On Sunday, Pope Francis canonized St. John Henry Newman (1801-1890), the Anglican priest and theologian who famously converted to Catholicism, and who ultimately became a Catholic cardinal. He’s chiefly remembered today for his sermons and his theological writings, including in particular on the topic of “development of doctrine.”
The idea of “development of doctrine” is grossly misunderstood by many of the doctrine’s critics. That is, many people believe it’s a matter of a doctrine being switched from one thing to another, so that what was affirmed yesterday is denied tomorrow, or what was denied yesterday is affirmed tomorrow. But while there are those who would try to smuggle heresy into theology by calling it a “development,” that’s not what the term means, and not what Newman meant.