I'm glad to see this insightful comment by reader rdp46 featured today at National Catholic Reporter as the top comment in response to NCR's initial set of comments about Amoris Laetitia. I think it's at the top of the queue of comments because it has move like votes than any other comment in the thread.
The idea inside the Church that doctrine can only be developed further but not changed is indeed a description of trying to make the possible out of the impossible. When the church taught that the earth was the center of the universe; and man its central creature that doctrine, indeed, needed changing. It is also true for the teaching that slaves should obey their slave masters; this doctrine has evolved 180 degrees in other words changed. The ideas about Birth Control that because it was once taught as wrong in a papal encyclical; and is unchangeable, is a horrific hinderance to what truth and science show. Some influential leaders in the church even went to a false argument charging that BC pills medications cause abortions. In fact this is a horrible misconception used by RCC leadership to influence the People of God about their own misconception or lie: "See our pope always knows what is best in his encyclicals and yes we were always right." Problem is science shows them wrong. When Paul VI did not change the teachings on BC, it was because of horrible pressure put on him by a small group of Curia that frightened him not to change the fossilized old teaching. Problem was that both Vatican Commissions, composed of the church's better scientists and theologians, both men and women recommended that he change that teaching. So when Cardinals say that church teaching can only be further developed but not changed they are playing a power game that is in their own interest but many times not in the best interest of the People of God or society in general.
Many of us will continue to speak out about this incredible false claim of infallibility in our church. That any man or group of men can infallibly know or understand much of anything is frankly at best a stupid misconception but at its worst a horrible lie. It is alway a struggle with our finite minds to understand more bits of truth from the Spirit in each and every generation. When leadership continues to claim that they know infallible truth, they are indeed describing that their tiny finite minds can perfectly understand the infinite mind of our Great God. When our bishops do this they are practicing the idolatry that they can know the Mind of God. This is purely impossible for us to do. We do have the Holy Spirit to reveal tiny bits of truth to all, scientists, theologians, philosophers and the general public in each and every generation. The idea that She only nurtures and speaks to the curia or other leadership again is arrogant idolatry.
So if the door is now cracked open for divorced catholics to fully be involved in Catholicism, that seems a tiny good evolution in the thought of our leadership. However, what is needed is for the door to be wide open to all Catholics, divorced or gay, married or single. God's great church is Universal and when leaders attempt to make it less they are ruining the teachings of Christ's love to all.
So when Cardinals say that church teaching can only be further developed but not changed they are playing a power game that is in their own interest but many times not in the best interest of the People of God or society in general. Precisely.
They're also blatantly falsifying the history of their church itself, rdp46 so clearly points out in his first paragraph — since the church no longer teaches that the earth is the center of the universe, when it once did so, and no longer blesses slavery, when it once did so.
And on and on: even the most cursory glance at the history of the church shows us that from the New Testament period, the church has constantly changed its doctrinal formulations and constantly altered its moral teachings on issues from slavery to usury. It can obviously do so again.
That a large number of NCR readers have hit the like button for this comment, sending it to the top of the queue of comments responding to discussions of Amoris Laetitia, indicates that a large number of lay Catholics — older ones, at least — are fully aware that church teaching has, in fact, changed, and can, in fact change, even though the magisterium has sought to bombard the faithful for some years now with the message that church teaching is set in stone and cannot be altered. As rdp46 points out, this meme was stepped up by church officials after the theological commission Paul VI convened to advise him about the issue of birth control advised him to ditch the condemnation of artificial contraception, and Paul VI chose to ignore the advice of the theological commission he had struck to advise him — creating a disaster for the Catholic church that continues to play out in a dismal way in its life up to this day.