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(LifeSiteNews) — In a previous article, I examined what is meant by the phrase “the deposit of faith” and what truths are included in this sacred deposit. Now I will consider the immutability of the deposit of faith, that is, the unchanging and constant nature of the truths of divine revelation or the permanence of the meaning of these truths. In so doing, we will see that the contrary opinion, namely, that the deposit of faith can change, is a condemned proposition of the heresy of Modernism. 

The meaning of the truths of revelation are clarified by the Church – but do not change 

The sacred deposit of faith, handed on once and for all to the Church by Jesus Christ and the Apostles, can neither err nor change. Over the centuries, it becomes more clearly drawn out and articulated. And although the articulation of what is contained in the deposit of faith continues in the Church until the end of time, this is a matter of a more explicit and clearer stating of what God has already revealed once and for all in His Son. This is true, whether the revelation of a particular truth was clear in the Gospel, such as Christ’s claim to divinity, or whether it was more obscure when revealed, such as Mary’s Immaculate Conception, contained in the Angel Gabriel’s greeting when he calls her “full of grace” and in the Apostles’ reverence toward her as toward one who is perfectly sinlessness. 

The more explicit defining of such truths later in the Church’s history is not a new revelation of a new truth, but the more explicit teaching of what God revealed previously through Our Lord and the Apostles. What is new is the Church’s clearer understanding of what was revealed and her clearer expression of that same revelation.

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We ask you to join us in thanking this faithful shepherd for his years of loving service to Christ and His Church. 

Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Diocese of Providence, RI, known for his outspoken defense of the Church’s moral teachings on the sanctity of life, marriage, and human sexuality, has just resigned upon reaching the age of 75 on April 1.

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Here is our message to Bishop Tobin which you can sign: 

In a statement to the diocese on the occasion of his resignation, Bishop Tobin thanked the faithful and clergy of Providence for their support over the years, encouraging them to remain steadfast in the faith. “I urge all the members of the church to remain steadfast in your faith, to be proud of the good work you are doing, and to be determined to carry on the work that Jesus has entrusted to you,” Tobin said. 

As bishop, Tobin consistently raised his voice to clearly reiterate the perennial teachings of the Church that the life of the unborn is sacred, marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman, and the innocence of children must be protected in society.

He has also defended traditional Catholics who wish to worship according to the Church’s ancient liturgy in the Tridentine Latin Mass. 

Unafraid to hold to account so-called “Catholic” politicians who aggressively promote abortion and oppose the protection of the lives of the unborn, in 2019 Tobin excoriated Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, who says he is Catholic but voted against the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Act, designed to protect children born alive during botched abortions from being left to die.   

In the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election, Tobin called out the contradiction between a politician calling himself Catholic and yet rejecting Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life. In a tweet sent out on May 7, 2020, Tobin said one cannot be an “authentic” Catholic and hold a pro-abortion position. 

“Just saw a headline in a Catholic newspaper with the phrase ‘pro-abortion Catholic.’ Sorry. That’s a contradiction in terms. You can’t be a Catholic, at least not an authentic one, and be ‘pro-abortion.’ Or ‘pro-choice.’ It’s the same thing,” the bishop said

SIGN: Thank you Bishop Tobin for answering God's call to serve His Church

Several months later Tobin again sparked a heated Twitter debate over what constitutes a Catholic when he sarcastically implied that then-presidential candidate Joe Biden isn’t one. The outspoken bishop was hammered on Twitter with ad hominem attacks after he posted the following:  

Biden-Harris. First time in a while that the Democratic ticket hasn’t had a Catholic on it. Sad. 

— Bishop Thomas Tobin (@ThomasJTobin1) August 11, 2020 

Tobin doubled down on his criticisms of President Biden’s zeal for abortion in 2022, when he stated that he could not be “both a devout Catholic and a pro-abortion zealot”: 

President Biden cannot be both a devout Catholic and a pro-abortion zealot. The two are mutually exclusive. He is a poor, lost and confused soul. Truly, we need to pray for him, everyday. 

— Bishop Thomas Tobin (@ThomasJTobin1) September 23, 2022 

Tobin’s courageous defense of the Church’s moral teachings was not limited, however, to standing up against the prominent pro-abortion advocates of the Left. He also earned their hatred with his public stance against LGBT ideology and intimidation. 

On June 1, 2019, to mark the beginning of so-called “pride month”, the Rhode Island bishop tweeted that Catholics should not take part in “pride” events due to their conflict with the Catholic faith, making special note of the danger to children: 

A reminder that Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ “Pride Month” events held in June. They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children. 

— Bishop Thomas Tobin (@ThomasJTobin1) June 1, 2019 

The public stance made the bishop the target of high-volume vitriol from LGBT adherents and supporters, who moved swiftly to squash the Catholic shepherd’s advisory to his flock to remain faithful to “Catholic faith and morals,” demonstrating the resolve of anti-Catholic forces to silence Church teaching. 

Several days later, Tobin issued the following statement, declaring it his obligation as a bishop to preach the truth of Christ “even on very difficult and sensitive issues”, affirming that he would continue to do so. He stated, “As a Catholic Bishop, however, my obligation before God is to lead the faithful entrusted to my care and to teach the faith, clearly and compassionately, even on very difficult and sensitive issues.  That is what I have always tried to do – on a variety of issues – and I will continue doing so as contemporary issues arise.” 

SIGN: Thank you Bishop Tobin for answering God's call to serve His Church

Ever sensitive to the needs of the flock entrusted to this care, Tobin also supported those Catholics devoted to the ancient liturgy in the Traditional Latin Mass. In January 2022, during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, he encouraged “respect and support” for “members of our own Church who are devoted to [the] TLM,” affirming their fidelity to the Church, a notable public defense in the face of attacks from authorities in Rome, such as Cardinal Roche, who has dubbed those who love the ancient Mass “more Protestant than Catholic.”  

In contrast, Bishop Tobin wrote: 

In this Week of Prayer for #ChristianUnity, let’s also work to safeguard and promote “Catholic Unity.” In particular, let’s resolve to respect and support members of our own Church who are devoted to TLM. They are faithful Catholics who greatly love the Lord and his Church. 

— Bishop Thomas Tobin (@ThomasJTobin1) January 18, 2022 

Again, earlier this year, Tobin criticized the increased ostracization of traditional Catholics by Rome in a tweet that contrasted the heavy-handedness of the Vatican’s restrictions with the Pope’s call for accompaniment and listening. The prelate wrote,  

The way the Vatican is dealing with the Traditional Latin Mass does not seem to me to be the “style of God.” Pope Francis himself has emphasized that those who are attached to the TLM should be “accompanied listened to, and given time.” 

— Bishop Thomas Tobin (@ThomasJTobin1) February 21, 2023 

With the courageous Bishop of Providence now retiring, the sentiments of Catholics grateful for his defense of life, family, and faith can perhaps not be put better than what was stated by those same Catholics several years ago: “Your clear and compassionate teaching gives hope to Catholics and Christians everywhere.”  

In the words of Bishop Strickland, “Thanks for speaking up Bishop Tobin….let us be mighty loving messengers of truth and light in Jesus Christ.” 

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Bishop Thomas Tobin retires at age 75 - LifeSiteNews

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READ: The deposit of faith: What it is and why Catholics should know about it

Concerning the unchanging nature and meaning of the truths contained in the deposit of faith, the First Vatican Council taught, “The doctrine of faith which God revealed has not been handed down as a philosophic invention to the human mind to be perfected but has been entrusted as a divine deposit to the Spouse of Christ to be faithfully guarded and infallibly interpreted. Hence, also, that understanding of its sacred dogmas must be perpetually retained, which Holy Mother Church has once declared; and there must never be recession from that meaning under the specious name of a deeper understanding ‘Therefore […] let the understanding, the knowledge, and wisdom of individuals as of all, of one man as of the whole Church, grow and progress strongly with the passage of the ages and the centuries; but let it be solely in its own genus, namely in the same dogma, with the same sense and the same understanding’ [Vincent of Lerins, Commonitorium, 23, 3].” (Vatican I, Dei Filius, ch.4). 

Similarly, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), in Mysterium ecclesiae, 1973, declared that the dogmatic definitions of the Church signify revealed truths in a determinate way and always remain true and constant, neither changing over time nor ceasing to be true. The CDF condemned the contrary opinion as dogmatic relativism, declaring: 

“As for the meaning of dogmatic formulas, this remains ever true and constant in the Church, even when it is expressed with greater clarity or more developed. The faithful therefore must shun the opinion, first, that dogmatic formulas (or some category of them) cannot signify truth in a determinate way, but can only offer changeable approximations to it, which to a certain extent distort or alter it; secondly, that these formulas signify the truth only in an indeterminate way, this truth being like a goal that is constantly being sought by means of such approximations. Those who hold such an opinion do not avoid dogmatic relativism and they corrupt the concept of the Church’s infallibility relative to the truth to be taught or held in a determinate way.” 

“Such an opinion clearly is in disagreement with the declarations of the First Vatican Council, which, while fully aware of the progress of the Church in her knowledge of revealed truth, nevertheless taught as follows: ‘That meaning of sacred dogmas… must always be maintained which Holy Mother Church declared once and for all, nor should one ever depart from that meaning under the guise of or in the name of a more advanced understanding.’ The Council moreover condemned the opinion that ‘dogmas once proposed by the Church must, with the progress of science be given a meaning other than that which was understood by the Church, or which she understands.’ There is no doubt that, according to these texts of the Council, the meaning of dogmas which is declared by the Church is determinate and unalterable.” 

So the Church’s definitive articulation of the revealed truths contained in the deposit of faith clearly and accurately expresses such truths and cannot change. 

The deposit of faith is complete

The ultimate reason why the deposit of faith cannot change is that God has revealed in a complete way Who He is and what His plan of salvation for man is. Essentially, this boils down to the mystery of the Blessed Trinity and the mystery of redemption. Knowledge of the former includes all the basic truths there are to be known about Who God is in Himself: He is three persons in one nature – the Father who is the origin, from whom the Son and the Holy Spirit proceed, the Son who is the Eternal Word proceeding from the Father, and the Holy Spirit who is the love of the Father and the Son, proceeding from both, all within the one divine nature.

The mystery of redemption includes the Incarnation of God the Son, His saving death on the Cross, His resurrection, ascension, the sending of the Holy Spirit, the establishing of the Church, the institution of the sacraments, and the whole living of the supernatural moral life of grace and the virtues.

Who God is does not change, nor does man’s participation in the divine life through grace and the virtues change, nor will there be another “economy of salvation” in which souls are saved through something other than the death of Our Lord Jesus Christ and incorporation into His Body, the Church, through the sacraments. So divine revelation is definitive and immutable because it is complete. God has revealed all the basic truths there are to know about Him and all that He wills as the means of our salvation.

Even in heaven, in the beatific vision, the happiness of the saints consists in seeing nothing other than the divine essence of the three persons of the Blessed Trinity. The knowledge of God that we have in this life of faith is imperfect, to be sure, but there still a certain completeness to it. God has revealed all the basics truths about Himself that there are: He is three persons in one God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Modernist idea of doctrinal ‘evolution’ is incompatible with the Catholic faith 

Any claim to add to or take away the slightest truth contained in the deposit of faith amounts to a denial of some truth that God has revealed and is therefore a sin against the virtue of faith. The claim that the Holy Spirit is inspiring new truths of revelation today is a condemned proposition of the heresy of Modernism, exposed for its incompatibility with Catholic doctrine by Blessed Pius IX and Saint Pius X. As the latter noted in Pascendi Dominici Gregis, such an evolution of revealed doctrine is little more than theological subjectivism.

Denouncing the Modernists, Pius X wrote: First of all they lay down the general principle that in a living religion everything is subject to change, and must change, and in this way they pass to what may be said to be, among the chief of their doctrines, that of Evolution. To the laws of evolution everything is subject – dogma, Church, worship, the Books we revere as sacred, even faith itself.” 

“For the Modernists, both as authors and propagandists, there is to be nothing stable, nothing immutable in the Church. Nor indeed are they without precursors in their doctrines, for it was of these that Our Predecessor Pius IX wrote: ‘These enemies of divine revelation extol human progress to the skies, and with rash and sacrilegious daring would have it introduced into the Catholic religion as if this religion were not the work of God but of man, or some kind of philosophical discovery susceptible of perfection by human efforts.’ On the subject of revelation and dogma in particular, the doctrine of the Modernists offers nothing new — we find it condemned in the Syllabus of Pius IX, where it is enunciated in these terms: Divine revelation is imperfect, and therefore subject to continual and indefinite progress, corresponding with the progress of human reason.’” Pius IX condemned this position as erroneous. 

So to hold that the deposit of faith changes in meaning over time or evolves such that what was held to be true by faith yesterday can be rejected in good faith today is to fall into the theological subjectivism of the heresy of Modernism. It is to deny the objective reality and completeness of supernatural divine revelation. And ultimately it is to posit either that God Himself changes or that His plan of salvation through Christ and the Church has changed.  

None of these are possible, and none will be found acceptable to one who has divine and Catholic faith. Rather, such a one will believe what the Holy Spirit has said through the prophet, “I am the Lord, and I do not change” (Mal 3:6) and what that same Holy Spirit declared through the Apostle concerning salvation through Jesus Christ, “There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). 


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