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Jack Nassar wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have met many Catholic priests and nuns who believe in the dispensational theology. Some even teach it in their churches and within their ministries while others oppose it.

I personally do not know the Church's position on this issue so I don't know which group is a real Catholic and which is not.

  • Can you please send me the official Catholic position on the Dispensational theology and doctrine?
  • Is it an anti-Catholic teaching?
  • Is it a heresy?
  • Can Catholics believe and follow it and still be Catholics, or will they be considered heretics and ex-communicated?

Please send me the official teaching on why it is right or wrong.

Thank you,

Jack

  { Can you please send me the official Catholic position on Dispensational theology? }

John replied:

Jack,

  • What exactly do you mean by Dispensational theology?

The word dispensation comes up occasionally in Catholic theology, but it is not the same thing as a heresy known as Dispensationalism which was started by a guy named Darby in the 19th century.

If by Dispensationalism you mean the 19th century inventions of John Nelson Darby, about a
pre-tribulation rapture, a millennium, and so forth, then the answer is No, Catholics are not free to believe these heresies.

We do believe in:

  • the Second Coming of our Lord
  • a final judgment
  • a period of chastisement, and
  • the rule of an anti-Christ

but the anti-Christ is not necessarily just a one time event. We've had several, going back to the early Church. St. John writes that the spirit of anti-Christ is at work in the world already.

The notion that the Church will avoid the final persecution is purely a 19th century invention.
No Church with Apostolic roots, be it:

  • Catholic
  • Orthodox
  • Coptic
  • Nestorian
  • Jacobite
  • Assyrian
  • Armenian, or
  • any ancient Church with Apostolic succession or tradition

has ever taught this nonsense. If you wish to study this further I'd refer you to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

John

Mike replied:

Hi Jack,

First, no Catholic can hold on to any heresy and call themselves a faithful Catholic.

The word heresy comes from a word meaning "to pick and choose". This is what dissenting cafeteria Catholics do; they pick and choose which teachings they wish to believe in. Among what I refer to as dissenting or cafeteria Catholics, I do not include Catholics who are striving to understand and prayerfully grasp Catholic teachings they are having a hard time with. Blessed John Henry Newman told us "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt".

I don't believe there has been any official statement from the Church or Vatican on what my colleague John referred to as Dispensationalism.

To go to John's recommendations, these three pages from the Catechism should help:

Dispensation is referred to four times within these sections. I would strongly encourage you to read each within their appropriate context.

1076 The Church was made manifest to the world on the day of Pentecost by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Spirit ushers in a new era in the "dispensation of the mystery" the age of the Church, during which Christ manifests, makes present, and communicates his work of salvation through the liturgy of his Church, "until he comes." 1 Corinthians 11:26

1088 "To accomplish so great a work" - the dispensation or communication of his work of salvation - "Christ is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the Sacrifice of the Mass not only in the person of his minister, 'the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross,' but especially in the Eucharistic species. By his power he is present in the sacraments so that when anybody baptizes, it is really Christ himself who baptizes. He is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church. Lastly, he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he has promised 'where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them."'

1092 In this sacramental dispensation of Christ's mystery the Holy Spirit acts in the same way as at other times in the economy of salvation: he prepares the Church to encounter her Lord; he recalls and makes Christ manifest to the faith of the assembly. By his transforming power, he makes the mystery of Christ present here and now. Finally the Spirit of communion unites the Church to the life and mission of Christ.

1117 As she has done for the canon of Sacred Scripture and for the doctrine of the faith, the Church, by the power of the Spirit who guides her "into all truth," has gradually recognized this treasure received from Christ and, as the faithful steward of God's mysteries, has determined its "dispensation." Thus the Church has discerned over the centuries that among liturgical celebrations there are seven that are, in the strict sense of the term, sacraments instituted by the Lord.

I hope this helps,

Mike

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