I first came across Shaun Blanchard a couple of years ago when I read his excellent article, “Traditionis Custodes Was Never Merely About the Liturgy” in Church Life Journal. That article provoked my interest in how doctrine develops and the relationship between Tradition and the Magisterium. Since then I’ve followed his other articles and podcast appearances. I’m really happy that we were able to talk with him about an authentically Catholic understanding of development and reform.

As a young adult Catholic, I believed, with a lot of certainty, that Church teaching never changed, that Catholicism teaches the same thing today, yesterday, and forever. Sometimes pastoral application of a doctrine could be tweaked, but there could never be any real discontinuity between past and present teachings. This belief felt stable, secure, in the midst of a culture whose values and morals change every week. But that view wasn’t exactly right. The Church teaches something more nuanced. Something more compelling.

But if Church teaching can change, then I’m left with other questions. For example, if it’s a historical fact that some Church teachings have dramatically changed in the past, then how can I trust what the Church is teaching us now?

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Paul and Dominic have a conversation with Shaun Blanchard about Vatican II and the development of doctrine. Shaun offers a brief history of the Church’s understanding about how doctrine develops over the past few centuries and how that culminated at Vatican II. Then we discuss how the Church’s teaching is not rigid or static but that the Church is always in a process of reform. As Dei Verbum says, “For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her.”

Shaun Blanchard is Senior Research Fellow at the National Institute for Newman Studies. A North Carolina native and graduate of UNC, Oxford (Blackfriars Hall), and Marquette, Shaun writes on a variety of topics in early modern and modern Catholicism. He is the author of The Synod of Pistoia and Vatican II (OUP: 2020) and, with Ulrich Lehner, co-edited The Catholic Enlightenment: A Global Anthology (CUA: 2021). With Stephen Bullivant, Shaun co-wrote Vatican II: A Very Short Introduction (OUP: 2023).


Traditionis Custodes Was Never Merely About the Liturgy:

The Reform Was Real: Continuity and change at Vatican II:

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ABOUT DOMINIC DE SOUZA SmartCatholics founder, Dominic de Souza, is a convert from radical traditionalism – inspired by WherePeterIs, Bishop Robert Barron, and Pope Francis. He is passionate about helping ordinary Catholics break the ‘bystander effect’, and be first responders. “We don’t have to be geniuses. We just have to show up with witness and kindness. Christ does the rest.” Today he hosts the SmartCatholics community.

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Paul Fahey lives in Michigan with his wife and four kids. For the past eight years, he has worked as a professional catechist. He has an undergraduate degree in Theology and is currently working toward a Masters Degree in Pastoral Counseling. He is a retreat leader, catechist formator, writer, and a co-founder of Where Peter Is. He is also the founder and co-host of the Pope Francis Generation podcast. His long-term goal is to provide pastoral counseling for Catholics who have been spiritually abused, counseling for Catholic ministers, and counseling education so that ministers are more equipped to help others in their ministry.

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