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There Might Be Something Very Important Missing From Your Catholic Library

by aquinasandmore on February 5, 2010

The Sources of Catholic Dogma by Fr. Heinrich Denzinger

Most Catholics would agree that every Catholic library simply must have copies of the Sacred Scriptures and the Catechism. If you had to name the third most important book to add, what would it be? A Bible dictionary or concordance perhaps? A great spiritual classic?

For many well-known Catholic scholars and apologists, it would be the foundational work The Sources of Catholic Dogma by Fr. Heinrich Denzinger. This book, originally published nearly 150 years ago, but updated several times through 1957, is also known as the Enchiridion Symbolorum, or Collection of Articles.

Some have called this book a "concordance of Catholic doctrine." Take, for instance, the subject index on the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. How many of us, without proper understanding of the faith, might say that the Church made a decision on this dogma in 1950 when Pope Pius XII issued his apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus ? Fr. Denzinger clearly shows us in his book, by giving us numerous excerpts from authoritative writings over the nearly 2,000 years of Church history, that the Christian belief in the Assumption (or Dormition) of the Mother of God has its origins in the very earliest generation of the Church and in the true Christian understanding of the role the Blessed Virgin Mary has in God's plan for salvation.

The Sources of Catholic Dogma includes citations from the Sacred Scriptures, from the very earliest non-Scriptural writing in the Church such as the Didache, from the Fathers of the Church, from the Great Councils, from regional councils and synods, and from the Saints and Popes throughout the ages.  Sweeping in its treatment of Catholic teaching for nearly 2,000 years, there is nothing else like it available.

Make sure you have a copy of this book and that your parish library also has one.

Not only will you gain a better understanding of the Catholic faith, and the development of Christian doctrine, but you will also see the work of the Holy Spirit, in generation after generation, protecting and nurturing the integrity and truth of the teaching of the Church here on earth.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Lorenzo A. Gurreri February 12, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Sounds like a good book, but how readible is it? Or is something to go to for research? Please let me know.


Mike February 12, 2010 at 3:31 pm

The book is readable, once you understand its unique layout. It is structured chronologically starting with St. Peter. There is a wonderful subject index and you can chart the developement of Christian doctrine on almost any subject!


John Gilluly February 16, 2010 at 3:46 pm

The book sounds like a good reference source for the development of Catholic dogma, but if it is updated only through 1957, does it not lack the conciliar decrees of Vatican II?


Mike February 24, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Keep in mind that Denzinger covers Catholic dogma specifically, not conciliar decrees or papal encyclicals unless they address a dogmatic or doctrinal issue. Many of the documents produced by the Church, including most conciliar documents, are pastoral in nature. No new official dogmatic pronouncements have been made by the Church since 1950. Roman Catholic Dogma is “a truth revealed by God, which the magisterium of the Church declared as binding.” You can also say that it is “a specific article of faith.” I hope this helps.


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