In the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum), which Paul VI promulgated on November 18, 1965 and passed 2305 to 2 by the Council, we read:
8. “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.”
12. “… so that through preparatory study the judgment of the Church may mature.”
But Pope Pius IX condemned this very doctrine in his Syllabus: “Divine revelation is imperfectly, and therefore subject to continuous and indefinite progress, which corresponds to the progress of human reason.” 1
In the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes), promulgated December 7, 1965 after a 2309 to 75 vote, we read in paragraph 16: “In fidelity to conscience, Christians are joined with the rest of men in the search for truth, and for the genuine solution to the numerous problems which arise in the life of individuals and from social relationships.”
This paragraph indicates that the Church does not possess the truth, but is seeking it. Christ constituted a Church to “go and teach all nations, whatsoever I have commanded you….” (Matthew 28:19-20) The Church possess certainty about doctrine and the only question is applying immutable truth to changing conditions. Pope Pius XII warns in Humani Generis: “finally, let them not think, indulging in a false “eirenism”, 2 that the dissident and erring can happily be brought back to the bosom of the Church, if the whole truth found in the Church is not sincerely taught to all without corruption or diminution.”
1 DZ 1705 DZ stands for Henry Denzinger’s Enchiridion Symbolorum, which is a collection of many of the major pronouncements of the Church. All references are from the 30th edition, which is in translation as The Sources of Catholic Dogma.
2 Irenicism in Christian theology refers to attempts to unify Christian apologetical systems by using reason as an essential attribute. The word is derived from the Greek word ειρήνη (eirene) meaning peace.