fasting) and Doctrines (those required for salvation – such as Baptism). Even some practices mentioned in the Bible need arbitration (circumcision – Acts 15, or women speaking in Church – 1 Cor 14:33-35) as to what is a required belief and what is an optional practice.

Examples of Disciplines: Priestly Celibacy, Lenten rules of Fasting, Mass celebrated in vernacular language, receiving the Eucharist on the tongue.


Alright, I think that is enough of the academic theory. I’m sure all of you are looking for a complete and concise list for each category. Well, there is good news and bad news on this front. The bad news is that I have been unable to discover or construct a list of all the official Dogmas, Doctrines and Disciplines. The good news is that I have found such a compilation of Church Dogmas. The source of this list is an amazing book entitled “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma” by Dr. Ludwig Ott. This book is more of a research source used by theologians or seminarians. It is 500+ pages of history, references, quotes etc etc for each of the Church’s formal Dogmas. I admit this is not an official Vatican document but it does contain the Nihil Obstate (no errors) and Imprimature (Okay to publish) markings from the Church. From what I can determine it is consistent with Church history and teachings. It may not be perfect but it is extensive and has been very useful.

So far I have only extracted into a spread sheet a list of 258 Dogma Titles and I’m adding page references from this book. Little by little, I hope to include facts such as references to Scripture, Papal letters, Ecumenical Council decrees and dates. It is a work in progress but I have included this spreadsheet list here DOGMA LIST for your use. It is included as a separate page in the main menu at SimpleCatholicTruth.com.

I encourage everyone to at least scan the list of Dogmas and try to understand what is being taught. Some are obvious (such as there is ONE God) but others are much more theologically nuanced and will required some additional thought. I was surprised how many I understood and believed. I guess my Catholic education was not as bad as once thought. In any event, I now have another go-to source for digging deeper into each Dogma.

I hope this post and that spreadsheet list will also be helpful to you in understanding what we must believe to be considered Catholic.

If you have any questions or comments please add them at this blog. If you have any particular Dogma that interests you, let me know and I’ll focus on that as I fill in the spreadsheet. I intend to keep it updated and available on SCT so check back from time to time and see how it’s going.


35 thoughts on “What Catholics Must Believe – Dogma, Doctrine or Discipline?”

  1. I’m attempting to contact you to register and order two books for the upcoming class at St. Martin’s Church in Yorba Linda commencing on January 17, 2018, for my son and husband.

    Please contact me with information on how to register and order the workbooks.

  2. Hi! I’m wondering if Catholic wives are required to “submit”to their husbands and have to believe in this teaching from the Bible/ which of the D’s above is it?

  3. Hi Kate,

    When you mention “submit”, I think you are referring to St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians Ch 5, v 21-33. We must keep in mind that Scripture is often multi-layered in it’s meaning and Paul’s writing is no exception. Here, Paul is giving general instructions on how we must live the Christian life in proper relationship with Christ as His Church and he is using marriage as an analogy. (Marriage used as a spiritual analogy is pervasive in the Bible). So in this context, yes we all must “submit” to Christ but note v21 calls husbands and wives to be subordinate to one another. The message is, that as Christ submits Himself to us in love, we also are to submit ourselves in love to Christ.

    In our modern culture, we often recoil at the notion of “submitting” to anyone or anything. We’ve all heard it, or even said it ourselves: “you can’t tell me what to do”, or “I’m my own person”, or “I’ll do it my way”, or “I’m a strong independent person” etc etc.
    Now don’t get me wrong, at one level there is something admirable to being convicted, strong and independent. However, as we become stronger and more independent we run the risk of no longer being able to properly love.

    Aquinas said something to the effect that ‘to love is to will the good of the other for the sake of the other’. As we become more independent we become less capable of willing the good of the other because like it or not, willing the good of the other involves “submitting” to them. It includes humbly putting that person first, ahead of our own status or desires.

    In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus showed us that out of love for the Father He completely submitted Himself to the Father’s will, even to the point of suffering and death (Mt 26:39).
    In Ephesians, Paul is teaching us that as Christian husbands and wives we are called to live our loving marital relationship imitating Christ, submitting to the other.
    Now keep in mind that this relationship is not a one-sided submission. Ephesians 5:21 is clearly teaching that the source and perfect expression of true love is one of mutual reciprocal submission.

    These are not easy words for us moderns to understand and embrace but truth is truth. IMHO, we have largely lost what it means to love. Many think marriage is only a social construct for financial advantage, convenience of sexual partnership or other forms of personal gain. Of course, a rich spiritual marriage results in incredible personal gain but only when the initial objectives are otherwise. Properly understood, to “submit” to the other is a blessing and honor and privilege, not a sign of weakness.

    Kate, I am not aware of any singular official Dogma or Doctrine that addresses directly and only this notion of love as an act of submission. However, the Doctrines of what the Sacrament of Marriage is, its permanence, and it’s role in our salvation are clear. We were created to love as God loves and it is through marriage, as husbands and wives acting in the manner I described above, that we are afforded an opportunity to imitate Christ in perfecting our agape love.

    A great question! Thanks for asking.

    [If you like to read, I would recommend a book for your consideration: ‘Men, Women and the Mystery of Love’ by Edward Sri, is an excellent treatment of Christian relationships (single and married) and the difficulties we encounter. He specifically addresses the differences between men and women and how “Submit” is a little different in the context of our natural differences.]

    1. Tom, your answer is incorrect. Why would Eph 5:22-33 tell the woman she is to submit to her husband (and do so three times, e.g., verses 22, 24, 33), and never tells the husband to submit to the wife, but then contradict those commands by telling the husband to submit to his wife in verse 21? Is Paul equivocal? Is he contradictory? Obviously not.

      The answer is plain. Eph 5:21 does not belong to the pericope of Eph 5:22-33, but to the pericope prior to it, namely, Eph 5:15-20. That’s why various bible translations make a new paragraph at verse 22 but connect verse 21 with the prior verses.

      It’s the same reason why six other passages in the NT all require the woman to submit to her husband, without any suggestion that men are to submit to women (e.g., 1Cor 11:1-8; 1Cor 14:33-35; Col 3:18; 1Tm 2:11-14; Tit 2:5; 1Pet 3:1-6).

      Use your hermeneutical logic, not the modernism of Mulieris Dignitatum. The Church Fathers and medievals were unanimous that Eph 5 required the wife to submit to her husband, and not vice-versa. It is the same reason that Casti Connubi 30 of Pius XI says the same.

      The submission spoken of in Eph 5:21 refers to the non-legal, voluntary submission each Christian is to give to another when in the church. In other cases, each Christian is to submit to the legal authorities over them (1Pet 2:13ff). Marriage, along with the government and church, is a legal institution, and as such, requires legal submission to the authority designated. The wife is to submit to the husband; the parishioner is to submit to the priest or bishop; and the citizen is to submit to the government, since all of them are legal entities.

    2. Really good response.
      Just to say that the same verb in Eph 5 for ‘submit’ or ‘subordinate,’ ὑποτάσσω, is also used in 1 Pet 3:1 (wives, be subordinate to your husbands…). But these are probably unbelieving husbands. This was a standard ‘way of being’ in the Greco-Roman world and how society was structured. Check out though 1 Pet 3:7 where Peter writes that Christians husbands much treat their wives as ‘joint heirs’ in Christ. Now this blows away the cultural expections completely!!!
      PS: I see below that Robert mentions 1 Pet

  4. Do you consider fasting and abstinence a discipline, if so, are required beliefs of a Catholic, are they not?

    1. Domenic,

      Yes, I consider fasting and abstinence a discipline (practice) but this practice is rooted in Scripture. As such the actual practice might change but the original goal and motivation has not.
      Consider Jesus’ fasting and temptation in the desert (Mk 1: 12,13) as a way to master the distractions of the body and improve His spiritual relationship with the Father. Also in Scripture we are called to penance and an imitation of Christ.
      From the earliest years, the Church has taught that fasting is such a way for us to also improve our spiritual relationship with God and as such the general practice is required.

      Regarding abstaining from meat, it is also true that the underlying Scriptural requirement to practice some sort of penance on Fridays has not changed: only the specific requirement of no meat has been relaxed. It remains a binding discipline, to practice penance on Fridays.
      If one doesn’t abstain from meat, it is still required that they practice some form of penance. I myself abstain from meat on all Fridays as my form of penance. I chose to retain year round abstinence as a form of solidarity to the Catholic tradition of the past. It seems like such a small sacrifice, but it serves me as a weekly reminder of the powerful sacrifice of our Lord on that horrific and wonderful Friday 2000 years ago.

      Hope this helps

  5. Hey
    Just to inform you, Immaculate conception and Assumption are not Dogmas but Doctrine. Now I feel how reliable is this source. 🙁

    1. Hi Janine,
      I’m not sure what the second sentence of your comment is but let me respond to the first.
      My two sources of concluding these two beliefs are Dogmas are 1) Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Dr. Ludwig Ott and 2) Sources of Catholic Dogma by Henry Denzinger

      Re: The Immaculate Conception: See Ott, Book Three, Part 3, Chapter 2, #3 [page 199 in my version]; also see Denzinger #1641
      Re: Assumption of Mary: See Ott, Book Three, Part 3, Chapter 2, #6 [page 207 in my version]; also see Denzinger #2333

      In either case, we hold these things to be revealed by God and as such are truths binding all the faithful.

      Thank you for visiting SCT and by all means stay in touch and help me walk in the truth.

    2. Dogma of the Immaculate Conception was declared in the encyclical Ineffabilis Deus

      Dogma of the Assumption was declared in the apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus.

    3. Dogma of the Immaculate Conception was declared in the encyclical Ineffabilis Deus.

      Dogma of the Assumption was declared in the apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus.

  6. where do approved Marian Apparitions fall on this list? If it is approved but not demanded to believe does this follow the definition of doctrine?

    1. Hi Jacob,

      This is a great question.

      As I understand it, the difference lies in the distinction between what the Church refers to as public vs. private revelation. In this context, as Catholics, we believe that all public revelation is completed and closed with the revelation of the teachings of Jesus Christ. That public revelation is manifest to us via Tradition and Scripture.
      [That said, there is the possibility that those teachings, being revealed by Christ, can ‘evolve’ in meaning and understanding as time progresses. But that is another discussion for another day…]

      However, to your point…I think the Marian apparitions, even if evaluated by the Church and found to be true, are not formally required for belief of the faithful as dogma or doctrine.
      For example, I don’t think it is required that the faithful (formally) believe in the apparition of Mary at Fatima.

      Let’s look at what the Church formally teaches regarding revelation. Keep in mind that the Church has always taught that the true meaning of God’s revelation ( i.e. the deposit of faith) has been available to all mankind through the Traditional teaching of the Church:
      CCC 67 “Throughout the ages, there have been so-called ‘private’ revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.”

      Okay, so what this is saying is that although the formal, official, confirmed revelation of God to his people (i.e. via the Dogmatic/Doctrinal infallible teaching of Christ) is complete, a particular apparition as true is beneficial to the those that believe. The Church doesn’t hold that these beliefs are ‘required’, however, she does recognize them as true and as such are ‘beneficial’ to the relationship of the faithful to Jesus Christ.

      The evidence for these apparitions (and likely many of other Eucharistic miracles) is quite compelling. That said, it is left to the conscience and faith of the faithful, to decide whether or not to fully embrace these events in history as significant in their own Christian journey.

      Hope this helps

  7. “Doctrines are also infallible teachings of the Church on matters of faith and morals but are not directly revealed by Christ. Doctrines are true but have been defined by Biblical, historical or logical extension of or connection to Dogmas. Doctrines can develop over time as the Church comes to understand them better—but doctrines cannot change. No one—not even the Pope—has the authority to change doctrine.”

    I’ve read elsewhere that there are such things as non-infallible doctrines.

    Is this true? And if so, how can we reconcile the idea that they can’t change?

    1. Non-infallible doctrines does seem like a contradiction. Can you give me the specific reference where you read about that concept?

  8. The feast of Corpus Christi was founded because the Host held by a priest was found to be flesh. There are 3 rather recent Eucharistic Miracles which the church has recognized. Are Catholics compelled to believe these? I assume these are categorized with the apparitions of Mary.
    Please elaborate.

    1. Jacqueline,
      You are correct. Both Eucharistic miracles and Marian apparitions are considered private revelations and are evaluated by the Church for authenticity, then some are recognized as true. Belief in these private revelations is not considered required.
      See my response to Jacob above for a more complete answer.

  9. This is similar to Domenic’s question above but I feel as if the question wasn’t answered and I’m still confused. I agree that Lenten fasting is a discipline. It can and has changed and is a practice. But while a Catholic can disagree with what the current requirements are, it doesn’t follow that he or she can choose not to participate. Catholics are bound to fast and abstain per the guidelines set out by the Church during Lent. It’s not optional.

    I guess my point is that disciplines are indeed practices that can change and the faithful are not bound to believe in them in that they can have their own opinions.However, they still must follow Holy Mother Church. Thoughts?

    1. Annelise,
      Thanks for your very good question. I agree in principle when you say: “while a Catholic can disagree with what the current requirements are, it doesn’t follow that he or she can choose not to participate. Catholics are bound to fast and abstain per the guidelines set out by the Church during Lent. It’s not optional.” However using the word ‘requirements’, which implies mandatory and then use the word ‘guidelines’ which imply optional, is confusing. To sort this out a little I think we need to take a step back.

      First, I think we all must avoid the trap of seeing things only in terms of definitions and rules without grasping the underlying ideas. [I believe you are doing exactly this – seeking the basic truth. I’m only restating the fundamental starting point for clarity].
      Of course definitions like dogma and doctrine and disciplines (and the corresponding words like required and optional) can be very helpful in organizing our thoughts. However, they can also be a distraction if we’re not careful. We always must seek the bigger picture of understanding which is why I stated the following earlier in the post:
      “In all cases we must remember that the sole objective of the Church and her teaching is to promote a relationship between God and mankind that eventually leads to the eternal salvation of the body of believers.”

      Second, I think it is essential to remember that it is a traditional doctrine of Christian spirituality that a believer turn away from sin and back to God. This action includes some form of penance, without which the Christian is unlikely to remain on the path to salvation (Jer. 18:11, 25:5; Ez. 18:30, 33:11-15; Joel 2:12; Mt. 3:2; Mt. 4:17; Acts 2:38).
      The general law of penance, therefore, is part of the law of God for man.

      Third, in her divinely appointed role as teacher of Christ’s saving Gospel, the Church specifies certain forms of penance, to a) ensure that the Catholic will do something as required by divine law, while b) making it easy for Catholics to fulfill the obligation.

      Fourth, the Church teaches us that during Lent, certain practices of fasting and abstinence are ‘required’ in the sense of penance is required by God as stated in #2 above.

      Fifth, the Church teaches us that on Friday’s outside of Lent, practices of penance are still required (#2 above), however, during these times the specific practice of fasting and abstinence is no longer required. However, even though the specific practice of penance has been relaxed during these non-Lenten times, the general requirement of penance is still binding. [Note: on the personal side, I decided to retain abstinence on every Friday, even thought that specific practice is no longer required by the Church. In other words, I choose to not eat meat on Fridays as my person penance.]
      With all of this in mind, let’s try to circle back to your points of confusion. It is true that Church doctrine holds that fasting and abstinence is required during Lent – but only as a form of the required penance as mentioned above. We must also keep in mind that doctrines, although they can never change, can develop over time in understanding and clarity. [Dave Armstrong has an excellent book on this topic if you are interested: ‘Development of Catholic Doctrine – Evolution, Revolution or and Organic Process?’] In other words, the subjective human understanding of a divine revelation can increase, without the actual doctrine changing.

      Now, the root of your question seems to boil down to whether or not people actually believe that the Catholic Church is left for us by Jesus Christ to protect His teaching. It is a fact of nature that people often pick and choose what they believe in (and what they practice), in order to accommodate what they want to do. It’s true, fasting is difficult. It’s true, fasting makes us uncomfortable, etc etc. But honestly, that is exactly the point. Jesus knows that and the Church knows that.
      Turning from sin includes an element of self-control, of personal denial, that is often uncomfortable. We are prideful people that don’t like to be uncomfortable. Through God’s grace we are able to temporarily choose physical discomfort as a unifying reminder of Christ’s eternal love.
      You are correct, these things can get confusing but especially in those times I thank God for the Church. When I’m confused, I know where I can go to find a rock to stand on (Mt 16:18). Even so, people can choose to ignore the Church’s teachings but in doing so they are ignoring Christ himself.


  10. I found this sight by googling, “what are catholics required to believe”. I was hoping to find a straight-forward list itemizing the things that any catholic must believe in order to be a legitimate member in good standing of the catholic church. I thought surely that such a list would be easy to access. Apparently I was wrong.

    What I found instead was a long essay about Dogma, Doctrines, and Disciplines that appears to conclude that there are at least 258 dogmas that catholics must believe but that there might be more, who knows?

    This is so absurd! It’s obvious that the author is a catholic him/herself and that they have read extensively about the teachings of the catholic church. If even they aren’t sure how many dogmas there are, let alone
    know and understand them all, then how is the average catholic supposed to know what the required beliefs are? This seems like a classic setup for failure. The catholic church says, according to the author, that all catholics MUST believe these dogmas and yet, even a dedicated catholic scholar admits that they can’t say for sure what all those dogmas are!! So just how is the average catholic supposed to understand what they must believe?

    You admitted that “theological terminology is sometimes difficult to understand – much like a layperson reading a legal document”, and hoped you could make it easier to understand. Well I’m sorry, but I can’t believe that God Almighty is incapable of communicating his expectations to the average person without relying on random humans to interpret his message for those who aren’t committed religious scholars.

    You seem to be saying that Jesus speaks for God, the apostles speak for Jesus, the catholic church declares what Jesus really meant but do so in such archaic language and unorganized texts that the average Joe can’t be expected to find and understand most of it without the help of scholars and researchers who can dumb it down to their level of comprehension.

    The fact that the church’s dogmas are not readily available to it’s members is a classic example of why I don’t believe that ANY religion is the legitimate representative of God here on earth.

    1. Casey,
      I’ve been struggling with how to respond to the previous comment since there are so many issues that you surfaced – from a (in)complete list of Dogmas and Doctrines, to the language and depth that God chooses to reveal Himself and His plans, to what you think is God’s “legitimate representation” here on earth. So let me just start at the top and work my way down.

      First of all, I agree to a point with your frustration as to God’s revelation. I too wish all knowledge of God and associated spiritual beliefs were available in a nice neat package, all tied together with a bow. Oh I wish everyone could go to that book of God’s revelation, or that hear that speech He recorded, or go to God’s Wikipedia page and just, well, understand. That would be nice. Then I wouldn’t have to struggle, I wouldn’t have to work so hard to understand. Yes, that would be nice.

      Second, I agree when you say “Well I’m sorry, but I can’t believe that God Almighty is incapable of communicating his expectations to the average person…”
      You are absolutely correct. I don’t believe for a second that God is INCAPABLE of communicating in the way you described. All other aspects of our lives can not be put into the nice clean ‘knowledge box’ that you describe; why do you demand that God act in this manner?

      Third, I was really puzzled with your commentary on the categories of the Church’s teachings. Usually, when someone takes issue with Catholicism, it is with a particular belief. They usually bring up the priesthood, or Marian doctrines, or salvation or similar. You on the other hand, complained about the lack of a complete list and the language used by the Catholic Church. Strange.

      Finally, your last sentence was ultimately revealing when you said “… I don’t believe that ANY religion is the legitimate representative of God here on earth.”
      So it seems that your issue is not with the Catholic Church per se, or even with any of the Church’s specific teachings, but rather with all religions. I’ve genuinely happy that you are seeking God and wish you well in that journey. If there is anything I can do in that regard, please reach out and contact me: Tom@SimpleCatholicTruth.com.
      That said, I am also saddened, for in rejecting ‘all religion’, you seem to have placed yourself in a position of ultimate authority and will only accept God when he fits your particular vision of Him on this earth. It seems to me this is exactly backwards.
      In my experience, people that try that end up being ultimately frustrated – never being able to find that perfect notion of God that matches all their expectations and requirements, or, they end up settling on a distorted notion of God that does, or, they give up seeking Him altogether.
      I believe each of these outcomes is tragic and preventable. I know we disagree, but even with the frustrations you mentioned, I believe that God did reveal Himself to us, AND, gave us a Catholic Church to explain and teach us, helping us to understand this revelation.

      Blessings and Good Luck

      1. “I too wish all knowledge of God and associated spiritual beliefs were available in a nice neat package, all tied together with a bow.”
        The good news is that this book really exists, and is called “Catechism of the catholic church”!

        1. Marcel,
          In my sentence you quoted, I was referring to the existence of a specific formal list of dogmas and doctrines of the Church. If we as Catholics are to believe that certain Dogmas and Doctrines are divinely revealed and binding, it would be nice if that list was easily available. That was my only point.

          Although I agree with you that the CCC is a wonderfully useful tool in understanding Catholicism both in history and practice, I would hesitate to say that it contains ‘everything’. I still constantly refer to Scripture, the writing of the Early Church Fathers AND the CCC in my studies.

          1. I relate very much with Casey. I was super ecstatic to have found your site, and I truly appreciate the effort you gave to write this down, Tom. Not sure if it’s the same case with her, but more than wanting to box GOD into a neat bulleted list of beliefs that is easy and convenient and matches my expectations, for me it’s more of frustration.

            One of the main roles (if not the ultimate role) of the Catholic Church is to guide the flock towards salvation – would that be fair to say? I mean I truly wanna seek clarity/truth/guidance on that topic because it’s the topic that drives all other topics. And I just find it soooo frustrating that the answer/s seems so elusive. I’m Catholic btw.

            I don’t mind a 10,000 page document, or anything really, as long as it is an answer. So I find it frustrating that the church, after 2000 years, I guess maybe doesn’t meet my expectations in that regard? It just seems so simple in my head I guess haha As you did, compile a list of dogmas/doctrines/disciplines with further references. I would appreciate your wisdom brother.

          2. Hi Kyle,

            I think you and Casey and I are somewhat in the same boat, being (for me – at one time) a bit frustrated with not being able to have a direct quick answer to all my questions. Let me share my journey and perhaps this will help you.

            Being raised a Catholic once I equated my faith to simply imitating my parents and their practices. Of course this is exactly what children should do since we don’t have the maturity or wisdom for more complex decision making. As I grew up, I started asking the obvious answers like ‘why’, ‘where did that come from?’ etc etc. In other words my faith journey transitioned into a phase that might be described as the accumulation of knowledge. Many many people also relate faith to the intellectual understanding of every teaching and practice. This is normal and healthy, however as we would agree, this can lead to problems if we see the acquisition of this knowledge as the end goal. Many people, if they can’t understand and explain every detail for every teaching will simply reject it all.
            I used to think that my faith would be complete when I had all the answers. It was a simple matter of gathering the ‘facts’ and discarding the ‘false’ things and then it would be crystal clear, all wrapped up with a nice bow. To a degree, this is a motivation for me compiling the list of Dogmas etc.

            Eventually, I found that my faith and religion is a relationship with God that is highly personal and often can not be defined with only a set of facts. I got to the point of realizing that even if I didn’t have all the ‘facts’ and even if some of my beliefs and practices were a bit unverified or shaky, that there was overwhelming foundation on which to work on my relationship with God. I gave up on the idea that I needed all the answers and frankly I found great peace with the entire thing. This was a huge shift from placing trust in myself, my intellect and my research… and placing it in God.

            Now, it is true that in my course of study, I have concluded that the RCC is Christ’s church and has the authority to teach without error as claimed. Therefore, in one sense I believe what the Church teaches (dogmas and doctrines) even though I can’t assemble all of the perfect data of proof behind each of these teachings. Some might say that is ‘drinking the cool-aid’ and thus totally unacceptable. I completely understand that position and respect it.
            However, once I stopped worrying about understanding every word from Aquinas, Tertullian, Pope this or that etc etc, and starting trying to understand the higher level revelation as how it related to my relationship with God, THAT is when my faith blossomed. I believe that to a degree God gave us the RCC so that we wouldn’t have to waste so much time on proving each of the dogmas and doctrines.

            As an example, take the Dogma of the Trinity. On one level a person might try to understand that mystery completely and won’t accept any element of it until it is completely understood. In my opinion that would be a terrible loss. Instead, I have found that although I don’t completely understand it, the Dogma of the Trinity DOES reveal the nature of God as love and it is this love that leads me to a deeper and more personal relationship with God, his reason for my creation and plan for ultimately my eternal salvation. I have described this idea as some people failing to see the forest for the trees. Sometimes we get so focused on seeing the details of the bark, or leaves, or roots of a singular particular tree that we miss the big picture of the entire forest.
            So for the set of Dogmas etc, try asking yourself how this teaching relates to founding and/or strengthening your relationship with Christ. When you do this, I believe your frustrations will be significantly tempered.

            Thanks for the comments and I hope this sheds a little light on the issue.


          3. Tom,

            I sincerely thank you for taking the time to reply. I can feel the sincerity to help.

            Is my understanding correct that what helped you a lot is to focus on:
            – trying one’s best to journey with and towards God, rather than looking towards ultimate knowledge/comprehension
            – knowledge and understanding are good, but they are both subject to the relationship w God?


          4. Kyle,
            Yes I think you understand what I was saying. Intellectual pursuits – reading and study – are very important, but only in that they support or assist in the development of our loving relationship with Christ. In all our spiritual endeavors we must surrender to Christ and let the Holy Spirit guide our daily journey. Prayer is often neglected, but is just as critical and that Bible study class or reading the latest book on the Saints, or digging into that Dogma.
            We are so blessed to have at our fingertips so much information and so many resources, but all that study can be a distraction if taken as the end goal.
            Stay in touch.

  11. Hi Tom.
    You explain doctrines as “… also infallible teachings of the Church on matters of faith and morals but are not directly revealed by Christ.” and your thoughts to Brendan above was that a non-infalliable doctrine would be a contradiction.
    However, in the Code of Canon Law, after making statements about when the Supreme Pontiff and College of Bishops posessing and exercise infalliablity, Canon 749 §3 states “No doctrine is understood to be infallibly defined unless this is manifestly demonstrated.” So, it would seem a doctrine can be taught, but unless it is ‘manifestly’ clear that the teaching is meant to be definitive then it is also not infalliable.
    Am I missing or mistaken on anything, or do you have any thoughts about this?

    1. Hi John,
      Thanks for the heads up. I’m not a Canon lawyer but I’ll try to look into it.

      I suspect any confusion may be due to terminology. As I see it, both Dogmas and Doctrines are absolutely true due to direct revelation from God, or by the official teaching authority Divinely granted to the Church which is protected from error. Therefore, as faithful Catholics we are bound in both cases to embrace that which we know is true.

      Canon 749 seems to be saying that unless the Pope and/or council “officially declares” a teaching to be known truth (i.e. doctrine) , then it is simply a teaching or opinion. In other words, prior to a teaching being officially declared (manifestly demonstrated) a doctrine, it is just a teaching. Seen in this light, there is no contradiction. A doctrine, by definition, has been officially recognized as Divine truth. A doctrine, by definition, is known to be true.

      In any event, I appreciate your comment and I’ll dig a little deeper.

      1. Thanks Tom, I’m curious to see what you turn up.

        Do you know what sources lead you to that understanding that all doctrines are by definition be protected from error? I have heard others use the term this way as well, but when I look to magisterial documents that doesn’t seem to be the case.

        To be clear, I have no problem assenting if I can find that the Magesterium does teach it, but I want to take care not to claim that something is offically a teaching of the Church when that isn’t the case.

        I’m certainly no Canon lawyer either, which is why I put such cavets on claiming what the Church teaches on such things; but continuing to read the section of Canon Law on the teaching office of the Church it continues to seem that for the purpose of magisterial teaching the term ‘doctrine’ refers to any teaching put forward by the Magisterium and that they intend to deliberately leave room for doctrines that are not infalliable:

        “…religious submission of intellect and will is to be given to any doctrine … even though [the Supreme Pontiff or the College of Bishops] do not intend to proclaim that doctrine by definitive act.” (Can. 752)

        It is important to note that this paragraph makes it clear that just because a doctrine is not infalliable does not make us free to dissent with the Magisterium if She teaches it.

  12. Tom – I also was looking for Dogma, Doctrine and Disciplines but I think for myself, you confused things. The book that you are citing contains only topics that are from Vatican 1 – Ott never used anything after 1960 for his book so you and your readers are missing some very rich topics. Next, your spreadsheet states that these are all Dogmas which they are not. You can not inform your readership that the Divinity of Christ is a Dogma just like #68 – angels are spiritual. I would strongly suggest that you break these topics into Dogma, Doctrine and Discipline and not mush them together. Lastly, you mentioned that priests can only be males. This is not Dogma, it is not infallible nor has the Synod of all Bishops voted on this topic and approved it along with the approval of the Pope. I am probably being too specific but if you desire to pass along “Catholic truths and Dogmas” then you need to be more careful and more accurate. Thanks for listening.

    1. Dave,
      Thanks for reading SCT and commenting.

      You said “The book that you are citing [Ott] contains only topics that are from Vatican 1 – Ott never used anything after 1960 for his book so you and your readers are missing some very rich topics.”
      I respond: I’m not sure of your point regarding Ott. You are correct in that his classic book was written in the mid 1950s. What exactly are you referring to when you say ‘very rich topics’ are missing? Yes there has been much written since Ott but certain things are defined as truth and as such don’t change.

      You say: “Next, your spreadsheet states that these are all Dogmas which they are not.”
      I respond: According to Ott (and others), as I read it, they in fact all are Dogmatic truths. You need to be specific and cite sources to continue a discussion.

      You say: “You can not inform your readership that the Divinity of Christ is a Dogma just like #68 – angels are spiritual.”
      I respond: I would hope that we agree that the Divinity of Christ is without question. Regarding the spiritual nature of angels I refer you to Ott, Section 27 ‘The Nature of the Angels’, and to the Lateran Council IV (1215) Chapter 1 ‘The Catholic Faith’, and to Denzinger par 428 and to the CCC p328.
      Is this not enough assert the spiritual nature of angels?

      You say: “I would strongly suggest that you break these topics into Dogma, Doctrine and Discipline and not mush them together.”
      I respond: I agree with your opening statement that the difference between Dogma, Doctrine and Discipline can be and is confusing. It is difficult, no impossible as of yet, to extract concise listings of each but as a starting point I addressed the category of Dogma in more direct fashion. Facing the difficulty of specific taxonomy, I tried in my post to at least begin by defining the differences as I understood them. Moving forward, I was only able to present what I felt to be a truthful list of Dogmas. I know you believe that I have included some non-Dogmatic topics in the list of Dogmas (two of which I address above) and we can discuss that further if you wish.

      You said: “Lastly, you mentioned that priests can only be males. This is not Dogma, it is not infallible nor has the Synod of all Bishops voted on this topic and approved it along with the approval of the Pope. I am probably being too specific but if you desire to pass along “Catholic truths and Dogmas” then you need to be more careful and more accurate. Thanks for listening.”
      I respond: The issue of male priesthood is common in our modern era but has been extensively discussed and resolved. I believe the issue is closed in the sense it is considered a Dogmatic truth. Without opening this can of worms again I simply include here a few paragraphs from a Catholic Answer’s forum dealing with this exact question:

      “Certain aspects of the sacraments may change over time, such as the language of the liturgy or the manner in which penance is received. However, male-only ordination is something that has never changed, nor can it ever be changed. The Church’s attitude may appear archaic, but it is one of fidelity to a universal tradition in both the East and the West, extending throughout the history of the Church.
      In 1994, Pope John Paul II declared, “Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force. Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Luke 22:32), I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful” (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis 4).
      One year after this was written, the Church ruled that this teaching “requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium 25:2)” (Response of Oct. 25, 1995).

      Take care and thanks again for the comments.

  13. Some questions: Out of respect for you I honestly make NO guesses as to what your answers may be!
    I assume nothing! I am 85 years old so my remembering chapter and verse is not what it used to be.

    1. Was Mary conceived without sin? My answer: YES! I believe this was proclaimed ex cathedra as
    Dogma as a result of Bernadette’s life but this had been believed since the earliest days of ‘The

    2. Did Mary suffer? My answer: YES! from Luke 2: ‘Thine own soul a sword shall pierce.’

    3. Did She earn graces by giving Her will entirely over to God? My answer: Yes! Mary was conceived
    PERFECT! The seven great sorrows of Mary.

    4. Will those graces go to waste? My answer: NO! God cannot waste anything.

    5. Will those graces help in the redemption of mankind? My answer: Yes! So, has Mary been declared
    Co-redemptrix? If not, why not?

    God bless you, your loved ones and your work. Christ’s Peace: (Which I believe to be Mary) Bob

    1. Hi Bob,
      Thanks for the comments. I’ll try to answer each of your questions but keep in mind that I’m just on the JV team and don’t speak officially for the Church.

      1) Yes, Mary was conceived free of original sin and is proclaimed as such infallibly by the Church. The dogma originates from a variety of sources including Scripture, Tradition and the observations of the Early Church Fathers. Yes, at least in seminal form this is a belief of the earliest Church but keep in mind that the development and fullest understanding of this dogma took place over centuries.

      2) Yes, Mary suffered. How could she not suffer watching her Son being butchered on the Cross.

      3) I agree with you in principle but I feel more comfortable with the word ‘reward’ rather than ‘earn’. To me, earning implies some obligation imposed on the giver, in this case God. That is impossible. All graces are the total free gift from God without obligation. That said, I think there is something true about considering graces that are dispensed in response to human action. In the case of Mary, with her free will she surrendered completely her life to the will of God and as such God chose to shower her with unique grace.

      4) Agree and Disagree to a point. Yes, God’s free graces are not wasted in the sense that they provide a change in our nature to love God more in our journey to be more and more Christ-like. However, even when given great gifts of grace we all retain our free will and the ability to reject those divine graces. Mary surrendered perfectly so for her the graces were not wasted, but for the rest of us…well, we can only pray that we can approach such a sacrifice of self and not waste those graces bestowed on us. Only God knows for now.

      5) Yes, I believe the graces bestowed on Mary can have a positive affect on the salvation of mankind, if for no other reason than Mary gave us the perfect example of trust in God (Lk1). However, similar to #3 above, I cringe a bit when I hear the phrase ‘co-redemptrix’, because this can be interpreted to imply some action precipitated by Mary aside from Christ which we both know is absolutely false. Yes, it is true that Mary was an integral and perhaps the most critical human element to God’s plan of salvation outside of Christ. In this sense she was ‘with Christ’ or ‘Co-Christ’ in God’s plan. [We know Mary as the New Eve and Christ as the New Adam, we know Mary in the Book of Revelation etc etc.] However, no matter how helpful and beneficial Mary’s role might be in our salvation, or how close she was to our Lord and Savior, we must never forget that her role was also a grace, a gift to us from God, from Christ, from the Holy Spirit, and not of her own power.

      Blessings Bob

  14. Thanks! No need for you to reply to this. It is wonderful for me to find someone that puts more than just ‘That’s what I was taught’ into their belief. Your comments are much appreciated. I totally know that there is no way to be part of this human condition without HAVING to BELIEVE. Peace. Bob

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