After reading and doing light research concerning this question, I'm compelled to ask, what is the process for establishing the orthodoxy of a belief in the Catholic church today?

From m-w.com:

1 : the quality or state of being orthodox
2 : an orthodox belief or practice

From Wikipedia:

Orthodoxy is adherence to correct or accepted creeds, especially in religion. In the Christian sense the term means "conforming to the Christian faith as represented in the creeds of the early Church." The first seven ecumenical councils were held between the years of 325 and 787 with the aim of formalizing accepted doctrines.

Based on these two references (and my own, personal understanding), orthodoxy is a belief established by a religion, presumably based on its source canon. Thus, the Biblical "Thou shalt not kill" might be considered doctrine, and therefore an accepted/official belief of the church that capital punishment is unacceptable as a form of punishment would be considered an "orthodox belief" or "orthodoxy."

What, then, is the official procedure in the Catholic church for establishing a belief (new or modified) as orthodox?

  • If the downvoter voted so believing the question lacks research effort, please note that the word "orthodox" is so ubiquitous that a Google search failed to find the answer. Not being Catholic, I may simply not know the proper words to use for a more specific search.
    – JBH
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 5:23
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    It is unclear to me what would be required to answer this question. Do you just not know how the RCC's teaching authority structure known as the Magisterium works or are you looking for something more specific? I guess what's missing from this question is how much you do or don't know about the RCC already.
    – Caleb
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 6:52
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    Also your choice of examples is probably ill advised. The current hot button topic of capital punishment is probably not what you want to use to try to sort out where the lines between "doctrine", "dogma", and "orthodox belief" fall. You're likely to stir up debate on that topic (note for example your translation of the ten commandments is wrong for starters, it's "murder" not "kill") and get mired down in a currently unresolved debate without bringing any clarity to the overall process.
    – Caleb
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 6:56
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    A question asking about the Catholic Magisterium would be good (if there isn't one already, I didn't check). Does it only happen through councils? Meetings of cardinals? How does the Pope fit into the structure?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 8:44
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    Okay that explains why this question is so unclear. You cited Wikipedia's definition of orthodoxy, but did you read the main article on the Catholic Church. It talks a lot about the RCC organization, their split allegiance between scripture and tradition, and describes the so called magesterium. Perhaps you should do some general reading first then ask specific questions.
    – Caleb
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 14:06

1 Answer 1


Heinrich Denzinger has collected many of the Church's dogmatic documents in his:

If you have dubia (doubts) regarding a doctrinal issue, you can submit them to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). They are questions that are usually answered succinctly.

For example, the dubia sent to the Pontifical Biblical Commission in 1909:

Question 1. Whether the arguments accumulated by critics to impugn the Mosaic authenticity of the Sacred Books, which are designated by the name Pentateuch, are of such weight that, in spite of the very many indications of both Testaments taken together, the continuous conviction of the Jewish people, also the unbroken tradition of the Church in addition to the internal evidences drawn from the text itself, they justify affirming that these books were not written by Moses, but were composed for the most part from sources later than the time of Moses?

Reply: No.

A more recent example was when it was asked whether Catholics "who enrol in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion", and Cdl. Ratzinger, then-prefect of the CDF, responded in the affirmative.

  • This doesn't sound like how they determine Orthodoxy, just how they answer questions about it.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 22:06
  • @curiousdannii They are given the authority to do so from the Pope himself. (I don't understand what you mean by "determine". What do you mean by "determine"?)
    – Geremia
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 22:33
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    There's a process for determining answers to questions like whether Catholics can be Masons, and there's a process for communicating their decisions. This post really seems to only be about the later, but the question is about the former. That's how I read it at least.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 22:38

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