I know the Easter Orthodox often feel that it is pointless because they say that Catholicism changes so much that it is impossible to pin down Catholic theology. I know that I, at times, feel like it is pointless because the EO defines so little of it dogma that it is impossible to pin down EO theology.
I am going to go in for a little self criticism here, meaning considering the approach of my Church. I fear this might offend some, and please understand that I don't mean to. I really only want to consider this issue from an angle I just think never gets considered, at least not in the Catholic Church. If I do cause offense, please accept my apologies.
Reading the above comment caused me to think, and I really can't say that I can see how the latter is a problem, though it would seem the former could easily be so. I have to think that the real problem is that we Catholics seem to have a hobby of dogmatizing ourselves into a corner. Basically, I think the Catholic Church has never learned the lesson of "if it ain't broke don't fix it." We define dogmas when it seems completely unnecessary, and if we compare to the above mentioned reticence of the Orthodox to do this at all, we really look compulsive. For instance, if we look at the history of the Church, dogmas were always defined in response to a heresy which threatened the faith. It isn't like the bishops woke up one morning and said, "Hey, let's define some cool Marian dogmas!" In the early Church all the formal definitions were of already accepted beliefs, but not all accepted beliefs were defined. It only happened if it was needed, to stem the growth of a heresy. I think this is a very crucial aspect which I have never seen addressed anywhere by Catholics.
With this idea in mind, if we consider the modern Church we actually seem to be trying to fulfill a dogma quota or something. Consider papal infallibility. In 1870 the Pope was like a demi-god. He could do anything, had people carrying him around in a chair, had a crown the size of South Dakota, wore ermine and furs... It went on and on. He was super powerful and pretty much all the Catholic world accepted it. Where was this heresy which demanded the definition of Papal infallibility? Same thing is true for the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception. Were there really masses of Catholics storming the streets demanding that Mary was born with original sin (whatever that really means) and wasn't assumed? The Church never doubted the Assumption and Mary was always referred to as immaculate or "ever pure" and yet we defined this stuff. Why? Who exactly was being corrected here?
I see two results of these definitions, and neither look good. One is, they seek to make the position of the Blessed Virgin and the Pope more secure, and since they were defined, both have become much less important. Before we had formal definitions of infallibility the Pope was undoubted, but now he is basically nothing more than a diplomat and bureaucrat and Catholics at large ignore him. Dissent from his teachings is massive. Considering how much the Pope goes on about Latin in the liturgy, reverence and so on, our churches should be just awesome. Those around here sure aren't. And, I don't know about other Catholics here, but I can't recall a Marian devotion or hymn in my parish for the last several years, and it is dedicated to her. I can remember once seven or eight years ago a Sister who ran the Christian education program at the largest parish in our town was asked by an inquirer about the Rosary and she admitted that she didn't know how to say it. Would that have happened with a teaching sister in the Catholic Church before
these dogmas were defined? I really doubt it. So, it would seem that contrary to stemming a serious heresy these dogmas actually created them. How is that for turning the Church on its head?
The other thing about them is that while they have completely backfired they have also made reunion with the East virtually impossible. The East seems to have far more respect for authority of heirarchs than we, and much greater understanding of the honor and glory of our Blessed Mother, but yet we would suggest that they are heretics because they don't have our view. Really, I can't blame them. Why would they want
to be like us and define away all their devotions and reverence?
I also don't really see a problem that the East has not defined anything. Sure, they haven't defined everything they could come up with to define, which seems our method, but is there really any problem knowing what they believe? And given the effects of our dogmatizing craze, can we blame them? I can't help but think, given the historic reasons and methods for defining dogmas used by the early Church, that they are much closer to that than we are. Perhaps if we had been similar the Pope would still have some influence and Mary would be honored and revered as she deserves.