Catherine asked:

What’s the difference between doctrine and dogma?

Jimmy Akin replied:

"The terms are sometimes used to mean the same thing. Sometimes you’ll encounter in Church documents doctrine being used as a synonym for dogma. But sometimes they mean different things. What I’m going to give you is the meaning of the terms when they’re used differently.

Basically the term doctrine is just the Latin word for teaching, doctrina. Anything that’s a Church teaching is a Church doctrine in that sense. But there are different kinds of Church teachings and different levels of Church teachings.

The highest level of Church teaching is what’s known as a dogma. In order for something to qualify as a dogma it has to meet a few additional qualifications besides just being a Church teaching. It has to also be something that is divinely revealed, something God revealed to us. And it has to be infallibly proposed to us by the Church’s Magisterium, or teaching authority, as something that’s divinely revealed. To give an example, the doctrine of the trinity is something that is divinely revealed. The different elements of the doctrine of the trinity are found in sacred scripture for example. It’s not just something the Church has deduced ...

There are other teachings though that are not dogmas. An example would be ... the teaching that bishop is a different level of the sacrament of holy orders from priest. That’s not actually a dogma. It is a teaching of the Church, but it’s something that was first authoritatively taught by Vatican II. But Vatican II didn’t choose to define that point to proclaim it infallibly and it didn’t choose to proclaim it infallibly as something that’s been divinely revealed ...”


Catholic Answers, "Open Forum" (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 2013)

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Show air date: October 10, 2013

Name of show: Open Forum

Guest comments by: Jimmy Akin

Question appeared in show: 12:33

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