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Is a call to 'update' Church teaching a call for doctrinal change? Nope.

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | May 21, 2014

From time to time you’ve probably noticed a news story on this site with the parenthetical note that the story has been “updated.” Did you think, when you saw that note, that we were repudiating our earlier version of the story? I hope not.

When we say that we’re “updating” a story, that note is entirely neutral. Occasionally it does mean that the original story contained an error. More often, however, it means that we’ve come up with new information, and/or a new perspective on the issue.

So earlier this month, when Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri was quoted as saying that the Church should “update” the teaching of Familiaris Consortio, we didn’t think that comment, by itself, merited headline coverage. Some Catholic analysts jumped to the conclusion that the cardinal was calling for wholesale changes in Church teaching. But his actual words did not give a clear indication of the cardinal’s attitude, positive or negative, toward the document by St. John Paul II.

Cardinal Baldisseri pointed out that Familiaris Consortio is now 33 years old. That’s a simple matter of fact. He said that the Church’s teaching should be expressed in ways that people will understand today. It’s hard to argue that. But did he, or did he not, want to change the Church’s teaching? The Belgian interview did not answer that question.

Now we have the first direct answer by Cardinal Baldisseri to the question of whether Church teaching should be changed. And that answer is a resounding No.

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