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Dogma Matters

The founder of this station, Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J., was the editor of The Homiletic and Pastoral Review for almost forty years. Over those years, he wrote hundreds of editorials, and many of them are timeless. The reason they are timeless is because they deal with recurring misconceptions such as “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re a good person.” As the violent riots over the last year have shown, there are many people who preach “tolerance” and who believe they are “good persons,” but in fact they are highly intolerant and their actions wouldn’t lead one to believe that they are “good persons.” Father’s editorial, below, of May, 2000, argues that it does matter what we believe because of the actions and consequences that follow.

Dogma Matters

Catholicism is a dogmatic religion because it defends certain propositions about God, man and the world as absolutely true and binding on all men. In order to achieve real freedom, which all men desire, it is necessary to know the truth. Jesus said that if we follow him we will know the truth and the truth will make us free (see John 8:31-32).


Catholicism as found in the papal Magisterium of the Church has never compromised on matters of truth. Thousands of Catholics have shed their blood for the faith rather than deny any part of it, such as the primacy of the Pope or the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.


The fundamental dogmas of the Church are found in the Creed which we recite at Mass every Sunday, not all of them but the most basic ones. They concern the existence and nature of God as the Creator of the Universe; that there are three Persons in one God--Father, Son and Holy Spirit; that the Second Person became man in Jesus Christ so that he is truly both God and man; that Jesus died on Calvary to redeem all men and that his grace is conveyed to all men through his Church and the Seven Sacraments; that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as from one principle and dwells in the Church as her soul; that the purpose of human life is to attain heaven by believing in Jesus and keeping his commandments; that those who die as (mortal) sinners will go immediately to hell for all eternity because they have rejected God; that this world will come to an end, the dead will rise from the grave and Jesus will pass judgment on all.


There are other fundamental dogmas which are also important in the life of a Christian, such as original sin, the existence of purgatory, the Mass as the unbloody representation of Jesus’ bloody sacrifice on Calvary, the necessity of Baptism, the power of the Church to forgive sins in the Sacrament of Penance, that marriage is a sacrament which joins together one man and one woman in an indissoluble union. There are more, but these cover most of the high points.


What a person holds as true is not a matter of indifference, for people act in this world for themselves and towards others depending on what they hold to be true. In this sense it is very true that ideas have consequences, and for the Catholic they have eternal consequences. It is absolutely false to say and hold that it does not matter what you believe just so long as you do no harm to others. Terrorists, obviously, do not follow Christian morality and so they think they are justified in blowing up innocent people. If there is no such thing as truth in the order of doctrine and morals, then no one can logically fault them for being evil. According to much contemporary thinking, they are just following their conscience and, since all things are relative, there is no way of determining whose conscience is correct and whose is erroneous.


The point I want to make here, then, is that dogma matters. For adhering to the truth and living according to the truth determines whether or not one will be saved in heaven or damned in hell. It is not true that there is no such thing as truth. The person who says such a thing refutes himself by holding that proposition to be true; for then there is at least one thing that is true.


We must get over the error that the main or only virtue is “tolerance.” For many of our fellow citizens the plea for tolerance is based on the philosophical assumption that man cannot know the truth and that all things are relative. This assumption is having and will continue to have disastrous results in the lives of individuals and society. For those who violate the laws of nature as expressed basically in the Ten Commandments will pay, sooner or later, a terrible price. We see that now in our society in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, contraception, divorce, physician assisted suicide, homosexuality, cohabiting couples, dishonesty in business, abuse of children, and a host of other social evils. So the cost of violating God’s laws is very high both on the personal level and on the level of society.


Don’t be taken in by those who say that it does not matter what you believe as long as you are a good person and don’t hurt others. That is false. Dogma matters and dogma has consequences.

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Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam