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Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma Paperback – January 1, 2009
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"The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest." - Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI given July 13, 1988, in Santiago, Chile
So yes, absolutely buy, read, and consult regularly the Catechism. Read the documents of Vatican II, keeping in mind they are but 3 years out of two hundred centuries of the Church. There is nothing in Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma that conflicts with current teaching, and there is a great deal you will learn from it. Ott's work was relevant then, and is relevant now.
As stated in other excellent reviews, this work is arranged categorically and gives a broad treatment of the dogmas and firmly held teachings of the Faith. The standard presentation is very roughly as follows:
* Statement of the dogma
* Definition and Origin of the dogma
* Heresies against the dogma
* Support of the dogma from Holy Writ
* Support from the Fathers (pre/post/Nicene)
* Support from Tradition (usually involving how the Scholastics weighed in on the subject)
Most of the great theologians and early Fathers that have stood the test of the centuries are referenced, from both the east and the west. There is just enough detail to explain the dogma, and point the reader to other sources (Denzinger figures prominently.)
One thing that I think will stand out to the reader is how the dogma of the Catholic Church forms over time. For the most part, dogmas are laid out as correctives; as long as there is unanimous agreement on a point, there is no need to define dogma. It's only when there is a challenge or controversy that defined dogma becomes necessary. And it is here that the great service of the Church through the ages comes to the fore. It has tirelessly and relentlessly, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, defended Truth against corruption.
This is why many of the definitions of dogmas begin "Against the Reformers..." or "Against the Pelagians..." As I was reading, I was reminded of the observation of G.K. Chesterton:
"Man can be defined as an animal that makes dogmas. As he piles doctrine on doctrine and conclusion on conclusion in the formation of some tremendous scheme of philosophy and religion, he is, in the only legitimate sense of which the expression is capable, becoming more and more human. When he drops one doctrine after another in a refined scepticism, when he declines to tie himself to a system, when he says that he has outgrown definitions, when he says that he disbelieves in finality, when, in his own imagination, he sits as God, holding no form of creed but contemplating all, then he is by that very process sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the vagrant animals and the unconsciousness of the grass. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded."
A couple of things to note:
Having no knowledge of Greek or Latin shouldn't deter anyone from tackling this work, but be aware that not all Latin quotations of the original sources are translated. Not to worry, as you can mostly pick up the quotes from the surrounding text, and in the age of Google, no Latin quote is inaccessible. More difficult were the fewer Greek words and passages that were not translated, but those, too, are somewhat discernable from the text.
I have the hardcover version from Roman Catholic books, and while the binding and construction are first-rate, the printing is terrible - very spotty and smudgy in places. I usually ding books for this lack of quality, but in this case, the material is simply too engaging, and I was able to figure out every word, although it was bit difficult in on same pages.
1) Are you a lapsed Catholic unsure of your faith and need to reinforce your spiritual growth? Buy this book.
2) Are you a non-Catholic Christian unaware of the history of the church prior to Luther, Calvin, etc? Read this book.
3) Do you want to learn what early Christians believed in what was canon in sacred scripture? This book is for you.
4) Are you an aspiring apologist? Read this book.
5) You got free time to read? Buy this book.
6) You have limited time to read? This book is not a dictionary, buy it anyway.
You won't be disappointed.
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Print size is a bit small for my liking. Wish it came in a larger font size.Read more