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What has been believed everywhere, by everyone, always, is a great rule of faith; there seems one big problem with it, however; what precisely is that?

My own little piece on Our Lady would not meet with the approval of many Protestants, and even some modern Catholics I know find my devotion to her a little odd; the ‘language’ they say, ‘is foreign’ or ‘strange’ and ‘extravagant’. My response – how else would you write or talk about the Mother of God, tends to prompt exactly the same words again. The series of essays by chaldecon451 show up the same problem on a more elevated level. Nestorius and St. Cyril clearly knew more about theology and the Church than I ever shall, and yet they came to a fundamental quarrel which shook the church.

Some of my Protestant friends even deny that the Catholic Church is Christian at all, and I have one dear soul who prays for me to be saved from its clutches. His response to my quoting St. Vincent Lerins is that the Catholic Church has changed things and therefore does not fulfil the criteria approved by Newman.

The Lonely Pilgrim’s blog contains accounts of why Catholicism has not done what my friend alleges, and he is far more erudite on this than I could hope to be – so I recommend any inquirers to go there. But our friend crossingthebosphorus highlights what we both tip-toe around, which is that the Orthodox Church also urges that the Catholic Church has changed the ‘faith once delivered’.

The best answer to this I know is by the Dominican, Fr. Aidan Nichols, whose Rome and the Eastern Churches sets things out beautifully. To paraphrase it would be impossible in this space, but key to what he has to say is another idea of Newman’s – the developing understanding of doctrine. At the heart of this is the belief that if, as we believe, the Holy Spirit guides the Church, then He guides it into a deeper appreciation of the truths delivered to the Apostles. If we are to understand how this has manifested itself we must, Newman believed, get beyond the sort of church history with which he was familiar:

Our popular religion scarcely recognizes the fact of the twelve long ages which lie between the Councils of Nicæa and Trent, except as affording one or two passages to illustrate its wild interpretations of certain prophesies of St. Paul and St. John. It is melancholy to say it, but the chief, perhaps the only English writer who has any claim to be considered an ecclesiastical historian, is the unbeliever Gibbon. To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.

The Trinity itself is nowhere stated thus baldly in Scripture, and yet we hold it. We do so through the teaching of the Church; and there are those who reject that and rely on their own illumination and live in darkness. But no orthodox Christian can deny that we hold the Trinity on the developed understanding of the Church.

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