Author Topic: Development of doctrine?  (Read 1593 times)

Offline Daniel

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Development of doctrine?
« on: August 14, 2020, 07:46:29 AM »
My spiritual director told me to read Cardinal Newman's book on the development of doctrine. I started reading it but I'm not following. It's incredibly verbose and seems to be nothing but guesswork/opinion. Perhaps it's just me, but reading it is a torture. I have no idea what his argument even is.

Can somebody give me like the cliff notes summary or something?

Also, why should I believe Cardinal Newman and this theory of "development of doctrine" over the (much more intuitive and elegant) belief that doctrines simply don't change? The latter seems to be a universal belief going back to the Church's beginning, whereas the former just sounds like something that some later theologian made up.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2020, 08:00:51 AM by Daniel »
 
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Offline Sempronius

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Re: Development of doctrine?
« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2020, 08:28:19 AM »
First he gives general rules for his theory and then he applies the theory on the Church’s history.

He then starts from the first century and how the Church looked like from an outside perspective, from the heathens perspective and compares Tacitus, Suetonius and Pliny’s opinions. And they all view the Church in the same way.

And his main point is that the way modern people view the Church today is the same way as the heathens viewed the Church at the beginning. Which shows a continuity in the Church.

The heathens accused the Church of ” gross superstition, of borrowing its rites and customs from the heathen, and of ascribing to forms and ceremonies an occult virtue;—a religion which is considered to burden and enslave the mind by its requisitions, to address itself to the weak-minded and ignorant, to be supported by sophistry and imposture, and to contradict reason and exalt mere irrational faith;—a religion which impresses on the serious mind very distressing views of the guilt and consequences of sin, sets upon the minute acts of the day, one by one, their definite value for praise or blame, and thus casts a grave shadow over the future;—a religion which holds up to admiration the surrender of wealth, and disables serious persons from enjoying it if they would;”

And this is what modern heathens would say today
« Last Edit: August 14, 2020, 08:31:14 AM by Sempronius »
 
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Offline Kent

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Re: Development of doctrine?
« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2020, 08:30:47 AM »
Newman had his strengths, but I'm not sure he ever shed his Anglican baggage and I wouldn't look to him as the premiere authority of much of anything.

Why don't you read Fr. Connell's much shorter and much more sensible "Does Doctrine ever Change?". .Pdf download.
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Offline aquinas138

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Re: Development of doctrine?
« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2020, 10:07:14 AM »
Also, why should I believe Cardinal Newman and this theory of "development of doctrine" over the (much more intuitive and elegant) belief that doctrines simply don't change?

Not endorsing Newman's argument in toto (I have never read the book and only have a second-hand knowledge of his argument, so I don't want to endorse what I haven't read), but however intuitive and elegant the belief that doctrines simply don't change may be, it is not easy to reconcile with actual history. I would agree that the Church's doctrine does not substantially change, but even this line is not always clear—the change in teaching on usury is a clear example of change, whether ultimately justified or not.
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Offline Maximilian

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Re: Development of doctrine?
« Reply #4 on: August 14, 2020, 10:22:34 AM »
My spiritual director told me to read Cardinal Newman's book on the development of doctrine.

Uh oh, bad sign.


I started reading it but I'm not following. It's incredibly verbose and seems to be nothing but guesswork/opinion. Perhaps it's just me, but reading it is a torture. I have no idea what his argument even is.

That's Newman in a nutshell.


Also, why should I believe Cardinal Newman

You shouldn't.


and this theory of "development of doctrine" over the (much more intuitive and elegant) belief that doctrines simply don't change? The latter seems to be a universal belief going back to the Church's beginning, whereas the former just sounds like something that some later theologian made up.

Right. Stick to your instincts.
 
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Offline The Theosist

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Re: Development of doctrine?
« Reply #5 on: August 14, 2020, 10:31:26 AM »
Newman had his strengths, but I'm not sure he ever shed his Anglican baggage and I wouldn't look to him as the premiere authority of much of anything.

Why don't you read Fr. Connell's much shorter and much more sensible "Does Doctrine ever Change?". .Pdf download.

In practice though, the deposit of public divine revelation and official teachings of the bishops in union with the Pope can both be subjected to change in doctrine: one could add to the former by novel interpretation of that deposit, and one could change the latter by re-interpretation of dogmatic texts. I think both have been done. An example of the former appears to be adding marriage to the list of sacraments, of the latter the current notions of EENS and reading something like Cantate Domino as not contradicting it.
 
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Offline Kent

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Re: Development of doctrine?
« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2020, 10:49:19 AM »
Newman had his strengths, but I'm not sure he ever shed his Anglican baggage and I wouldn't look to him as the premiere authority of much of anything.

Why don't you read Fr. Connell's much shorter and much more sensible "Does Doctrine ever Change?". .Pdf download.

In practice though, the deposit of public divine revelation and official teachings of the bishops in union with the Pope can both be subjected to change in doctrine: one could add to the former by novel interpretation of that deposit, and one could change the latter by re-interpretation of dogmatic texts. I think both have been done. An example of the former appears to be adding marriage to the list of sacraments, of the latter the current notions of EENS and reading something like Cantate Domino as not contradicting it.

I don't think I agree. There can be a development that extracts from some truth another truth, or an aspect of the same truth, formerly obscured, but clarified through theological speculation, historical contingencies, etc.  E.g. The Church did not really fully articulate the Trinity until Nicea, it having 'took' the emergence of Arianism as a challenge to the Triune Godhead to give the sufficient historical contingencies to formulate and 'finalize' the Trinitarian doctrine through the solemn magisterium.  But the formulation of the Trinity at Niceae is a change only with respect to a doctrine becoming more complete in its appearances to the Church.  The doctrine itself never 'changed,' our understanding of it becoming more complete, and without any substantial departure or contradiction to previous understandings.

The same might be said about the Church's acceptance of the rhythm method as a theoretically lawful practice.  This consistent moral teaching only appears around Vatican I-- no one ever raised the question before then-- but it is drawn explicitly from what the Church already knew and universally taught about the ends of marriage and the nature of conjugal love. 

The point in both cases is that nothing substantially new is being submitted to the deposit of faith.  Only new applications of already known truths, only clarifications of truths, more complete understandings of them, etc.  Adding a fourth person to the Trinity, doing away with the Trinity, teaching that contraception is no different from unimpeded conjugal relations, etc. would be contradictory.  They would constitute substantial disruptions to the deposit of faith, not mere 'developments.'  That is what is at stake.
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Offline Kent

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Re: Development of doctrine?
« Reply #7 on: August 14, 2020, 10:55:36 AM »
The topic of doctrinal development simply cannot be discussed without due attention to the necessary distinctions between substance and accidents.  It just can't.  What exactly do we mean by change?  Obviously there are different types of change in the natural order.  I was once two feet tall and blonde, now I'm six feet tall with dark hair.  Am I a different person now that I'm an adult?  Well, in some respects I am-- I've learned a lot, I have a family, I have a job, and lots of other really important things that I didn't have when I was two.  And there's lots of things I had when I was two-- my baby teeth, my grandparents, the house I grew up in, etc.-- that were important to me then that I no longer have and will not be getting back. 

But I'm not a substantially different person.  I am the same person I am when I was two, even though there have been a lot of accidental changes (some even significant) that have occurred along the way.

So Daniel, when you say you are tempted by your intuition to dismiss the idea of development out of hand and just go with the axiom that 'doctrine cannot change,' you're right if you mean doctrine cannot undergo a substantial change, but you're totally wrong if you mean that it cannot undergo development, which is fundamentally an accidental change, i.e., a change which leaves the substance of the doctrine in question inviolate.
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Offline The Theosist

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Re: Development of doctrine?
« Reply #8 on: August 14, 2020, 11:14:40 AM »
Newman had his strengths, but I'm not sure he ever shed his Anglican baggage and I wouldn't look to him as the premiere authority of much of anything.

Why don't you read Fr. Connell's much shorter and much more sensible "Does Doctrine ever Change?". .Pdf download.

In practice though, the deposit of public divine revelation and official teachings of the bishops in union with the Pope can both be subjected to change in doctrine: one could add to the former by novel interpretation of that deposit, and one could change the latter by re-interpretation of dogmatic texts. I think both have been done. An example of the former appears to be adding marriage to the list of sacraments, of the latter the current notions of EENS and reading something like Cantate Domino as not contradicting it.

I don't think I agree. There can be a development that extracts from some truth another truth, or an aspect of the same truth, formerly obscured, but clarified through theological speculation, historical contingencies, etc.  E.g. The Church did not really fully articulate the Trinity until Nicea, it having 'took' the emergence of Arianism as a challenge to the Triune Godhead to give the sufficient historical contingencies to formulate and 'finalize' the Trinitarian doctrine through the solemn magisterium.  But the formulation of the Trinity at Niceae is a change only with respect to a doctrine becoming more complete in its appearances to the Church.  The doctrine itself never 'changed,' our understanding of it becoming more complete, and without any substantial departure or contradiction to previous understandings.

There's a distinction between what is permissible and what is logically possible. It is logically possible to add to the former by novel interpretation of that deposit and change the latter by re-interpretation of dogmatic texts. To me the only question of interest is whether this has actually occurred, not whether one thinks it impossible due to doctrine and magisterial infallibility.

Quote
The same might be said about the Church's acceptance of the rhythm method as a theoretically lawful practice.  This consistent moral teaching only appears around Vatican I-- no one ever raised the question before then-- but it is drawn explicitly from what the Church already knew and universally taught about the ends of marriage and the nature of conjugal love. The point in both cases is that nothing substantially new is being submitted to the deposit of faith.  Only new applications of already known truths, only clarifications of truths, more complete understandings of them, etc.  Adding a fourth person to the Trinity, doing away with the Trinity, teaching that contraception is no different from unimpeded conjugal relations, etc. would be contradictory.  They would constitute substantial disruptions to the deposit of faith, not mere 'developments.'  That is what is at stake.

I don't know why you introduce two new examples while ignoring mine. But again, adding marriage to the list of sacraments where it was previously not regarded as one, and certainly not in patristic times, or coming up with salvation by implicit desire and reading older texts through the language of that theory, so as to radically re-interpret what the Council of Florence taught, are examples of the possibilities I mention. 

As to a substantial change, the EENS of the Middle Ages and salvation by implicit desire, and what is taught about the fate of non-Catholics and even non-Christians by the popes and majority of bishops and theologians of today, are substantially different. To any reading that isn't anachronistically strained and built upon special pleading, they contradict one another. Granted, perhaps that change is not dogmatic, but what does it matter when dogmatic texts need to be correctly understood as the Church intends and the magisterial authorities are teaching, regarding those texts, what they teach? Also, there's a significant difference between regarding marriage as sacrament and not doing so, even if particular moral implications are in harmony with and shared by the two.


 

Offline Kent

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Re: Development of doctrine?
« Reply #9 on: August 14, 2020, 11:25:49 AM »
Newman had his strengths, but I'm not sure he ever shed his Anglican baggage and I wouldn't look to him as the premiere authority of much of anything.

Why don't you read Fr. Connell's much shorter and much more sensible "Does Doctrine ever Change?". .Pdf download.

In practice though, the deposit of public divine revelation and official teachings of the bishops in union with the Pope can both be subjected to change in doctrine: one could add to the former by novel interpretation of that deposit, and one could change the latter by re-interpretation of dogmatic texts. I think both have been done. An example of the former appears to be adding marriage to the list of sacraments, of the latter the current notions of EENS and reading something like Cantate Domino as not contradicting it.

I don't think I agree. There can be a development that extracts from some truth another truth, or an aspect of the same truth, formerly obscured, but clarified through theological speculation, historical contingencies, etc.  E.g. The Church did not really fully articulate the Trinity until Nicea, it having 'took' the emergence of Arianism as a challenge to the Triune Godhead to give the sufficient historical contingencies to formulate and 'finalize' the Trinitarian doctrine through the solemn magisterium.  But the formulation of the Trinity at Niceae is a change only with respect to a doctrine becoming more complete in its appearances to the Church.  The doctrine itself never 'changed,' our understanding of it becoming more complete, and without any substantial departure or contradiction to previous understandings.

There's a distinction between what is permissible and what is logically possible. It is logically possible to add to the former by novel interpretation of that deposit and change the latter by re-interpretation of dogmatic texts. To me the only question of interest is whether this has actually occurred, not whether one thinks it impossible due to doctrine and magisterial infallibility.

Quote
The same might be said about the Church's acceptance of the rhythm method as a theoretically lawful practice.  This consistent moral teaching only appears around Vatican I-- no one ever raised the question before then-- but it is drawn explicitly from what the Church already knew and universally taught about the ends of marriage and the nature of conjugal love. The point in both cases is that nothing substantially new is being submitted to the deposit of faith.  Only new applications of already known truths, only clarifications of truths, more complete understandings of them, etc.  Adding a fourth person to the Trinity, doing away with the Trinity, teaching that contraception is no different from unimpeded conjugal relations, etc. would be contradictory.  They would constitute substantial disruptions to the deposit of faith, not mere 'developments.'  That is what is at stake.

I don't know why you introduce two new examples while ignoring mine. But again, adding marriage to the list of sacraments where it was previously not regarded as one, and certainly not in patristic times, or coming up with salvation by implicit desire and reading older texts through the language of that theory, so as to radically re-interpret what the Council of Florence taught, are examples of the possibilities I mention. 

As to a substantial change, the EENS of the Middle Ages and salvation by implicit desire, and what is taught about the fate of non-Catholics and even non-Christians by the popes and majority of bishops and theologians of today, are substantially different. To any reading that isn't anachronistically strained and built upon special pleading, they contradict one another. Granted, perhaps that change is not dogmatic, but what does it matter when dogmatic texts need to be correctly understood as the Church intends and the magisterial authorities are teaching, regarding those texts, what they teach? Also, there's a significant difference between regarding marriage as sacrament and not doing so, even if particular moral implications are in harmony with and shared by the two.

I ignored your examples to simplify matters by introducing clear cases that I figured everyone was familiar with, or at least more familiar with.  I wasn't looking to argue about marriage (it has always been regarded as a sacrament, the 'problem' is that the Church didn't have a 'list' of sacraments nor was even the word sacrament itself normative in the early Church), and Daniel's objection to development is intrinsic rather than focused on post-conciliar changes, for which I reason I figured to leave that (ETA: i.e., post-conciliar EENS currents) alone, too. 

If we want to situate the discussion as a conciliar-post conciliar one, that is a very different issue.  And it isn't one that Daniel (as far as I can tell, from his posting history) is all that interested in.  This guy doesn't think doctrinal development is a thing at all, and his (expressed) reasoning has nothing to do with Vatican II.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2020, 11:43:01 AM by Kent »
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Offline Daniel

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Re: Development of doctrine?
« Reply #10 on: August 15, 2020, 03:29:46 PM »
I think the distinction between accidental and substantial change might be helpful, but where do we draw the line? I'm inclined to think that any change whatsoever would necessarily be substantial.

(I'm picturing the "substance" of the deposit of faith to be something like a mathematical set. As soon as you add/remove/change something, what you end up with is an entirely different set--a "substantial change". Using the same analogy, I guess an "accidental change" might be when the set is initially obscure but gradually becomes more known over time. The set itself does not change, but the only thing that changes is what we see of it. Like in the case of the set of prime numbers... we can discover more and more prime numbers, but our doing so does not add to or alter the set. Maybe that's what's going on here... maybe theologians are merely discovering the hidden doctrines which the Church was once ignorant of. But is there any reason to believe that this is what's going on? As far as I know, the Church was not in darkness two thousand years ago. And the idea of hidden doctrines seems more gnostic than Christian.)


But that said, and granting that accidental changes are possible, it also seems there's an epistemological problem: how do we know that none of the "development" isn't faulty? The belief in the Roman church's infallibility is itself a "development". So we can't appeal to it. We can't appeal to the universal Church's infallibility either, since the universal Church's infallibility alone is not a guarantee of the Roman church's infallibility.
« Last Edit: August 15, 2020, 04:08:48 PM by Daniel »
 

Offline Vetus Ordo

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Re: Development of doctrine?
« Reply #11 on: August 16, 2020, 11:05:01 AM »
Besides the change on what was once thought to be the definite teaching on usury, a practice that now even the Vatican Bank endorses and that religious orders have been living off since the Renaissance, there's the awkward drop of Geocentrism as a revealed truth, once an accepted tradition that was more than 1500 years old and that had universal biblical and Patristic support until observational facts of science won the day. There's also the more recent change on slavery, a practice that was universally accepted by the Church as in accordance with the natural law (vide Aquinas) until the late 19th century, or the development in the accepted number of the received sacraments of the New Law that wasn't always the seven that we have today, as Kreuzritter alluded to.

It is impossible to maintain any intellectual integrity as a Catholic without accepting that doctrine has developped and, presumably, will keep developping. The death penalty is the most recent example. The Church is a dynamic reality, very much like biology in the natural world. The extent to which one is willing to accept these developments as acceptable changes in "accidents," and not as elaborate cop-outs that mask actual contradictions, is within the bounds of one's conscience.
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Offline Daniel

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Re: Development of doctrine?
« Reply #12 on: August 16, 2020, 12:28:18 PM »
But has the Catholic church ever dogmatically taught that usury is ok, that heliocentrism is true, or that the death penalty is wrong? If not, I think these are bad examples.

The issue of slavery is problematic though, seeing as CCC 2414 (which I believe is supposed to be dogmatic) does condemn slavery.

Changing the list of sacraments also seems problematic, though I don't know much about it. I am aware that there was once a much looser distinction between "sacrament" and "sacramental". But does this entail that Jesus did not personally institute marriage as a sacrament? I always just assumed He did. (Presumably at some point during the forty days between the resurrection and ascension, when He explicitly gave the Apostles all of the other teachings.)


But what I'm more concerned with are the really big dogmas. To begin, I'll bring up papal infallibility and Roman infallibility. Is there any evidence that these two beliefs have always been believed universally? (Speaking only of papal and Roman infallibility here, not of Church infallibility. I do believe that Church infallibility has always been believed universally.)

Then there is the Immaculate Conception, which, as we can see from the writings of Thomas Aquinas, was not a universal belief, even in the west, even as late as the early Late Middle Ages. If it turns out that belief in papal infallibility is wrong, then the Immaculate Conception might be wrong too. (And even if these things aren't wrong, what business does the pope have attempting to add entirely new dogmas to the deposit of faith?)

Further, there's the Augustinian formulation of original sin, which also doesn't seem to have always been a universal belief. (The Orthodox say it wasn't. They say that St. Augustine got it wrong. And from this it is pretty clear why they don't believe in the Immaculate Conception: because the Augustinian version of original sin entails the Immaculate Conception, whereas the Orthodox belief in ancestral sin does not entail the Immaculate Conception.)

Then there's the Filioque, which wasn't part of the Creed until the Catholics added it. Seems suspect. Was it always a universal belief? The Orthodox say no, and they say it's derived from an erroneous formulation of the Trinity.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2020, 12:45:56 PM by Daniel »
 

Offline Michael Wilson

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Re: Development of doctrine?
« Reply #13 on: August 16, 2020, 12:49:54 PM »
The Catholic concept of "development of doctrine" excludes the changing of the meaning of doctrine from one sense to the other; the opposite opinion was condemned by the Vatican Council:
Quote
For the doctrine of the faith which God has revealed is put forward   not as some philosophical discovery capable of being perfected by human intelligence, but as a divine deposit committed to the spouse of Christ to be faithfully protected and infallibly promulgated. Hence, too,that meaning of the sacred dogmas is ever to be maintained which has once been declared by holy mother church, and there must never be any abandonment of this sense under the pretext or in the name of a more profound understanding.
Can. 3. If anyone says that it is possible that at some time, given the advancement of knowledge, a sense may be assigned to the dogmas propounded by the church which is different from that which the church has understood and understands: let him be anathema.
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Offline Kent

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Re: Development of doctrine?
« Reply #14 on: August 17, 2020, 10:01:41 AM »
The issue of slavery is problematic though, seeing as CCC 2414 (which I believe is supposed to be dogmatic) does condemn slavery.

Chattel slavery has never been approved by the Church, and chattel slavery is typically what people today mean when they use the word.

Quote
Changing the list of sacraments also seems problematic, though I don't know much about it. I am aware that there was once a much looser distinction between "sacrament" and "sacramental". But does this entail that Jesus did not personally institute marriage as a sacrament? I always just assumed He did. (Presumably at some point during the forty days between the resurrection and ascension, when He explicitly gave the Apostles all of the other teachings.)

There was no 'list' of sacraments, not if you mean a list included in the solemn teachings of an ecumenical council, until the middle ages.  Marriage is described as a sacrament even in the early Church, despite the fact that the word 'sacrament' is not used in conjunction with it later.  But this is true of other sacraments, too.  The word 'sacrament' enters into mainstream theological language later, like the word 'transubstantiation'. 


Quote
But what I'm more concerned with are the really big dogmas. To begin, I'll bring up papal infallibility and Roman infallibility. Is there any evidence that these two beliefs have always been believed universally? (Speaking only of papal and Roman infallibility here, not of Church infallibility. I do believe that Church infallibility has always been believed universally.)

Then there is the Immaculate Conception, which, as we can see from the writings of Thomas Aquinas, was not a universal belief, even in the west, even as late as the early Late Middle Ages. If it turns out that belief in papal infallibility is wrong, then the Immaculate Conception might be wrong too. (And even if these things aren't wrong, what business does the pope have attempting to add entirely new dogmas to the deposit of faith?)

Further, there's the Augustinian formulation of original sin, which also doesn't seem to have always been a universal belief. (The Orthodox say it wasn't. They say that St. Augustine got it wrong. And from this it is pretty clear why they don't believe in the Immaculate Conception: because the Augustinian version of original sin entails the Immaculate Conception, whereas the Orthodox belief in ancestral sin does not entail the Immaculate Conception.)

Then there's the Filioque, which wasn't part of the Creed until the Catholics added it. Seems suspect. Was it always a universal belief? The Orthodox say no, and they say it's derived from an erroneous formulation of the Trinity.

So, are you at the point where you are open to the idea that doctrinal development 'is a thing'?  Only at that point does it make sense to discuss specific claimed instances of it.
I do profess to be no less than I seem, to serve him truly
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